Out of the ashes, hope can rise in Iraq and Syria

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Iraq: The stone factory near Mosul rebuilding hope and dignity

31 May 2017

Nashwan isn't the kind of man you might imagine when you think of the crisis facing Christians in the Middle East. Burley and bearded, seeing him doesn't inspire feelings of pity - his serious face commands respect. In many ways, he exemplifies the church in the Middle East today. Quietly dignified, he doesn't want to rely on handouts from others, and he doesn't want to leave his country - he wants to care for his family in Iraq, and quite literally help to rebuild the nation.

Nashwan is a highly skilled stone-cutter who lives in a village about 25 miles from Mosul, Iraq. He used to work in Mosul itself - but when the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) invaded the city in 2014, he and many others from his village lost their jobs.

He says, "I had worked for 20 years in stone-cutting, and suddenly I was unemployed. I had no means of caring for my wife and three children; they are depending on my income. We worried about our future in this country, especially as we saw so many other families migrate."

Seeing local people like Nashwan struggling to survive without a source of income, the Mar Matti monastery decided to open a new stone factory. Open Doors supported the project with a grant to purchase the equipment needed to get the factory up and running. The factory employs 50 full-time staff, including Nashwan; he is cutting the stones that are being used to build the cities of Iraq.

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"Without this project I would still be unemployed at home. But now it is better. I can take care of my family again. We hope for better times," Nashwan says. "We thank your organisation and the church for supporting us."

Yosef, who oversees the factory on behalf of the monastery, says, "Most organisations just distribute food and give people some money. They eat it, they spend it and it's gone. This project offers long-term hope since it guarantees people's salary for the future.

"All these workers are now able to support their families. We hope this will give them a reason to stay in this country."

Bring hope to the Middle East

The prayers and generous giving of Open Doors supporters in the UK and Ireland, and around the world, have helped our local partners in Iraq to keep tens of thousands of families alive with vital aid since they were forced to flee their homes to escape IS in 2014.

Our local partners in Iraq will continue to provide food aid to the most needy families, and they are now beginning to focus on projects to restore livelihoods like the stone factory. These projects help to give our brothers and sisters the dignity of supporting themselves, and the hope that a long-term future in Iraq is possible for them and their families.

And it is vitally important that this hope is kept alive if the church in Iraq is to survive. It is estimated that just 230,000 Christians remain in Iraq; there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq in 2003. Some Iraqi church leaders have suggested that the church in Iraq could be completely wiped out within five years.

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Open Doors has launched the Hope for the Middle East campaign, mobilising the church around the world to pray, give and speak out for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Here are three ways you can stand with your church family in Syria:

Please pray:

  • That God will continue to use the stone factory and other similar projects to bring hope to the Middle East
  • For provision for more projects like this that can help provide long-term help for Iraqi people
  • For God to change the hearts of members of IS and turn them to Himself.

More News from Iraq:

Find out more about persecution in Iraq.