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Hope and hardships five years since Mosul fell

17 June 2019 marks five years since the so-called Islamic State (IS) took control of Mosul and told Christians living there to ‘convert, pay or die’.

Three thousand Christian families were among the half million citizens who left Mosul. Most Christians fled to the city of Erbil or to the Kurdish region in the north of Iraq. Only 25 Christian families stayed in the city after the ultimatum – those who were too old, ill or disabled to flee.

“The devastation was huge,” said Father Sam*, a priest in Erbil who is originally from Mosul. “They were difficult days for me as a priest. To see this huge number of displaced people scattered on the streets, sleeping in churches, gardens and schools. I saw people with just their bags crying in front of me.”

“I just encouraged people to stay in their faith and urged them to pray, despite the difficulties.”

Mosul

SUPPORTING CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ

Only a few days after the fall of Mosul, Open Doors started working through local churches and partners to support internally displaced people (IDPs) with humanitarian aid. Thanks to your support and prayers, Open Doors’ local partners were providing monthly food packages for 75,000 IDPs by October 2015. This included employing 86 local people to package and distribute the food parcels.

Your support has also meant that these partners have been able to distribute Bibles, Christian materials, hygiene baskets, clothing vouchers and support for medical expenses, as well as offering churches with courses on vocational training and trauma care. Three trauma centres have been opened through your support and prayers, providing essential care for those who have been through terrible experiences in Mosul.

“The crisis came as a wake-up call to the church,” says Shlama* the director of an Open Doors’ local partner, “the churches started to work together, and it really increased the unity in the church.”

Give to bring hope to Christians in the Middle East

As the situation in Iraq improved, Open Doors turned its attention to using your giving for longer-term support, particularly in employment opportunities. Microloans funded by your support to Open Doors and distributed by churches and local partners have started businesses as diverse as honey production, barbers shops and farms. Having a regular earned income makes an enormous difference to the self-esteem and livelihood of displaced Iraqi Christians – many of whom had been out of work since 2014. Your support and prayers continue to be invaluable.

Nashwan, a highly skilled stone-cutter, used to work in Mosul itself. “I had worked for 20 years in stone-cutting, and suddenly I was unemployed,” he said. “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.”

Nashwan

Your support meant that Open Doors’ local partners could give a grant for vital equipment to get the factory up and running. The factory employs 50 full-time staff, including Nashwan. They cut stones that are being used to rebuild cities all across Iraq.

Yosef, who oversees the factory, said, “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.”

Give to bring hope to Christians in the Middle East

IRAQ IN 2019

Christians in Iraq still need your support and prayers today. Employment remains scarce, and many cannot pay rent or medical costs. Many can’t send their children to school, and the schools that do exist are overcrowded and under-resourced.

Islamic extremism is still a problem in Iraq. Violence against Christians continues – attacks, abductions, and even murders are still taking place. Hundreds of Christians remain missing. Families are waiting anxiously, unsure of the fate of their relatives.

Despite continuous setbacks, the Christians are rebuilding their houses, schools and churches. Your support meant that enabled Open Doors’ local partners to repaired over 1,000 houses in 2018. These projects couldn’t happen without your help and prayers or the grace of God. “We thank God,” says Father Sam. “He is the one who makes it possible for us to rebuild our communities.”

“The sight is cloudy,” adds Shlama “but having faith means that we believe in what we cannot see. So with faith I see a bright future for the church in Iraq.”

PLEASE PRAY

  • For Christians returning to Mosul and the surrounding villages of the Nineveh Plain, that they would be able to rebuild their lives and would be protected from further violence.
  • For healing for those who have experienced trauma and loss over the past five years.
  • For the work of Open Doors through local church partners, that they can reach more Christians with much-needed trauma care and livelihood training.

*Name changed for security reasons