A church in northern Iraq
Amid the tragic headlines this Easter, one story gave us hope. At The Church of the Immaculate Conception in the northern Iraqi town of Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh), a large congregation of Christians celebrated Easter. Only an estimated 30% of the town’s 80,000 Christians have returned since ISIS was routed but it is heartening to see people worshipping again. While many Christians still languish in displacement camps in Kurdish-controlled territory, Bakhdida has been one of the most successful in bringing its residents back. That said, the town still bears the scars of ISIS occupation, although not nearly as many as when we were there last year.
Two years ago we visited the church and found it in ruins. Rubble everywhere, desecrated baptismal fonts, an ISIS flag daubed on one of the walls. In the courtyard outside, spent bullet casings crunched underfoot and a human-shaped target was propped against a pillar. ISIS jihadis had stacked the pews and Bibles into a huge pile by the altar and set them alight. The scorch marks are still visible on the main dome and surrounding pillars. As Iraq’s largest church, photos of the damage became a symbol of the Christian persecution (and the international community’s inaction). Christian leaders in the area told us the world sympathised but did nothing to help.
How we are helping the Christians
Despite the persecution, we believe Iraqi Christian communities can thrive again. To this end, we work with local leaders and NGOs in northern Iraq to restore small businesses and livelihoods. We fund St George’s Church in Baghdad, including the clinic there which treats people of all faiths. We also help over 6,000 Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan, providing them with food coupons, food packages and rental support. Sadly, support from Western governments and NGOs is not always forthcoming. Luckily we are supported by Christian donors in the UK and America who see the value of our mission.
Georgia fundraising tour
We owe much of our work to the generosity of churches and individual donors. That said, Mike Simpson (CEO) and Christopher Segar (Trustee) will shortly be embarking on a fundraising tour of Georgia, USA (The Peach State). They will be speaking at churches in Peachtree City, Macon, Warner Robins and Columbus. We pray for a big turn-out and hope people will give generously in support of our work. The persecuted church in Iraq needs your help. We will share highlights of this tour in the coming weeks. Thanks to our sister charity, FRRME America, for their effort in arranging the tour.
How to make a donation
To support our work in Iraq and Jordan, please make a donation now via our donate page (there are numerous options for how to donate). Or you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom. Thank you!