ruth-gledhill Ruth Gledhill Christian
A displaced Iraqi child, who fled from Islamic State violence in Mosul, fills jerry cans with water at a refugee camp in Erbil.
Remarkable stories of how refugees who lost everything are now rebuilding their lives from scratch have emerged from Iraq.
There are many Christians among the many thousands of Iraqis and Syrians living in displacement camps in Iraq after fleeing Islamic State, according to World Watch Monitor which reports on Christian persecution around the world.
It is estimated that 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced within their own country. Nearly 100,000 have sought refuge in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, since June.
Even when Mosul is liberated from Islamic State after the push to take it back begins later this year, there are growing fears that Christians will struggle to return to their ancient homelands because so much has been appropriated and there will be many people competing for the same properties.
One of those who has begun to make a new life for himself, his wife and his three children in Erbil is Ghazan, 47. He ran his own transport company in Mosul and was wealthy and successful. He began attending church in Erbil and the Christian community there found him a job in a bakery, with his income now a tenth what it was.
“We had a good life until IS came and forced us out. I heard that IS stole all our cars and are using them in Mosul right now. It was hard to see my family displaced. We lost our home, our place to stay,” he said.
“Although I don’t earn much here and I have to work much longer hours than I did in my last job, I can at least pay rent so my family doesn’t have to live in a camp. I have lost everything, but I thank God that my family is still with me.”
Jonas lost his farm in Syria to an Islamic State assault where he was himself shot and his caretaker was murdered in front of his eyes.
“They took all my cows and I heard they sold them in Turkey,” he said. “I had about 2,000 olive trees here too. They’re now all gone. IS destroyed everything – the house, the buildings, they cut down all the trees. I lost everything there.”
He fled with his family to Lebanon where they live in a small flat and he helps with building work in refugee camps. “The first year here I became depressed. But I started to pray more to God and that has helped me. I pray very often but have all these questions about why (this) happens to Christians.”
Even when the war ends, he fears more bloodshed in revenge attacks in Syria. “If the Christians really disappear from Syria it will be a disaster for Christianity all around the world. You know, we Christians love our country, we would love to stay, would love to return, but we need the basic conditions to live there.”