This Christmas, Iraqi Christian Relief Council raised $26,000 in just three days to completely fund the Heat and Hope campaign. This quick relief project gave heat to 250 Assyrian Christian (also known as Syriac and Chaldean) families, who lost their homes to the Islamic State in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, a historic homeland of religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq.
Iraq’s damp and bitterly cold mountain winters make life for these displaced families living in abject poverty unbearable, and often heat is one amenity that must be cut when times are hard. Donations from supporters of Iraqi Christian Relief Council allowed Assyrian Christian families living in Al-Karma and the former Al-Amal camps in Ainkawa to stay warm for the next few months.
Given the choice to convert or die, these Assyrian Christian families chose to keep their faith but lost everything in return, including homes, savings, jobs, and their ancestral communities. They have been displaced for more than two years and four months today, yet still cling to their faith. Most struggle to survive, stay warm, and maintain hope that they will return home after years of living in internally displaced persons camps.
What these families need next is a renewal of hope. Several individuals interviewed are unsure they have a future in Iraq despite 7,000 years of history. Faraj Toma Yousif, who was displaced from his home in Baghdedeh, was thankful for heating oil that he says he will use to keep his family of six warm. Faraj says he would return to his hometown of Baghdedeh if he receives assistance to rebuild his destroyed home under international protection. Otherwise, he isn’t sure Assyrian Christians will continue to live in Iraq. “There is no future for our people in Iraq,” he says.
Raad Behnam Yacob is part of a family of six that fled Baghdedeh, Iraq’s largest Assyrian Christian city, more than two years ago. He received Heat and Hope heating oil this winter, however he feels despondent about the future and does not plan to return home. “The future is very dark and bleak because of the rise of religious zealotry and sectarian fanaticism here. Assyrian Christians might disappear from Iraq in the foreseeable future,” he says.
Now more than ever, allies of Assyrian Christians in Iraq must support a protected Nineveh Plain province to ensure the future of Iraq’s targeted religious and ethnic minorities. More than 2,000 years of Christian heritage may be lost without long term solutions that provide safety so that ethnic and religious minority groups may flourish once again. Iraqi Christian Relief Council urges supporters to raise awareness on the plight of the 1.3 million Assyrian Christians who have been displaced since 2003 due to the rise of Islamic extremism in Iraq, including 200,000 Assyrian Christians displaced since 2014 because of ISIS.
Iraqi Christian Relief Council urges supporters to donate to Operation Return To Nineveh campaign which will rebuild communities and churches in the Nineveh Plain.