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Iraq: Displaced families begin to return home

02 June 2017

Many parts of the Nineveh Plain have been liberated over the past year, giving hope to the families who were forced to flee to escape the militants that they will be able to return home.

However, this is not as straight forward as it might seem; security is still a concern, many villages have been left without basic infrastructure such as water and electricity, and many houses will need to be completely rebuilt. Thanks to your prayers and gifts, Open Doors partners are helping families to repair their homes, and provide micro-loans and grants to help believers start small businesses, so they can rebuild their lives and provide for their families.

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As Father Gabriel, a church leader from Al Qosh, walks around the liberated village of Batanya, he says, "There were 750 Christian families living here when IS came. Four hundred of them already left the country. The rest will have huge problems returning here. Look around you, everything is destroyed." Batanya was shelled and bombed for days as the allied forces attempted to drive IS from the village - local Christians claim it is the most destroyed village in the Nineveh Plain.

It will take a long time and a huge amount of work to help families return to villages like this, but some are determined to stay in Iraq and rebuild. Not far from Batanya is another village called Telskuf, where the fighting was much less intense - 50 families have returned here.

Nidal and Janan, sisters with six children, left Telskuf with their families to escape IS in 2014, and have been living in the Kurdish town of Dahuk. While they were there, they received food packages and emergency relief from Open Doors local partners. "That kept us alive and hopeful and helped us hope for better times," Nidal says. "And better times have come! Today I'm happier than ever. I'm home."

They were one of the first families to return to Telskuf. Their home was ransacked by IS, but the damage to the building was fairly limited. The infrastructure of the village still needs to be restored, but Nidal is still glad to be back. "We had water and electricity there [in Dahuk], but it was not home. This place doesn't have all that, but it's home," she says.

When asked if they thought of leaving Iraq, Nidal says, "We belong here. No way am I leaving this country. That is why we chose to return here as soon as we could - to show others it is possible. By returning here we also give hope to our children, we show the new generation that they have a future in Iraq.

"Life is not easy here, there is no school for the children. My brother-in-law has to drive them to a village 15 minutes away from here every day. But the good news is that life goes on. Every day is new; we believe in Christ. He will help us through this period, He keeps us strong."

Open Doors partners are helping families like Nadal's to repair their homes, and providing micro-loans and grants to help believers start small businesses, so they can rebuild their lives and provide for their families. But this is only possible with your support.

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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:

Please pray:

  • For encouragement and provision for displaced families
  • For wisdom and energy for Open Doors partners as they work to support our Iraqi brothers and sisters
  • That God will use Iraq's Christians to rebuild the nation.

More News from Iraq:

Find out more about persecution in Iraq.