Workers —

Christ In The Camps

Reaching refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Any Old Testament scholar will understand the rich history of Kurdistan, an administrative region which overlaps the north–eastern corner of Iraq on a map but which is markedly different in almost every other way. The area is rich in biblical significance, being home to the ancient city of Nineveh which Jonah sought to avoid, the Kebar River by which Ezekiel prophesied, and also the tomb of the prophet Nahum in the town of Alqosh. Further south are the ruins of Ur of Chaldees, home to Abram before he followed the call of God.

More recently, Kurdistan has been a place of pain and suffering. The Kurdish people were persecuted under Saddam Hussein, culminating in the horrific chemical attack on Halabja in 1988 where over 3,000 people died and 10,000 were injured. Then came ISIS, whose wave of terror blighted the Yazidi people among others. Meanwhile, the war in neighbouring Syria has forced thousands of refugees into the region.

refugee camp kurdistan
refugee camp kurdistan

It was between these brutal scenarios that our involvement in Kurdistan began. In 2009, our partners began taking God’s Word into the brokenness of this mainly Muslim people, seeking to display the love of God by meeting felt needs and sharing the hope found in Christ. The work was hard in the early days, but the provision of 200,000 Arabic Bibles enabled the ministry to grow and many Muslims came to faith in Jesus.

As the work grew, so did the persecution. Many who trusted in Christ were imprisoned. Some were murdered. However, by God’s grace and through the faithful and tireless witness of our partners on the ground, the church grew and began to make a difference.

The ISIS incursion and the influx of Syrian refugees caused a rethink of the ministry, leading to an expansion in scope and personnel. A new team was formed and Asim, an Egyptian pharmacist was called by God to give direction and wisdom amid these developments. New ministries were born and the church in Erbil became a centre for outreach to refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

Cano was recruited to plant a church in Erbil and through his and his family’s tireless efforts, the membership soon grew to over 200 as many people found faith in Jesus. These people were taught gospel truths in a way which highlighted God’s love for who they were. The testimony of one young, Syrian woman whose husband was blown up by an improvised explosive device was that she and her family had never known love like this. Jesus was proclaimed and demonstrated, and the church blossomed. Now, the Erbil church has outgrown its original building and the growth continues. God is using faithful workers like Cano who are sacrificing much for Christ.

In Duhok, people like Peros and Hawre lead ministries in both the city and the many refugees camps. Outreach to Muslims and Yazidis in the area is based on Bible study, book centres and English classes. Through these projects, the city churchhas grown and many churches have been planted in the camps. Wonderful stories of Jesus meeting illiterate people in dreams and visions are not uncommon, and through the sacrificial work of committed men and women the gospel is impacting people’s lives. Schools have also been established for Muslim and Yazidi children.

One of the significant ministry developments has been Asim’s work to establish the ‘Noor Center’ in Duhok. Noor is the Arabic word for light, and the centre is transforming the dark refugee camps intoplaces of light, hope and healing. Andre now leads this ministry, galvanising many volunteers to assist with occupational training, education, trauma counselling, and also a maternity care programme which aims to reduce high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Through each of these programmes, teams are bringing the love of Christ into communities which have known nothing but heartache and hopelessness.

In this hardly known region of Iraq, God is using His people to impact broken lives, to bring healing, and to save many through His Son. His church is growing. Hallelujah! 

Support gospel workers in Iraqi Kurdistan today through the Asian Workers Fund.

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