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Iraq: Church leader optimistic despite upcoming referendum

12 September 2017

The Archbishop of Mosul Yohanna Petros Mouche has said he is 'very optimistic' about the future of the church in Iraq, despite the uncertainty created by the upcoming referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The referendum is due to take place on 25 September. The Archbishop, pictured below, said, "It is not clear what the future will look like. We have this issue between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments. We don't know what the outcome of a referendum will mean for the Christians and for other minorities."

The Archbishop appeared unfazed by the outcome, and added, "The Kurdish government has respected us as Christians when we came to their area in 2014. They welcomed us, they loved us."

Iraq

He has seen positive signs of Christians and Muslims working together, slowly beginning to rebuild trust, and commented, "Recently, a Muslim businessman came to me. He said he wanted to finance the rebuilding of a church. That makes me optimistic. This is someone who wants to live in peace together. I trust God that things will be better."

He continued, "Trust must be built step-by-step. I participated in a meeting organised by the United Nations with Christians and Muslims participating. These meetings are important."

Return to the Nineveh Plain

Thousands of families have returned to the Nineveh Plain since the liberation of the region from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is part of the reason for his optimism.

"I am optimistic, yes, very optimistic," he said. "When you look around the villages, you see that life is back again. Shops and restaurants have opened once more. I see the people are serious about returning. On Palm Sunday only three families were back in Qaraqosh, but now about 1,500 families have returned. What is happening in Qaraqosh is encouraging to people from other villages in the Nineveh Plain."

Father George from Qaraqosh has been involved in organising the rebuilding in his city. "Our team is going fast," he said. "Some 50 people a day come to register at our centre to have their homes restored. More will come."

Father George explained how the committee first did research of all 6,936 houses and apartments in Qaraqosh, or Baghdeda as most inhabitants like to call the town. The church committee uses different categories to label the destruction of the houses. He said, "Level C means that the house is damaged but that it easily can be repaired with $5,000 or less. Level B are the houses that are fully burned from the inside or are more damaged in other ways. Level A means that a house is fully destroyed, collapsed because of a bomb for example. In Qaraqosh we have 4,774 C, 2,046 B and 116 A."

Iraq

Father George showed an Open Doors contact the reports that the committee made of some of the houses. Every broken door, every broken window or hole in the wall is described. This means that when the owner of a house wants to return to live in Qaraqosh, the committee can estimate how much money will be needed to repair the house.

When approved, the family is given money and is responsible for arranging the repairs. At the centre in Qaraqosh where the repairs are coordinated, there is a list of all available construction workers, electricians, plumbers and painters they can contact. Father George is shown above with the list of workers. When the house is finished, the families need to bring official receipts to the church to prove how the money has been used and to pay back any money that wasn't used.

Thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors partners have helped to repair 124 homes in Qaraqosh so far. Father George said, "Your organisation has committed to help restoring parts of our town. By doing that, you gave hope to many families, but much more is needed."

PLEASE PRAY:

  • That the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan will be held peacefully
  • That the results of the referendum will not have a negative impact on Christians or other minorities in the region
  • For continuing wisdom and provision as people like Father George coordinate the rebuilding of homes and communities in the Nineveh Plain
  • For protection, courage and strength for our church family in Iraq.

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. Alongside prayer, here are three things you can do to support your persecuted brothers and sisters:

More News from Iraq:

Find out more about persecution in Iraq.