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If Christians leave Iraq, it would be the end of their nearly 2,000-year-old culture and Christian history in the area.
The Knights of Columbus (KoC) announced today that they will donate $2 million dollars to rebuild the Iraqi town of Karamdes, a predominately Christian area in the Nineveh Plain, which was reclaimed from ISIS late last year. Without donations and the KoC’s help, some are concerned that a culture and almost 2,000 years of Christian history will disappear.
“We’ve been hearing from the people in Erbil — the church running the refugee camps — that the next two months are critical,” said KoC Vice President Andrew Walther in an interview with The Stream. The refugee camps house hundreds of Christian families, most of who have been in the camps for three years now. In 2003, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now Walther places the estimate at about 200,000.
Without help rebuilding their homes and town, the refugees may lose hope altogether and leave Iraq. That would be a tragedy on multiple levels, Walther said. “It would be the end of a culture, the end of faith in the region.”
One thing to remember, said Walther, is that “these people were targeted simply for their faith — because they professed Christianity.”
Seeing Hungary’s donation of $2 million save another predominately-Christian town, Teleskov, gave the KoC the idea of raising money to save Karamdes. “We looked at that and thought, ‘That’s something we can do,’” said Walther. About 1,000 people have moved back to Teleskov, giving the KoC hope that the resettlement model works.
For $2,000, groups, churches and even individuals can help resettle one family. “They can help maintain pluralism and help move the refugees back into their town,” said Andrew. The amount of $2,000 includes sorting out burn damages, rebuilding their home, cleaning up and making the place habitable. The families will be working with the church’s structural engineers to make sure their homes are safe. And the church is working with the government to turn the power and water back on.
Walther estimates that, with donations, hundreds of refugee families will be back in Karamdes by the end of the month.
“The hardest thing I’ve seen with the refugees is the loss of hope and anxiety not knowing when they’ll get home,” he noted. By donating money, people are giving the refugees the means to restart and sustain their lives. “It’s the beginning of a real solution to the problem of getting people back home.”
To donate or learn more about how to help resettle the Christian refugees in Iraq, go to Christiansatrisk.org.
Nancy is an Associate Editor at The Stream. She is currently working toward her PhD in Strategic Communication and Journalism at Regent University. She’s married with four boys.
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