Restoration and new birth
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 this week leading to Easter, we visit Qaraqosh to meet with Christians there. Faraj (61) like many others, was displaced since 2014. Thanks to Open Doors support, he was able to repair his damaged house and return to Qaraqosh last year.
The basement of 61-year-old Christian Faraj’s house in Qaraqosh is crisp and clean; the walls are painted in a fresh blue color. Less than year ago, this place looked a lot less peaceful. Faraj takes out his phone and shows us pictures from his first visit to the house after Qaraqosh was liberated from ISIS.
“This is where the terrorists laid their women and children to sleep”, the father of five children says, pointing at the floor. “And here in the wall was a big hole, where they made a tunnel to go to the other side of the street unseen.”
It took the family a few months and hard work, but now their house looks and feels like a safe and friendly place again. Faraj’s family is one of the 336 families in Qaraqosh who were supported by our local partners in Iraq to repair their houses – both with financial support and practical advice on the renovation process. The help enabled them to repair broken windows and ceilings, fix the bathroom, repair the holes in the walls and paint over all the bad memories of ISIS.
Faraj takes us upstairs to show the result. “This ceiling is new, and these windows were broken, so I repaired them too.”
From the balcony, a row of houses in an adjacent street can be seen that are completely burned. “All these houses are burned by ISIS”, he says. The families who used to live there were less lucky than Faraj; they might have to rebuild their property completely before being able to live there again.
A new birth
“The first time when I came back to Qaraqosh, and saw the huge mess I said to myself: it will be very, very difficult to return here if nobody will help me. But then your help came, and I was able to repair my house completely for my family. Because of that we are able to live here again.”
The support helped Faraj and his family through the darkest time in their lives. “This is a new birth. For me and my family. Thank you very much.”
Faraj knows that many Christians from other countries are supporting their brothers and sisters in Qaraqosh. That means a lot to him. “What we want is that all Christians worldwide pray for the Christians in Iraq”, he says. “Without any support, Christianity might disappear completely from this country. That would be such a shame.”