In northern Iraq, Christian leaders are coming together for training to help them lead, disciple and encourage their churches. Your prayers and support are helping Iraqi believers to have hope for the future of the church.  

Father Fadi is excited about the training he’s received and is looking forward to share what he’s learned with his church. “Change is a journey,” he says

In Erbil, northern Iraq, Christian leaders – priests, pastors and lay people – are gathering for leadership training. Jesus’ last commandment to His disciples before His ascension was to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 20:19), and these leaders want to take this command seriously. Anyone wanting to grow in their leadership skills and experience can apply for the training. 

Father Fadi, one of the delegates, is the caretaker and manager of Mar Johanna Al Dailami monastery in Qaraqosh. He was concerned that discipleship was growing stagnant in some parts of his church. “We need to change,” he says. “We must reformulate our intellectual, moral, behavioural system into one that will be Christ-centred.” 

“How can we help our people not to leave the country?”


“Ministry means pressure – we need this training” 

The nine-day conference (split over three sessions throughout the year) takes place in a hotel. The lessons are interactive, and delegates are invited to share their views. Participants are thoughtful as they discuss and present their perspectives.  

Father Ayad serves as a priest in two parishes in Kirkuk province in northern Iraq. “We know that ministry means pressure. We need this training as long as our [leadership] journey continues,” he says. “Political and religious conflicts led to violence in Kirkuk. It was and is a challenge for us. How can we help our people not to leave the country, to maintain our Christian existence amidst persecution, violence, explosions, killing and the kidnappings we witnessed for many years in Kirkuk?” 

Fr Fadi says that illiteracy is a big problem, saying, “People don’t read. We don’t read our holy Bible.” He sees people chasing traditions and habits which aren’t core to the Christian faith. “We act as if these things are holy, and the core of our faith gets lost, so we need Christian education.  

could help strengthen and encourage a vulnerable Christian through vital training.

“We in the Middle East need academic information and academic people,” he adds. “They don’t only address people’s emotions, but also our minds.” 

Training is “fuel” for ministry  

Rajaa Gorgees is a primary school teacher. She says that people nowadays don’t accept the idea of being led by someone. She says that this can make leaders feel insecure, worried that they’re doing something wrong. “The training helps us to always return to God, to the Bible,” she says. “Without doing that, we will reach a point where we’re tired and can’t continue.” 

The training is ‘a journey in building a healthy community’, according to Fr Ayad. He tries to guide his congregation ‘to have Christ in the centre’. “This training is very positive; it helps me to develop skills in my work as a servant in the church. It also helps me in self-discipline.” 

Father Jacoub appreciates that the training is ecumenical, bringing together Christian leaders from lots of different churches – united in Jesus Christ. 

“We got ideas that help us as leaders,” shares Sister Mayada. “Personally, this is such a big thing for me to serve the glory of God in a better way.” 

Father Behnam adds, “This training is built on Jesus Christ, how He led and prepared the disciples to have them as future leaders, to deliver the good news and establish churches. I studied a lot, but I didn’t know that Jesus was a leader and He raised other leaders. 

“This training is built on Jesus Christ, how He led and prepared the disciples to have them as future leaders”


“They come here to teach us, build our personalities. It’s like giving fuel to help us to continue driving, to continue our ministry. They make us aware of how to behave when going through different dilemmas as leaders.”  

Trained to encourage the next generation  

By the end of the training day, Fr Fadi is feeling enthusiastic. He would like to participate in this training for a whole year. “I need to listen to academic people,” he reflects. “Change is a journey. It is not a momentary thing; growth comes through the training sessions. We need an organisation [like Open Doors] that takes care of our minds and thoughts. Lift us from this illiteracy which we are in.” 

In looking to Jesus’ example of leadership and discipleship-making, these leaders are hoping to encourage their churches – and the next generation of church leaders – to remain in Iraq. Please pray that they can successfully convey their teaching, enthusiasm and hope to their congregations. 

The Melody singers are a group of young people from the Nineveh Plain who have discovered joy and purpose through making music and sharing the gospel – and now they’re helping other young people to do the same. 

The Melody Singers are bringing hope and joy through their music to Christian and Muslim audiences

In Isaiah 58:12, the prophet writes: “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  

The Melody singers from Iraq are doing just that with their music. In a church square once used as a shooting range by so-called Islamic State (IS) fighters, Christians now sing for the glory of God. Where IS tried to put an end to Christian faith, Christians are singing again. They believe they have a hope and a future – and, through their music, they are helping other young people like them to believe the same.  

