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Iraq: Rebuilding Hope in Karamles
25 August 2017
"After the liberation in October we found out that Islamic State had burned our house. I was very sad when I saw it for the first time," says Noeh.
Noeh is 12 years old - his family fled their home in Karamles, Iraq, when he was just nine, to escape the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). "My Mum and Dad, my brothers and sisters were always around me, and they helped me to overcome the difficulties."
For the last three years they have lived in Erbil with others from their town - they have called the part of Erbil where they have been staying 'Little Karamles'. Thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors has been working through local partners to support this community with food aid, trauma training, and income generating projects - some of the people from Karamles have been able to start a small food factory, a bakery, and a restaurant in Erbil.
But Noeh and his family are determined to go back to Karamles to rebuild. Noeh says, "We want to return home. We thank everyone who is helping us. I know there are others from our village who don't want to return, but I do want to return. This is our land."
Such a dream might seem impossible as you look at Noeh's home in Karamles - it has been completely burned out by the militants. Showing what's left of his room, Noeh says, "These were my toys, all of them are now burned. Now I have nothing."
But as he looks at the remnants of his room, he suddenly says, "My marbles!" Picking through the ashes, he finds enough marbles to play with. They're a symbol of the sparks of hope that many of our Iraqi brothers and sisters are finding, even in the most challenging situations.
Noeh says that it is God who gives him the hope that he will be able to return to Karamles. "I feel the Holy Spirit inside me... He tells me it is good to live in Karamles again."
And he already knows what he wants his new room to look like. "I want my bedroom to be colourful - red, blue and green with pictures of FC Barcelona and Jesus on the wall!"
Making a start
Of the 797 houses in Karamles, 97 are now piles of rubble, 446 were completely burnt out, like Noeh's, and the others are damaged. Your prayers and support have enabled our local partners to repair 30 homes in Karamles so far, with 20 more on the list. Father Thabet, pictured below, a church leader in Karamles, says, "We start with the houses with the least amount of damage. Our budget is limited and the government is not helping us."
While 50 houses are a good start, 250 families have signed up to return to Karamles - there's still a lot more to do.
Father Thabet says, "It is our mission to live here in this place as Christians, the place of the root of Christianity. Without faith I do not have a reason to stay here. But I have faith, so I am here."
Thabet has signed the One Million Voices of Hope petition, calling for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, which is being presented to the UN on 11 December this year. He says, "We need international support and protection. That is the only way our future as Christians in this country can be guaranteed."
'Jesus teaches us how to be patient'
Until more homes and communities have been restored, thousands of families will continue to live in displacement in Iraq. But your support is enabling our local partners to invest in income generating projects, so that displaced people can have the dignity of working and supporting their families.
Madonna, pictured below, and her family have had to relocate 16 times since they fled their home. She says, "I was four months pregnant when the trouble with Islamic State started in our area. When we were in the hospital, we saw the victims of one of the bombings, but there were hardly any doctors left to help them. That convinced us - we had to go."
The family are now renting a house in a safer part of Iraq. Her husband ran a building business in their home town, but has had to start again from scratch. Your prayers and gifts have enabled us to provide Madonna with training in tailoring, and now she runs a small business from her home, so she can also help to support their family. She says, "I am happy that we aren't alone in this."
Ghazan, pictured below, a father of three, says, "Back in my own town on the Nineveh plain I used to have a successful transportation company. We had a good life until IS came and forced us out. I heard that IS stole all the cars of my company."
He arrived in Erbil empty handed. "The first 15 days in Erbil were really hard," Ghazan says. "I couldn't find a job, I had no income, and the rent for our apartment was high."
When the church offered him a managerial position at a bakery that had been established by partners of Open Doors, he took the job immediately. "Although I don't earn much here and I have to work much longer hours than what I was used to back home, at least I can pay my rent so my family doesn't have to live in a camp.
"I am a Christian and Jesus teaches us how to be patient. In this situation there is no other road than to be patient; this situation forced us to practise that. I have lost everything, but I thank God that my family is still with me."
Bring hope to the Middle East
While the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) have largely been driven out of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, they have left terrible devastation behind them. In Syria, the war rages on, and Christians continue to be a target for Islamic extremists.
Incredibly, there are Christians who are choosing to stay in the Middle East, the birth place of Christianity, because they believe that God has called them to shine as lights in the darkest of days. They have a vision to rebuild their homes and communities.
But this won't happen overnight. This is why the global Hope for the Middle East campaign is a seven-year campaign. Your support is keeping hope alive for thousands of families in Iraq and Syria, and we must continue to walk with them for as long as they need us. Here are four things you can do to support your persecuted brothers and sisters:
- Pray. Pray for the people you've read about in this article - Noeh, Thabet, Madonna, Ghazan. Ask God to protect them, give them strength, and provide for all their needs. Pray for energy and wisdom for Open Doors partners working to support believers in Iraq and Syria. Ask God to continue to use His church in Iraq and Syria as a light in the darkness.
- Give. Every £25 could go towards rebuilding a home or setting up a family in employment in Iraq.
- Speak out. Sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, calling for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. Ask others to sign it too.
- Tell your church. Order a free Rebuild Hope pack, full of ideas and resources to help everyone in your church, of whatever age, to connect with their church family in the Middle East.
More News from Iraq:
- Christian children return home to Karamles
- Church leader optimistic despite upcoming referendum
- Christian woman released after three years in captivity
- Fear of 'Kurdish conspiracy' as Christian mayor dismissed
- 'Small window to act' to restore Christianity in Middle East
Find out more about persecution in Iraq.