Shops are open, children go to school, bus loads full of students head to Mosul daily for their studies at Mosul University, restaurants prepare food and more and more Christians return to the town Qaraqosh, more commonly known as Baghdeda. The Nineveh Plains are coming to life again after three years of Islamic State occupation. Through a local partner, Open Doors have been helping to to restore 286 houses in the town.
The return of the people and the rebuilding of the houses is coordinated from the center where the Church Supreme Board for Reconstruction of Baghdeda is situated. This board is led by priest Father George. They are partly supported through a local partner organization to restore the houses of a part of the town. “It’s going well,” Father George says.
“With your support we were able to restore 286 houses. That means that 286 families have returned to their houses. By the end of 2017, we finished 1,054 of the 2,658 houses in our town that are now on our list to be repaired.” In other places in the Nineveh Plain Open Doors have been able to support, the restoration of another 392 houses.
“We first drew maps of the town, as all maps disappeared during the occupation of Islamic State. We used satellite images and an architect made the plan of our town. We chose to restore houses close to the church in the center. We decided to restore the city piece-by-piece so that we wouldn’t get isolated houses where a family would live between empty houses. The main thought is that we need to recreate the sense of community.”
As with everywhere in the Nineveh Plain, the committee in Qaraqosh also works first with the houses that are the easiest to repair. In general the costs are under $5,000, the so-called category C houses. The category B, partly burned or with some more costly damage, and category A, completely destroyed, will be only done when the easiest category is done and when enough funding is available.
“The people are happy,” the priest says. “Even though Erbil was more tidy and clean, they prefer to be here, to be back home.” The priest is ambitious. “Qaraqosh needs to become beautiful again. We need to remove all destroyed and burned houses that might remain empty. The people who live here shouldn’t be confronted every time with these memories of the Islamic State period. When they see those houses, they won’t feel completely relieved. We also need to think of the farmers who lost their farms, their materials. We need to get them started. Also the public activities should start, some still need space for that.”
Iraq is ranked at number 8 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. Persecution comes primarily from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) – whose ideology is not dead – and other radical militants. Tens of thousands of Christians remain displaced following the IS insurgency in 2014. In addition, Islamic leaders, clan leaders, extended family and ‘normal citizens’ all put pressure on Christians from a Muslim background to recant, sometimes using torture or physical attack. Converts risk harassment or discrimination at check-points, universities, work places and government buildings; they may also lose jobs, inheritance rights, or the ability to marry.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.