Jordan (MNN) — The Middle Eastern country of Jordan is now home to tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people. For Iraqis, serious concerns prevent return home.
Iraqis Displaced in Jordan
Anne Hamming, communications director for Tent Schools International, says the challenges for displaced Iraqis are significant, especially for Christians. Historically, some of the oldest Christian communities have existed in Iraq. Typically, Iraqi Christians were left relatively out of conflict in the country until the mid-2000s, when Islam was declared the national religion.
Then, in 2014, the presence of ISIS forced Iraqi believers to flee ancestral lands where their families have lived for centuries. Today, those who fled to Jordan are in a complicated situation, and many of the Iraqis that a partner of Tent Schools works with say they do not feel safe returning to Iraq.
Statistics also show the number of Iraqi Christians is diminishing. Hamming says 10-15 years ago there were 1.5 million Iraqi Christians, but now, the number has dropped to under a quarter of a million.
“They indicate that…their communities have largely dissolved or been destroyed. Their homes and property were destroyed. Now their numbers are so small that they feel they would be isolated and at great risk of intimidation, discrimination, and flat out harassment,” Hamming says.
Building a New Normal
The Iraqi Christians would love to return home, but given their circumstances, many do not see this as a viable option. The question now—how and where to build a new life.
“Because they are not technically refugees, they do not have some of the protections and rights that a refugee might have, in terms of getting work or getting services for their children,” Hamming says.
“Make no mistake, they are safe and they are fed, and they are housed. But they have great restrictions on their ability to work, and there are very, very limited educational opportunities for their children.”
The lack of educational opportunities puts an entire generation at risk of being forgotten and stuck. It also puts these kids at risk as recruits for extremist groups. Without education and a skillset to build a life, extremist groups have better odds of luring teenagers into their system. Tent Schools is changing this through its partnership with Good Shepherd Center.
Education Key for Displaced Kids
In 2015, Good Shepherd Center started a school with staff trained in how to respond to trauma and help these kids heal. The school educates 150 Iraqi children ages 3-12. Good Shepherd Center also offers home visits, works with parents in helping their kids heal, and helps families locate resources for medical needs. Now, Good Shepherd Center is looking towards the future and how it can come alongside the Iraqi teenagers.
“Their next goal is to create a secondary school because they can see amongst them that there are at least 115 adolescents who have no access to school. They cannot work and, with great heartbreak, they’re seeing these children fall into some risky behaviors. But more often they become depressed,” Hamming explains.
These young adults have nothing to work towards. No further education, no jobs. Plus, Hamming says the situation can cause these teens to re-experience the effects of trauma.
“Our partner is working and hoping to open an adolescent center. They have a building, but the building needs renovations and of course, they need to staff it and purchase materials for their students,” Hamming says.
Will you help Good Shepherd Center care for Iraqi kids through Tent Schools?
Tent Schools is helping raise funds to equip Good Shepherd Center to get this secondary school up and running.
To give, click here.
“We’re very privileged to be walking with them in trying to meet this important need. And ensure that every child can have a chance at learning the skills and getting an education, and having a prosperous future,” Hamming says.
If you would, pray for the provisions for this new school. Ask God to bless the work, heal these kids, and open doors for both their future and a relationship with Him. Pray for peace in Iraq and the chance for these Iraqi families to build a new life. Pray for the strength and hope of both the parents and the staff at Good Shepherd, too.
Header photo courtesy of Tent Schools International via Facebook.