Melody came together during displacement. Sam, Farid and Fady were living in Erbil, after being forced to leave their homes in the Nineveh Plain by IS militants. “We began meeting there and playing,” says Sam, leader of the band. “Playing music gave us energy, we were able to feel alive again. Doing nothing in Erbil, we tried to revive ourselves through music and revive others as well.”

Breaking cultural barriers

Once they had returned home to Qaraqosh, they asked a few women to sing with them. Hiba (25) is one of the singers. “God gives a gift to every person, and this talent must be used,” she says. “In our culture, it’s problematic for a girl to sing. I joined to break this limitation and obstacle… that hovers over our lands. It is uncommon for a girl to sing. It is a barrier that is very hard to crack.”  

Hiba faced difficulties and opposition at the beginning, but she didn’t stop. “On the contrary, despite the negativities and the wrongful gossip, we said that we must go on. The most important thing is to have a purpose, to seek it and continue the journey.”  

Something else that keeps her going is how people are responding to the band’s music. “I see joy and happiness in their eyes, this makes me really happy,” she says. One of their first performances was on Mother’s Day. “We invited a lot of people to Saint Paul [an activity centre belonging to the church]. We brought joy to the audience, we felt the joy, we saw how touched and moved those mothers were.” 

Sharing faith through music

The group play for both Christian and Muslim audiences, sharing their faith through their music. Farid (27) is a singer and also plays the daf (a frame instrument). “I want to keep on presenting music that surpasses the noise of war and destruction, wanting to deliver a message to the world. Music, in general, is the biggest drive for hope in the future. Music is a language of peace, of love. It is grasped by all kinds of audiences.”

The band feel that music is giving them renewed hope to stay in the country – and they are able to encourage other young people with their message too. “This land is the land of our forefathers and the land of our children’s future,” Farid adds. “Our music [makes people] understand that we will remain in this land.” 

Jubran is a courageous young man who’s chosen to stay in Iraq and serve the church there. He runs a Centre of Hope – with support from Open Doors – which helps around 500 people to heal from their trauma and strengthen them in their faith. This is all possible thanks to your gifts and prayers.

Bishop Chimon Daniel is passionate about helping young people to stay in Iraq and fulfil their God-given purpose

Jubran (28) was one of 120,000 Christians who fled his home in the Nineveh Plain when so-called Islamic State (IS) invaded in 2014. As a young man who’s lived through war, persecution and displacement, he knows just how much Iraqi Christians have been traumatised by the events of the last decade. Young Iraqi Christians, particularly, feel hopeless about their future. And, thanks to your prayers and support, he now offers help and healing to around 500 people.  

Jubran manages the Pool of Siloam Ecumenical Centre, a Centre of Hope just south of Erbil, which helps people connect with their community and heal from their trauma. “We offer many activities, but our main goal is to bring the healing message from the Bible,” Jubran says. “In all our activities we open the Bible. [It] says so much about trauma and how to help people with it. From the Bible we can learn how to deal with our pain, how to live in peace.” 

Using the Bible to break down barriers 

The activities range from football to a devotional time, from one-to-one conversations to creative group activities. At the centre, people in the discipleship activities are also encouraged to read Christian books that also speak about healing. “We hear many stories, children that lost both parents, parents who lost sons or daughters, persons who lost brothers or sisters because of bombing or accidents,” Jubran says. “But also, all those who were displaced for a long time. Some struggled with questions like ‘Where is God?’ and ‘If He exists, why doesn’t He intervene?’ Some even stopped believing. By using the Bible, we can help them to find answers, to discover why things are happening in our lives.” 

“Because you help us, we can give help!” 

“There are millions who need hope, healing”


Jubran felt called to this very specific ministry by God: “There was a vision, a message from God, a calling. One day I opened my eyes and saw myself involved in this work.” After beginning a ministry on Facebook, he later worked with Father Daniel – now Bishop Chimon Daniel – to set up a Centre of Hope that focused on trauma care. All the workers in the centre are trained before they start working there – and there is an emphasis on empathetic care. “When we say that people should express their feelings, we have to do that in the first place ourselves,” Jubran explains. “We cry with them. We cannot teach something that we do not do ourselves.”

