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Christian library destroyed by IS welcomes visitors again

There is a long history of burning books. It isn’t the worst crime of the so-called Islamic State (IS), but to the people of Qaraqosh, Iraq, the loss of their library was another strike against their culture and identity. Thanks to your giving, the library is now open again.

When IS invaded the region, tens of thousands of Christian families had to flee. IS systematically destroyed their homes and villages, as well as torching churches and libraries. The town of Qaraqosh has the largest Christian population in the Nineveh Plains, northern Iraq.

Two girls in Qaraqosh library

When the crisis was over and people began to return home, they knew there was a lot of rebuilding to do. According to local churches, over 5,000 Christian families have returned. Re-establishing the library was an important step in restoring hope and dignity to the community. Rebuilding Iraq isn’t just about survival – it’s about restoring people’s full identity. The people of Qaraqosh are eager to bring life back to the library, recreating the cultural and educational hub it had been.

Most of the books had been stolen and burned. With funding from Open Doors supporters, working through a local Open Doors partner, new books could be added to the small number that were rescued. The building could be reconstructed.

“It rose from the black ruins and demolition debris,” said Father Duraid, who supervised the project. “We dream that it will be a space where intellectuals, students, authors, poets and other readers from our village can meet or do research.”

The library is part of Qaraqosh’s Christian centre for social and cultural activities, including art exhibitions, Christian education and other church-related activities.

“I believe the library is very important for motivating people to read and become better educated,” says Labib al Katib, a member of the church committee. “Despite huge destruction that still exists around us, people have already started to ask about this library for their scientific research or studies. We worked hard to renovate it, to turn it into a centre where educated youth, authors, readers and students will get together.”

Labib al Katib in Qaraqosh library

Labib al Katib

They are still keen to expand the number of topics covered by the library, as well as the languages. Some families have come back to Qaraqosh after being refugees in Europe, and would like to continue reading books in English. The staff have bold plans for the future – thanks to your support, their plans are possible. A well-equipped library can help the next generation of Iraqi children reach their potential.

Iraq is number 13 on the Open Doors’ World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Islamic extremism is still a problem in Iraq. Although IS have lost territory in Iraq, their ideology remains. Many of the militants have simply blended back into the general population. But many courageous families have returned, and are rebuilding their lives and communities.

Please pray

  • For protection and peace for our brothers and sisters in Iraq
  • That the library will be a great resource to encourage and teach the community
  • That Iraqi Christians will have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus and be the hope for the Middle East.