By ICC’s Iraq Correspondent
12/15/2016 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – In 2014, ISIS captured Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qeraqosh. Their invasion forced many Christian families to flee, leaving behind homes, jobs, and security. A few families tried to stay in Qeraqosh so that they did not have to leave their homes, but ISIS mandated that they pay an expensive tax to stay. The remaining Christians either went into hiding or fled.
While some families have successfully resettled in places like Erbil, most have lived itinerant lifestyles because of persecution. As Christians, finding jobs is a difficult and discriminatory process. Without jobs, families struggle to provide basic necessities like food, housing, and water. Children have to leave their school and pause their education.
Kassim and Samer lead such families. Kassim, a 20-year-old college student, led his family out of Qeraqosh, including his father who now suffers from cancer. Before ISIS attacked, Kassim reminisced about how his family “used to have [an] amusement park in Qeraqosh, half of it owned by my father” which was their source of sustainable income.
Kassim’s father “encourage[d] us to study and he took care of everything.” His father’s encouragement led Kassim to enroll in an engineering college.
All of that was put on hold when ISIS attacked. “If ISIS doesn’t attack our village, I would be [in the] third stage of college,” mourned Kassim. Now he has to provide for his family because his father has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.
To support his family, Kassim wanted to open a car wash in part because he has a location already secured for it. Without assistance, however, Kassim couldn’t afford the expensive start-up equipment like an air and water compressor, vacuums, an engine cleaner, or a water raiser.
In response, International Christian Concern (ICC) helped Kassim purchase the necessary equipment for the car wash. “My father used to take care of everything, [but] I think the day has come for us to take care of him since he is having medical treatment,” Kassim admitted.
Samer faced similar difficulties. He lives with his wife, 18-year-old daughter, and 16-year-old son. They initially fled Qeraqosh after ISIS attacked, but returned to their home after a three-day absence. Life, however, was difficult and filled with fear for Samer and his family. The electricity was always off so they slept on the roof, thus exposing themselves to gunshots, explosions, and other attacks. Their water access was limited. Finally, Samer and his family left for good.
They live in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp and share a space with other IDP families, but Samer contends that it “is a miserable life for the long term.” His children have not been able to resume their education and Samer has struggled to provide basic necessities for his family.
Samer wanted to start a business by running a photocopier in a small library to provide a sustainable source of income, but he also was unable to purchase the necessary equipment like a laminator machine, laptop, and printer. ICC purchased the equipment for Samer and helped him establish a small copy center. Now, Samer’s daughter can afford to join an institute in Kirkuk and avoid missing school while the rest of the family will have their basic needs met.
Tens of thousands of internally displaced Christian families, like Samer and Kassim’s, continue struggling to provide basic necessities, education, and healthcare for themselves and their children. Pray for God’s protection and provision for these families. Pray that God can continue to use ICC to provide business support as a means of providing sustainable incomes for displaced families. Please also pray that Iraq’s Christians will be able to minister God’s love in a place consumed by hate and violence.