New Life: Rebuilding a Christian Presence in Iraq
For the first time since ISIS invaded and forced Christians to flee their homes in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain in 2014, the Christian town of Qaraqosh celebrates Holy Week after many of its families have returned. During this week leading to Easter, we visit Qaraqosh to meet with Christians there.
“Before we ran away from Qaraqosh this place was like a paradise for me, like Heaven,” 29-year-old Christian architect Noor tells us, smiling.
But when ISIS overran their town in 2014, she and her family had to flee overnight. It took almost three years to defeat Islamic State forces and make the area safe again, allowing Christian families to return to Qaraqosh.
Young mother Noor remembers vividly how she went back to her town for the first time, a year ago now, and saw the destruction the terrorists had left behind.
“It was like a hell. I smelled things that were so bad, I can’t imagine … Blood, dirt, bodies … It was like a ghost town. No lights, nothing in it.”
But she didn’t give up.
“We decided to move on and rebuild the city. So, I started working as a volunteer with the Reconstruction Committee of the church. First, to document the damage, and after that to help coordinate the reconstruction and rebuilding process.”
Worries for her baby daughter
When she fled in 2014, Noor was engaged to Anmar. During their displacement, they married. Two years ago, their daughter Ashly was born.
Over the last few years, Noor has realized how many Christian families didn’t return to their homes. Instead, they left Iraq and migrated to safer countries.
“I also thought about doing that because of the insecurity and thinking about the future for my little daughter,” she admits.
But Noor and Anmar made the determined choice to stay. “Because I love my town and my family, I decided to stay here and work with them to build and reconstruct everything,” she says.
Working as an architect to rebuild Qaraqosh
Soon after Noor and her family moved back permanently to Qaraqosh, the Reconstruction Committee offered her a job in the technical department working as an architect.
“I work on the information, the data and the registrations. Through that work, I can help other families rebuild and reconstruct their houses.”
Noor is proud she can serve her community in this way, she tells us, as we talk from the roof of her home. From here, we have a good view of the area.
“I dream of Qaraqosh,” she says, looking out over her hometown, “that in the future, it will be better than before. Like paradise.”
Grateful for your prayers
When she hears that Christians all over the world are following the Christians in Qaraqosh this week leading up to Easter, Noor is touched by the thought.
“On behalf of me and every single Christian in Iraq: We are thankful for every Christian in the world, for thinking about us. And we are grateful that you are helping us, also with your prayers. So, thank you.”