The centre currently runs activities three to five days a week, and Jubran hopes that the work will expand. “That is why Jesus called us. He believed that we would be able to give hope, He gave us a message to the people. I hope the work will multiply, that there will be more people at more places  offering this help. There are millions who need hope, healing.” This is the kind of work that enables Iraqi Christians, particularly young Christians, see that there is hope for their future in the country. 

“There are no words that are enough to say how thankful I am to the doners of this centre,” he adds. “Because you help us, we can give help, give healing through the Bible. Thank you!” 

Bishop Chimon Daniel: “My big dream is that the youth will stay”  

You may remember Father Daniel – now a bishop – from previous magazines and Standing Strong events. As a young man himself, a large part of his ministry is focused on helping young Iraqi Christians to stay in the country. “I think youth is our today and our future,” he says. “If we don’t help them today, we will not have any future for the church.  

“My big dream is that the youth will stay, and that they become the salt and light of this country”


“Most of our activities in Iraq focus on bringing the hope of Christ to the lives of our young people. We also offer vocational training for young people to increase the possibility of finding job opportunities In Iraq. In addition to that, we’re doing leadership training, we are empowering our young leaders. 

“The existence of the church in Iraq depends on our brothers and sisters in the western world. We believe that the church is one body, we are in this together. I thank you for the help you are giving to the Centres of Hope here in Iraq. My big dream is that the youth will stay, and that they become the salt and light of this country.” 

You can help make hope last for young Iraqi believers 

When asked what Christians around the world should pray for him, Jubran says, “That God will give me and others the power to help. That He will give us patience and love, so that we can give love to the people.” Your prayers and gifts will help more young people like Jubran and Bishop Chimon Daniel reach young believers who are living traumatised and without hope. 

Mimi was four years old when she and her family had to flee Islamic extremists in Nineveh Plains, Iraq. Thanks to Open Doors supporters like you, a microloan means her family are able to stay in Iraq.

Mimi’s family are able to run a farm, thanks to a microloan from Open Doors partners

Mimi doesn’t really remember one of the most important moments of her life. She’s 12 now, but was only four years old when so-called Islamic State (IS) invaded her Christian community in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq. At the time, all she really understood was that her family were scared.

“I think I will keep remembering that moment until I die.”


“When I woke up, I saw my grandfather and Nana. They were scared,” she says. “I asked grandpa: ‘What is wrong?’ They didn’t say anything.”

Nadia, Mimi’s mother, remembers it much more vividly. “At about 2am, the extremists of IS entered the village,” she says. “It’s been many years now and these voices are still in my ears, I think I will keep remembering that moment until I die.

“I saw their faces, they were terrifying. They were all dressed in black, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is great’] from their cars. They were pushing people forward with their rifles.”

Fleeing at a moment’s notice

The family had to make a quick decision. They fled their home and their village, getting in the car with whatever they could grab. Nadia has horrible memories of Mimi and her other children crying and screaming. “They asked for food and water, but there was none,” she remembers. It was one of her worst moments as a mother.

“They asked for food and water, but there was none.”


But, like any parent, she wanted to shield Mimi from the worst of what was happening. After nine hours, they found a safe place to stay. What Mimi remembers is the feeling of security there. “We sat down, and Nana put some cartoons on TV so that we wouldn’t be scared,” says Mimi. “Nana and my grandpa and my mother were talking to each other. Later my father came to be with us as well. That made me very happy.”

Mimi’s story is an example of how Christian children are often caught up in persecution that affects their whole family. This sort of violence influences the direction of her whole life. It threatened her upbringing in a Christian community, her education, her friends and her opportunities to grow up in peace and security in the place her family know and love.

Returning to the Nineveh Plain

When IS were defeated in 2017, it looked safe for the family to the Nineveh Plain. In terms of violence, it was much safer. But the destruction caused by these extremists has a long aftermath. The economy and stability of the region were severely undermined, and it seemed impossible for Mimi’s patents to make ends meet. Her grandparents had already made the difficult decision to leave the country.

could give a month of education to a child impacted by persecution.

Help wasn’t forthcoming from the government. Officials even questioned why Christians would remain in Iraq, and gave no support to these communities. In fact, militias have been known to steal and use Christians’ land for years without facing punishment.

