16 April 2017
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians celebrate Easter in liberated Bartella
300 Christians were able to celebrate Easter in their village, Bartella, about 12km from Mosul, for the first time in three years on Saturday 15 April.
Although Bartella has been liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, noone has returned to live there yet - much of the village has been destroyed. This includes the church; parts are burned, crosses and statues are smashed, and there is a big gaping hole in one of the walls where a big cross was once part of the construction.
But about 300 people returned to celebrate Easter, organised by Father Yacoub. While the bells in the clock tower ring, Father Yacoub says, "This means a lot to me, after all these years we now are celebrating Easter here. That is very hopeful."
He speaks about the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it gives: "Jesus can come into our hearts and that will comfort us, but coming to their homes is not possible for the people, so that is difficult for many. Of course, the message during the celebration this morning will be about hope, also for people to return."
Iraq is number 7 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Open Doors has been working with local partners and churches in Iraq for over 20 years to support the church through training, crisis relief, community development projects, and distributing Bibles and Christian literature. Open Doors local partners have provided vital aid for tens of thousands of displaced families, and are working to provide long-term support to displaced Christians as they begin to rebuild their lives, including helping families who wish to return to the Nineveh plain to rebuild their homes, and starting small businesses to give people the dignity of supporting their own families.
Open Doors has launched the Hope for the Middle East campaign, a global, seven-year campaign mobilising Christians around the world to stand with the church in the Middle East. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which will be presented to the UN in December 2017. The petition calls for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the key things Christians and church leaders from these nations have said they want for the future.
WeTransfer link to 10 photos of Easter celebration in Bartella: https://we.tl/s0Qfu6ZTEg
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Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.
Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List - a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life - plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.
The Open Doors World Watch List is the only instrument that measures the persecution of Christians annually. Its methodology is designed to track how the exercise of the Christian faith gets squeezed in five distinct areas - private life, family life, community life, national life and church life - as well as covering violence such as rapes, killings and church burnings. Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Director of Research at Open Doors International, explains why: "It is possible for persecution to be so intense in all areas of life that Christians fear to witness at all. You may find very low levels of violence as a result, because incidents of violent persecution are often a response to acts of witness."