Kindling hope for a better future in Iraq
Christians have been leaving their ancient homeland in northern Iraq for more than three decades. A series of devastating conflicts have led to waves of migration. Thankfully, extraordinary efforts to rebuild damaged communities are starting to take hold and to bring a new hope. Your support can make a huge difference to the lives of Christian families who wish to stay in their homelands.
A tragic exodus
Christianity has been present in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq since the first century AD. The indigenous Christians of Iraq are descendants of the ancient Assyrian Empire, which came to an end in the 7th century BC. The Assyrians were one of the first people to embrace Christianity. Many still speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus Christ). But they have suffered from persistent marginalisation and periods of persecution.
In the 1980s, 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. However, driven out by wars, conflicts and economic hardships, less than 300,000 remain today.
A rich 2,000 year old history will be lost for ever if Christians continue to leave the Nineveh Plain. That powerful history, our shared heritage, will be a huge loss to Christians in the West as well as to Eastern Christians. It will also contribute to the cultural and religious impoverishment of the Middle East.
Signs of hope
Since the liberation of northern Iraq in 2017, Christian families have started returning to their homes. Our priority is to support them so that they may re-build their damaged houses, restore desecrated churches and re-open schools.
We are working with the Dominican Sisters in Iraq to help in restoring their fragile Christian community in the ancient Christian town of Qaraqosh, where they are providing spiritual, pastoral and practical support to all in need. The Sisters’ presence gives the local people a sense of assurance and hope, encouraging displaced Christian families to return.
Sister Nazik told us, “We hope that our work will encourage evicted families to return and feel safe in their home towns. We trust that with the prayers and support of Christians everywhere we can build a strong foundation for the future.
The cathedra, on which Pope Francis sat during his apostolic visit to Iraq, and which was crafted by carpenters at our joinery workshop in Karamlesh.
Building a strong foundation for the future
Construction of Al-Tahira Secondary School – The Dominican Sisters have re-opened the Al-Tahira primary school in Qaraqosh, which was rebuilt and currently has a full roll of 508 pupils. The building for a secondary school is nearly finished, but urgent funding is needed to furnish and equip the secondary school to enable its doors to open in September 2021 to the first pupils.
Joinery workshop in Karamlesh – In 2016 families began returning to Karamlesh and witnessed the widespread destruction of their hometown. FACE and Œuvre d’Orient established a joinery workshop in 2018 to support the reconstruction of Karamlesh and manufacture furniture for the homes of the returning families. Furniture is also produced for schools, hospitals and churches. Funding is urgently needed to train more local carpenters and increase production in the workshop.
Solar panel system for Mar Afram Kindergarten, Qaraqosh – Consistent access to electricity is a problem in Iraq, where power cuts occur several times a day. Classrooms become difficult learning environments for children, especially in the soaring temperatures of the summer months. Mar Afram Kindergarten, run by the Syriac Catholic Church of Mosul, desperately needs a solar panel system to provide a well-lit, safe and conducive learning environment for 192 children aged between 3 and 5.
Mercy House, Sulaimaniyah – A large medical centre to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease and children with autism. There is a floor with a chapel and multi-purpose rooms where residents are encouraged to come together for meals, film screening, conferences and theatre, to encourage intercultural and interreligious exchange. Funding is urgently needed to complete the work on the gardens.
What can I do to help?
You can help build on the Pope’s message of hope by supporting this appeal. Through our partnerships on the ground, we deliver quick and effective support to local communities in northern Iraq.
Your donation will make a huge difference to the lives of many families who wish to remain in their homelands where Christianity was born and first spread.
Your act of giving will bring a message of love, solidarity and hope to our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Now more than ever they need your support.