Rana and Rita’s story

There was a story in The Times this week about an Iraqi Christian woman who had been kidnapped by ISIS. Her name is Rana and she endured two and a half years of beatings, rape and domestic servitude at the hands of her captors. Rana was one of the lucky ones to escape, returning to her hometown of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq. She was worried that she would be shunned by the townsfolk but the priest and congregation have embraced her with open arms.

Another Christian woman from Qaraqosh, Rita, was rescued by men pretending to be jihadis. Like Rana, she had endured horrific physical and sexual abuse. She said that ISIS “did evil things to us.” After ISIS took control of her town Rita was sold to five different men. She was recently reunited with her father in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The persecuted remain faithful

Of the 45 women kidnapped from Qaraqosh, only 7 have returned. The fate of the others remains a mystery. Despite the tragedies that have befallen the villages of the Nineveh Plain, the Christians have not lost their faith. When we visited recently, we saw devastation but we also saw hope. There is little infrastructure and there are no long-term jobs, but there has been great progress on rebuilding and restoring people’s homes.

Our Nineveh SEED programme will reinvigorate these villages. Projects we have discussed with local church leaders include deep water wells and linked irrigation for villages, business loans to re-establish enterprises destroyed by ISIS, and even tourism opportunities for intrepid travellers. Such projects would help create jobs and kick-start the local economy. We also aim to increase funding for trauma counselling to help people like Rana and Rita. We fund a centre in Jordan which particularly focuses on children and young people, supporting refugees who have suffered major trauma in Iraq.

ISIS tried to obliterate Christianity in northern Iraq. It burned churches, crucified believers, and kidnapped women. While it did not succeed in its mission, there is a scar on the land which will take years to heal. That is why we are shifting our focus away from emergency relief towards long-term projects. Our aim, as always, is to ‘rebuild lives and restore hope’. We pray that with your support we can help the ancient Christian communities of the Nineveh Plain flourish once again.

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To support our future work, please consider leaving a legacy (more info about that here). Or to make a donation now visit the donate page on our website (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!