New life arises out of ashes

For the first time since ISIS drove all the Christians from Iraq’s Nineveh Plain in 2014, the Christian town of Qaraqosh celebrates Easter after many of its families returned. During the week leading to Easter, we met with Christians in Qaraqosh. Beautiful and poignant stories of faith and courage have inspired us all along. Father George Jahola shares a special Easter message today, “As Christ rose from the death, also this congregation is rising from the ashes.”

Father George Jahola, speaks with us as he helps Christians rebuild their lives in Qaraqosh. He is one of the catalysts for this rising hope. He is not only one of the local church leaders, but also head of the local committee in charge of rebuilding the houses – a Church initiative.

This Easter is especially significant for the Christians in this part of Iraq, George says when we speak with him in the Mar Behnam Church in the center of Qaraqosh. Like all churches formerly occupied by ISIS, this building is heavily damaged and burned.

Nevertheless, every day services and prayer gatherings take place here. “The Lord gave us the power to stay in this town and to rebuild and to continue life”, he says.

‘Life has returned here’

“Only a year ago, the city was empty. But now many people have returned. They rebuilt their houses and the churches are full again. Life has returned here.” Father George tells us.

The local church has been crucial to the rebuilding process – and it is being overseen by father George. He explains why the church took the lead in this: “We empower the population to stay here and we fight for the existence of the believers in this area. Since our people had to run for ISIS, the church has been taking care of them; also when they return here. Nobody else takes care of these people.”

1500 houses rebuilt

Up until today, the local churches in Qaraqosh have coordinated the restoration and rebuilding of 1500 houses. They didn’t have to do this alone, George stresses. “Many organizations like yours helped us” he says with a grateful smile. “Repairing houses encourages the population to stay here, to stay in Iraq and to witness their faith in this land.”

This church leader’s wish for Easter 2018, is that the new hope that God brought to Qaraqosh, will travel around the world and inspire many Christians to make their faith more visible. Because that’s the most important lesson Iraqi Christians have learned from being persecuted by ISIS. “I hope that the Christians returning to this land will inspire Christians all around the world to not be shy about their faith.”