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Iraq: Christians wish to return to Mosul as city is liberated
11 July 2017
After three years of occupation by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared victory over IS in Mosul.
However, IS have left devastation behind them. William, who fled Mosul to escape IS, was recently able to return to his house in Mosul, but found it completely ransacked. He says, "When we saw the house for the first time, I was taking pictures and was crying at the same time."
William's daughter, Ghada, says, "Some windows and doors are broken. They used the curtains as carpet. We had an image of Jesus on the wall, they put it on the floor and stepped on it." William says, "They also damaged our electrical system in the house and cut the water pipes. It seems they also put something in the sewage system because the water doesn't go away."
Their house is not as badly damaged as some of the houses in the Nineveh Plain - some families have returned to their houses to find them completely burned out or bombed. But seeing the house he loved in such a state was still heartbreaking for William. "Our house was very nice, it was a treasure for me," he says.
However, Ghada and William are hoping to return to Mosul. "Our only dream is to return, to go back to our house and live there again," Ghada says. "Of course we want to go back," William adds.
But they have real concerns about their safety. Ghada continues, "There is no real safety in Mosul at the moment. In my heart I still feel that something might happen to us when we go there."
Open Doors has been supporting William and Ghada while they have been displaced in Erbil with practical aid through local churches and partners.
'We will need help to restore our house'
Jounan, a father of three, would also like to return with his family. "Our fathers and grandfathers lived there, we have our houses and our shops. I had a factory in the city," he says.
They have also been living in Erbil, with support from Open Doors provided through the church and local partners. But Jounan longs to be able to work and support his family again. He says, "I really wanted to take whatever job, but I simply didn't get work here. We lost everything. IS took our money and our jewellery when we left the city. I would like to go back as soon as it is possible to find work again. That is much better than sitting here without work."
But they will need practical help to return. "We will need help to restore our house, we have no money to do this." Many families from the Nineveh Plain are in a similar position - they have been left with absolutely nothing, and the government isn't helping them to repair their homes.
Fear and division
As well as practical difficulties, Jounan's children are afraid to go back to Mosul. "One of my daughters is in university, the other two are going to school, all in Erbil. The children are afraid to go back, my wife and I want to return.
"Our children are still scared. They saw the men of IS on the day we fled Mosul. They saw how they took all our money and jewellery and how one of the men threatened to shoot me in the head. For them it was a nightmare and still is."
Jounan has also experienced the division that has developed between different groups in Mosul. He said, "Not all Muslims in Mosul supported IS. There are Muslims who were against them. We live in a mainly Arab neighbourhood in Mosul. People living around us are good neighbours or even friends. I recently went back to see my house, these people are even shy to speak to us now. They feel that it was in the name of Islam that this happened to the Christians, that we had to flee from Mosul."
But others are trying to rebuild relationships between Christians and Muslims. Ghada says, "We heard that even Muslims are helping to clean one of the damaged monasteries in our city." William added, "A group of Muslims has replaced the cross."
Rebuild hope for Christians from the Nineveh Plain
There are many families who wish to return to their homes in the liberated towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain, but who simply can't do it on their own. They fled their homes with nothing, leaving their businesses and sources of income behind, and the Iraqi government isn't helping them.
Your prayers and support have enabled Open Doors partners to start helping families to repair their homes and start small businesses to support themselves. But there's much more to do.
Here are three ways you can support your church family in Iraq:
- Give. 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.
- Pray. Pray for protection and provision for displaced Christians and their families, like Ghada, William and Jounan. Please also pray for our local partners, for wisdom and energy as they support displaced believers.
- Speak out. Sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, calling on the UN to provide Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq with dignified living conditions, equal citizenship, and a role in bringing reconciliation to their communities. If you've already signed it, please print out a copy of petition and ask others to sign, or share it on social media.
More News from Iraq:
- Church leader optimistic despite upcoming referendum
- Christian woman released after three years in captivity
- Rebuilding Hope in Karamles
- Fear of 'Kurdish conspiracy' as Christian mayor dismissed
- 'Small window to act' to restore Christianity in Middle East
Find out more about persecution in Iraq.