Since returning to her home in the Nineveh Plains, Farah has seen her house and her business restored. But believers remain fearful of persecution. Please continue to pray for peace and strength so that the church in Iraq can stay strong in Christ.
Despite the challenges she faces, Farah is determined to stay in the country she loves with your help
When Farah (33) returned to her home in the Nineveh Plains in 2017, she was shocked at the destruction that so-called Islamic State (IS) militants had left behind. “We found our house looted with almost nothing remaining, everything wrecked and useless. Besides being in a filthy state, there was a lot of destruction too. The windows broken; even walls were demolished. Everywhere it was dirty, everything was dirty. IS put paintings and slogans on the walls.”
But thanks to your prayers and support, not only have you helped Farah to move back home, but you’ve also helped her to restore her salon business.
“We feared leaving our village, and at the same we feared staying” Farah
Farah and her family fled to Erbil in August 2014 when IS militants arrived in her village. The sound of gunshots and explosions started early in the morning and carried on throughout the day, but it was only towards the evening that Farah decided they had to go. “We feared leaving our village, and at the same we feared staying in the area,” she says. “There was a lot of shooting and bombing. I was very afraid when we left. I had contradicting feelings – yes, we had to leave, but where to go we didn’t know.”
Farah, her husband and their two-year-old son Gaith fled with only a few possessions. They thought they would be back in a day or two. But the days turned into years. At one point, they lived with her brother-in-law and all the extended family in one house – 75 people in total. “That was a very hard situation. Some of us slept in their cars, as there was not enough place for all to sleep there.”
Eventually, they moved into another house, but the living situation remained difficult: “We rented another house, my family, my in-laws and three married brothers-in-law with their families. We shared the rent and the daily expenses to have some kind of independency. We went through difficult times there. Work was scarce and the wages very low. [My husband and I] both had to work because we had to pay the rent and we had to live.”
During the years in Erbil, she almost lost hope of ever returning to the Nineveh Plains.
Three years later, in 2017, Farah and her family were finally allowed to return home. But their village was not how they left it. “As soon as we were able to return there was an eagerness to return to our homeland,” Farah remembers. “We had our memories there, but those collided with the wrecked and burned place. On one hand, there was the thrill; on the other hand, the heartache when we compared the village we knew with the village it had become.”
But still, they wanted to live there again. “Our love and longing for our village pushed us to go back. This is our place, we were raised here, we grew up here. Despite that it was destroyed, it remained beautiful in our eyes. We returned to prove that we will stay here, we will rebuild and move forward, God willing.”
Thanks to your prayers and support, thousands of houses in the Nineveh Plains have been restored. And, with a microloan from Open Doors partners, you even helped Farah to reopen her salon business!
“The salon was finished right before the holidays, before Christmas 2017. The first client I had came to fix her hair and have highlights. She was a customer I already had before the displacement. At first when I reopened the salon, I felt good and afraid at the same time. I started again from scratch. I opened the salon not knowing if it would work out or not. But thank God, I reached the phase where I had to [hire] people to help me.”
She is very thankful to those who donated to make the microloan possible. “The words thank you are too little. You helped us, stood by us; your support was encouraging. It enabled me to restart my business, to stand back on my feet. Indeed, thank you isn’t sufficient. Without your help, surely it would have been very difficult to return and impossible to rebuild my salon and go back to business.”
“You helped us, stood by us; your support was encouraging” Farah
While Farah’s village is slowly coming back to life, with people returning and more schools and shops opening, life is still difficult. The economic crisis in Iraq has made things especially difficult. “My husband (Janan) has two jobs,” Farah shares. “Early in the morning at seven he starts working at the local government till two in the afternoon. He gets home, changes clothes, and goes to work in a restaurant from three in the afternoon till about midnight.”
Farah hopes and dreams that Christians in Iraq will one day live in safety. “Our current situation [as Christians in Iraq] is that of living in fear… All this suffering and persecution is frightening for us Christians to remain in Iraq. Despite of it all, we remain here. All we need is safety, nothing more. I do not like leaving Iraq.”
“Iraq is my country,” she continues. “I want to stay. I was born here, and I will die here. My love for Iraq will not let me forsake it, despite the severity of the circumstances. My faith helped me to face a lot of hard circumstances, I always prayed.
“I would like to ask people to pray that safety and stability would return to Iraq. That’s the dream of every Iraqi, and every Christian living in Iraq.”
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