19 June 2017

Christian families from Qaraqosh, Iraq, repair homes damaged by Islamic State

74 families have been able to repair their homes in Qaraqosh, Iraq, thanks to support from Open Doors local partners.

One of those who has received support is Najib Ina. His home was used by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) to store all the sand and stones when they were digging a tunnel, and there is a large hole in one of the floors where the tunnel was started. Every wall of the house is covered in writing: in one place is the signature of ‘Abu Asman’, one of the militants, and in another place it says ‘He who refuses Islamic State will surely be killed’. Najib has been repairing his house with support from Open Doors local partners.

Najib standing in the hole IS made in the floor of his house – larger versions of photos available on request:

Iraq

Qaraqosh was liberated from IS at the end of 2016. Before the invasion of IS, the city had been home to 50,000 Christians. They were forced to flee to escape the militants in the summer of 2014. Some of the houses were burned from the inside or ransacked and vandalised by the militants, like Najib’s house; other parts of the town were completely destroyed by bombs or rockets.

Damage to buildings in Qaraqosh:

Iraq

When asked how they decided where to begin their repairs, George, a church leader from Qaraqosh, explained: “We decided to restore the city piece by piece so that we wouldn’t get isolated houses where a family would live between empty houses. The main thought is that we need to recreate the sense of community.”

The first houses to be repaired are close to the centre of the town, where there are a few shops. Over twenty small shops have opened in Qaraqosh, a sign that the town is coming back to life. Most of these small businesses sell construction materials and paint, but a small cafeteria has also opened its doors, as well as a shop where water and other drinks can be bought.

A small shop selling paint in Qaraqosh:

Iraq

One of the shopkeepers told an Open Doors local partner, “I know the security is not okay yet, but I wanted to start my life here again. A lot of families want to go back, but they don’t have the resources to do so.”

George told Open Doors local partner, “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.”

George showing lists of workers working to rebuild Qaraqosh:

Iraq

As well as repairing homes, Open Doors is supporting displaced believers to start small businesses. It costs between £1,000 and £4,000 to set up a family in sustainable employment or to repair their home. For example £60 could pay for a water tank on a bomb-damaged roof. Open Doors has launched an appeal to support this work.

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.

George explains why the petition is important, saying, “I think we need at least an international commitment to survey our situation, to push the government to protect the vulnerable minorities like the Christians and the Yazidis.”

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Note to editors:

For more information call the Open Doors press office on 01993 777377, 01993 777346 or 07484 000 441, or email Tania at taniac@opendoorsuk.org or Beth at bethf@opendoorsuk.org

Information on Open Doors - www.opendoorsuk.org

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.

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.