Finding Hope in Iraq this Christmas

For the first time in five years, 12-year-old Noeh and his family will be able to celebrate Christmas in their own home in Karamles, Iraq, this year. There was a time when going home for Christmas seemed impossible for this family. In August 2014, they had to flee their home to escape the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). Their village, Karamles, was liberated from the extremists in October 2016, but when they returned to their home, it was completely burned out.

But they were determined not to give up on their home and their community. In August 2017, Noeh’s family came back to live in Karamles, staying in the house of an uncle and aunt. In December last year, Noeh and his father, Haithem, travelled to New York to present the Hope for the Middle East petition to high-level UN officials and Vice President of the USA Mike Pence. Noeh is just a young boy from a small village – and yet, your campaigning enabled his voice to be heard by some of the most powerful people in the world. Now, this year, Noeh and his family are back in their own home.

YOU ARE GIVING THE GIFT OF HOPE

For many families in the Middle East, 2018 has been a year of new hope. Support and prayers of Open Doors supporters from the world over have enabled our local church partners to repair 1,051 houses across the Nineveh Plain in Iraq – that’s 1,051 families like Noeh’s who will be home for Christmas this year. Thank you!
As the situation in Iraq improves, Open Doors local partners are now focusing less on providing food aid, and more on helping believers to start small businesses to give them the dignity of supporting themselves. Our support and prayers have helped them to start income generating businesses, including a plastics factory, a sweet factory, a metal factory, and various farms and shops. But there are still huge challenges.
Many are still traumatized and receiving trauma care through Open Doors local partners. Our church family in Iraq still need our prayers and support as they continue to rebuild their homes and communities. And in Syria, the crisis is far from over. While many areas have seen the violence come to an end, the fight for survival continues. Living costs have soared to ten times what they were before the war began, meaning that even those with an income struggle to make enough money for their basic needs. Those who have been left behind are often the most vulnerable – the elderly, the sick, families who have lost their breadwinners and those who are simply too poor to flee.
Pastor Abdalla, an Open Doors local church partner in Aleppo says, “I have a great hope. We have experienced God’s love and support and protection this time. God supported us in this time, so he will continue.”

YOU ARE HELPING THE CHURCH TO BRING PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
Pastor Abdalla is a local church partner of Open Doors in Aleppo, Syria. He has courageously stayed in his city throughout the war to lead his church and serve his community. “We are beginning to rebuild everything,” he says. At times it must have seemed impossible to imagine life coming back to Aleppo. He remembers, “Once a car exploded near me. Also ,my daughter had four bombs go off in her school and four children died.” But his courage in the face of great danger is incredible. “Even though the bombs were falling around the building every day, we didn’t stop.” When the war began the church was helping a few families, but this work grew, and thanks to the support and prayers of people like you they are now reaching thousands of families with practical support. Pastor Abdalla is playing a key role in bringing reconciliation to his community, and heads up a reconciliation committee in Aleppo.
He says, “Real reconciliation is in the relationship. There are different parts of society and they all have unstable relationships with each other. So the church has the role to make these relationships stable. To bring all parties together. The church’s role is to make the conversation between them and make them have a good relationship. When you solve the relationship you have a stable society and that’s what we are doing.” He says the church was able to build good relationships with different groups in society through the help they offered to everyone throughout the crisis – Christians and non-Christians alike. “Before the crisis the community was split into Christian parts and non-Christian parts. During the crisis the non-Christians left their houses and came to the Christians and developed a close relationship with them. “We decided we needed to help them as Jesus would have done. So we showed love to them and received them into our centre.

If you enter our centre now you will see that the majority of the people, there are not Christians. They came to receive support, food, medication – they had to rent new houses because their houses were destroyed.”

YOU ARE HELPING 12,000 FAMILIES IN SYRIA TO SURVIVE
Your support and prayers are providing vital aid such as food and medicines for 12,000 of the most vulnerable families in Syria every month – thank you! This support is still desperately needed. Your support and prayers are keeping hope alive for our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, and helping the church to continue to shine as a light in the darkness. Pastor Abdalla says, “During the crisis we saw the church worldwide act like one family, supporting us, praying for us, helping us. That made a difference.”