Christians in Iraq have faced years of bad news and trauma, but at last, signs are growing that there might be reason to celebrate – albeit cautiously. The first Christians families are tentatively returning to their recently liberated villages on the Nineveh Plain…
The streets in Telskuf are empty and quiet. Some of the abandoned houses are riddled with bullet holes; others seem to have survived the war without much damage. This is one of the Christian villages where the Islamic fighters of IS were expelled relatively easily. It is different here than in the neighboring town of Batnaya which is a war zone. That town was shelled and bombed so heavily that ninety percent of the houses have been destroyed.
For a few days now the sounds of marching boots and rolling tanks no longer fill the streets. The first Christians are returning to this deserted village that was once bustling with life and inhabited by hundreds of Christian families. This is a promise for the future.
Sisters Nidal and Janan have between them, six children. They moved back just a few days ago. Their house was raided and ransacked, but at least they can live there. Their husbands are out today, trying to find new jobs.
Nidal shares how IS chased her from her village in 2014. They have been living in the Kurdish town Dahuq ever since. “We had water and electricity there, but it was not home. This place doesn’t have all that, but it is home.”
She tells how, while living in displacement, she never felt truly happy. “I got more and more depressed. Even when there was a birthday or a wedding, I wouldn’t join the party. It felt wrong to celebrate.”
“… better times have come! Today I’m happier than ever. I’m home.”
During their time in displacement, local partners of Open Doors provided Nidal’s family with food packages and emergency relief. “That kept us alive and hopeful and helped us to wait for better times. And look,” she points at her daughter playing a game on a phone in the corner of the room, “better times have come! Today I’m happier than ever. I’m home.”
IS demolished the infrastructure in the villages, so until the power lines and the water pipes have been repaired, returnees depend on generators and trucks to provide them with the basics necessities to live.
Many Christian families have migrated to Western countries since 2014. Did Nidal think about leaving Iraq as well? She doesn’t have to think long before answering that question. “La!” she says firmly, using the Arabic word for ‘no’. “We belong here. No way am I leaving this country. That is why we chose to return here as soon as we could—to show others it is possible, to set an example, and to motivate those who might be in doubt. By returning here we also give hope to our children, we show the new generation that they have a future in Iraq.”
Nidal thanks God that He saved her family. “Life is not easy here, there is no school for the children. My brother-in-law has to drive them to a village 15 minutes away from here every day. But the good news is that life goes on. Every day is new; we believe in Christ. He will help us through this period, He keeps us strong.”
Pray for the families returning to their homes across the Ninevah Plains
Ask for security and protection, and that they will be able to rebuild their lives, homes and businesses
Pray for and end to terror and violence and ask that Christians would feel safe and valued in Iraq
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.