But Mimi’s family really wanted to stay. They know how important it is that Christians stay in Iraq – to keep being a light of Christ to their communities.

“It is my country. I can’t express this in words,” says Nadia. “We love this place. Surely, I hold on to my place. And I love to live in this place.”

You’re helping Mimi’s family stay

Your prayers and gifts mean that the family can do just that. Local Open Doors partners were able to give them a microloan, so they could start a business and earn a living.

“It is my country. We love this place.”


“We wanted to live in Iraq, but we saw no opportunities. We seriously contemplated emigration,” Nadia says. “Then we heard about the microloans and got the plan to start a farm. If God wants it, He will bless us to make it a success.”

Thanks to Open Doors supporters like you, Mimi now has a future in Iraq. The family now run a farm – with sheep and goats and, Mimi’s favourite, chickens.

“I have 45 chickens!” she says proudly. “The chicken that I like the most is Loulou because my father brought her to me when she was a little chick, and I raised her myself. At 7 o’clock in the morning, I take the eggs from them. And in the afternoon, at 4 o’clock, I also take their eggs.”

Helping other vulnerable people

Mimi’s family sell the eggs, and also livestock, and God has blessed the farm so much that they can sustain themselves and also help others around them. As well as offering employment to several locals, who can then support their families, they give away fertilised eggs. That means other vulnerable people, including people from the persecuted Yezedi group, can raise chicks to provide eggs for their own families.

“When someone wants some little chicks, I give them to him so that he would raise them.”


“When someone wants some little chicks, I give them to him so that he would raise them, and they would become like my chickens,” explains Mimi. “If someone loves to have chickens, I would give him, so that he would have chickens like me.”

“There is a lot of poverty,” says Nadia. “There are people who do not have money to buy dinner and food, and they have children, like the shepherd that is working here, he has eight children. Now he has a house to live in, and monthly pay. Now, he can surely have a decent life.”

Persecution continues in Iraq

This courageous family of believers want to stay in their country, but that doesn’t mean that life is now easy. On the contrary, discrimination and persecution against Christians are on the rise. Nadia tries to hide it from Mimi while she’s so young, but she experiences this persecution every day.

“It is true that IS is not in Iraq right now, but it implanted an idea that, as Christians, we have more freedom than we should, and that we are not respectful people. We don’t have a full freedom. Our freedom is limited when it comes to everything.

“I love Iraq, because it is my country.”


“I am now persecuted in my own country. I am persecuted because I am a Christian. Once they hear the word ‘Christian’ the bullying would start. I want to say, ‘Just like Iraq is your land, it is my land also. I was born in this place, and it is not your right to address me in this manner.’ Of course, we can’t talk back – but we respond in a different way, when we stay in this country, and we rebuild and we do everything we can, so that life would go on.”

Mimi also wants to stay in Iraq. “I love Iraq, because it is my country, and I was born in it. I don’t want to leave. When IS came and they attacked Iraq, I was sad about Iraq and asked why did they do this? I want to stay here with my chickens.

“I love Jesus,” she adds. “I love Him so much, because He sacrificed Himself for our sake.”

Forgiveness and a future

Despite everything, Nadia shows extraordinary grace: “I forgive those who harmed us because that is what Jesus asks of us. And surely enough, when God wants to enlighten the heart of a person, He will, no matter what he has done.”

could give Bibles to four children, so they can meet God in His Word.

She also emphasises that the Iraqi Christians need the worldwide church: “The Christians that remained here are but a few, for sure. But we hope that life will get better if awareness is created about our situation and if we are supported by other Christians. God says that we should always have hope, and that He is always present.”

With your support, 276 families are currently benefiting from microloans in Iraq – as well as the people they’re able to support with employment and generosity. Many more have already been paid off. Your prayers and gifts mean many Christian families have been able to stay in Iraq – but the ongoing situation means that many other families still need this help today, in order to stay.

With your support and your prayers, those who want to stay and be the salt and light of Iraq will have the means to do so.

It’s been six years since Christians from Karamles, Iraq started to return home after years of displacement. A lot can happen in six years – see how your prayers and gifts have helped to rebuild and transform their town! 

