Iraq (MNN) — The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is trying to help religious minorities return home to Iraq, but returning to a post-ISIS Iraq presents an array of complications. Anne Hamming of Tent Schools International tells us that the Christian Iraqi refugees its partners serve in Jordan are unsure if returning home is actually safe.
Lasting Effects of ISIS
Many Christian Iraqis call northern Iraq, the area known as the Nineveh province, home. Hamming notes this is the same ancient city of Nineveh in the Old Testament. Today, the province has one major city but is mainly scattered with small towns and villages, previously home to ethnic Assyrians. In 2014, ISIS targeted the area, forcing religious minorities to flee. Catch up on the major events of Iraq’s history here. Three years later, Iraqi forces pushed ISIS out, but few religious minorities have returned.
“Then there’s the issue of what will they return to. Homes and businesses were destroyed. There are even reports that they’re struggling to reclaim a clear title to their properties. So, they may not have homes, they may not have their businesses, and they may not even have the legal due process to get their property back,” Hamming explains.
Furthermore, some of the residents in the Nineveh province marked the homes of their Christian neighbors with the Arabic symbol for “Christian” ahead of ISIS’s arrival. Had these Christians not fled, the actions of their neighbors would have condemned them when ISIS arrived.
If these Iraqis do return home, they will return to neighborhoods filled with life-threatening betrayal. While not impossible, it is unlikely the sentiments which led their neighbors to sign their death sentence have vanished.
Explore this photo essay published in the Atlantic on Iraqi Christians return home.
Iraqi Refugees Face Inauspicious Future
But while life is in limbo and lacks a clear step forward, something is boosting morale. And it includes an opportunity to know Christ.
Through its partner Good Shepherd Center, Tent Schools is supporting the education of Iraqi refugee children. This education includes teachings about trauma care and about Jesus.
“When we can provide a safe, loving school for their children, it can really help turn the whole family around in terms of their mindset and their hope, because at least their children are getting a chance to learn the things that they will need to be productive, self-sufficient adults in the future,” Hamming says.
Pray for the Future
Please pour out prayers for the future of these kids. Ask God to equip them with the education, skills, resources, and wisdom to build a life wherever they live. Also, pray for God’s love to transform them, heal them, and provide them with the ultimate hope of Christ.
Pray for the Iraqi government and the Nineveh province. Pray for healing in Iraq, and that one day, religious minorities can return home without explicit concern for their safety or survival.
“Pray for the strength of the displaced Iraqi Christians that they can find hope and growth and opportunity as they wait. Also, if we could pray for [a] speedy resolution to the things that keep them stuck so that there can be swift creation of stability in their homeland,” Hamming asks.
“Of course, that would be our first hope for them that they could go back home. But if that is not possible, then we will also pray for their swift passage and opportunities to get to safety and to get on with providing for their families.”
To support Tent Schools’ work and the education of Iraqi refugee children, please consider joining Tent Schools’ Circle of Giving. To learn more or sign up, click here.
To dig deeper into the current refugee situation from a U.S. perspective, click here.
Header screen capture courtesy Prayercast.