A symbol of hope stands tall in the scorching heat
A large cross, perhaps two stories high, towers above the quiet roads on the edge of town. It is the ultimate symbol of Christian endurance in a country riven by sectarian violence. Much of Qaraqosh was destroyed by ISIS, yet the cross remains, tall and strong, unable to be ignored. It is a beacon of hope to returning Christians looking to rebuild their shattered lives. When I visit, the scars of ISIS’ occupation are everywhere: destroyed churches, burnt buildings, abandoned homes and shops. It feels like a ghost town.
I am here in Iraq to meet with family members of refugees that we are helping in Jordan. I meet Anwar and her children. She lives alone raising her two boys and 4-month old baby Jessica. They live in an abandoned house that doesn’t have electricity. Anwar’s husband left months ago to try and find work in Baghdad because there are no jobs in Qaraqosh. Anwar desperately wants to join her parents and sister in Jordan but can’t afford to. Her daily concern is finding ways to feed her young children and keep them cool in the extreme heat (it is 43 degrees). Our conversation took place against a backdrop of Jessica’s constant cries due to discomfort, hunger and thirst.
Faith in the midst of terrible hardship
Another visit brings me to a home with three families living together. Nida and Bassem are also separated from family members but are lucky to have Nida’s parents living nearby. Nida has one daughter and is currently experiencing a very difficult pregnancy. Her husband cannot find work and they do not receive any support. They’ve returned to their house which was used by ISIS as a headquarters. They’ve tried to eradicate all signs of this as it deeply troubles them but they have nowhere else to live. They love Qaraqosh and yearn to see it rebuilt. They do not want to leave again and pray for improved conditions and opportunities.
Most of those who have returned to Qaraqosh have done so because they have no other option. They do not have money to go to Jordan or elsewhere to join their families. Some are handicapped and unable to risk traveling, others have tried to live in Erbil (the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan) but couldn’t due to the high cost of living. Instead, they’ve come back to badly damaged homes with no electricity. However, they are determined and finding ways to make it work. Our new Nineveh SEED programme will help these people by providing jobs and much-needed investment in an area blighted by war.
In tandem with our projects, we continue to provide much-needed aid to refugees in northern Iraq and Jordan, as well as to the congregation at St George’s Church in Baghdad. If you would like to support us, please see the giving options below. Thank you.
Report written by our Project Officer in Jordan who recently visited northern Iraq.
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