“One day, all of us will return to Karamles,” said Father Thabet in 2016. He was speaking from a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq, where he was living with his church after so-called Islamic State (IS) invaded their homes. Father Thabet and the Christians from Karamles eventually returned home – but they have been able to stay and rebuild their lives thanks to your faithful prayers and support. 

Estephan used his carpentry skills to rebuild his hometown 

Estephan started by fixing all the doors and locks in Karamles that had been broken by IS

One of the Christians who returned was carpenter Estephan Matti. He reopened his workshop and got to work right away, fixing up local houses and businesses. “The first thing I did was to close and lock all the doors of the houses, for they were broken into by IS fighters,” he remembers.  

could help a believer get trauma support and counselling to heal from their persecution.

Estephan recalls some of the hardships he, his wife and two children have gone through. “Some of the most frightening days had been right before we had to flee. We lived in a miserable situation and there was no electricity or running water.” 

But he continued to hold onto God’s promises – in particular, Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  

Estephan is also grateful for your prayers – he knows they have made a huge difference to the restoration of homes and lives in Karamles: “When I pass through difficulties, I pray the Lord’s Prayer. Then I feel the power that is empowering Christians. I feel united and I feel all the Christians around the world pray with me.”  

Tereze was born as a refugee and has finally returned to her roots 

Left: Tereze, 18 months old, living as a refugee in Erbil – right: Tereze, now seven years old, back home in Karamles

In 2016, Tereze was just 18 months old.  

Her parents married only two weeks before IS militants invaded Karamles. Fleeing to Erbil was not quite the honeymoon Thomas and Nariman had hoped for. The newlyweds found a place to stay in ‘Karamles Camp’, a building complex with several apartments and a central courtyard. Families shared houses, kitchens and sanitation. 

Not long afterwards, Tereze was born during displacement in 2015. 

“I feel united and I feel all the Christians around the world pray with me”


Tereze is now seven years old and lives with her parents in Karamles. The family moved back to the town sometime after the liberation – but their return has not without sorrow. Thomas, Tereze’s father and a farmer, explains that he finds it very difficult to know which choices are the best for his family and the future of his children.  

“Living in Erbil is very expensive because of the high rents,” he says. “This left us with not much choice but to return [to Karamles]. When we ran from Daesh [IS], we lost all the crops and income from it, but I’m cultivating the land again now, trying to gain some income.” 

Although IS has been subdued, Thomas’s fears for the future are not gone – but he knows that, through prayer, a better future is possible: “Please pray for us. The situation here is unstable and I am afraid about the future of my children. I am praying that they can have a future better than ours.” 

Ikram kept her house keys for six years, hoping to use them again 

Ikram couldn’t wait to return home again – and you helped to make her dream a reality!

Ikram Qasha was displaced overnight in August 2014. As IS approached Karamles, Ikram and her family left immediately, leaving most of their things behind. During displacement they lived in a simple room in an unfinished mall in Erbil – but Ikram never lost hope that she would one day return home. 

Now, thanks to your prayers and support, Ikram has been able to put her keys into the lock of her front door and enter once again! 

“The first period of time after our return has been very difficult, but with the help of God and the church we can return and rebuild our village,” she says. “It is much better living here than in the unfinished mall. I often walk to the old part of our village to remember our relatives and friends. Many have left the country and we miss them. We returned to our beloved village, but it is different from before.” 

The difference you’re making is huge – please keep going! 

The image on the left is what Christians in Karamles returned to – the image on the right is the restored building in 2022

Thank you so much for your continued support for our persecuted church family in Iraq. The difference you’re making in their lives is becoming more and more tangible and visible. Please continue to stand with believers in Karamles as they carry on the transforming work and hope for a brighter future. 

The occupation of large parts of Iraq by so-called Islamic State (IS) has had a traumatising impact on many people, including Christians. In some places, this has been exacerbated by the stigma surrounding mental health. But thanks to initiatives run by Open Doors local partners, people are beginning to find healing – including Vian, who is now looking to help others.

Vian (centre right) is passionate about helping people heal from trauma

Al Kosh was never taken by IS but it was so close to the frontline that 35-year-old Vian’s bags were always packed to flee. Conflict was on her doorstep. 

“When people used to tell me about God’s existence, I would be like: but what about the suffering, the torture, the displacement?” Vian recalls. “It is only through actively working through my trauma that I have been able to see the presence of God in all this.” 

This was made more difficult given the stigma around mental health in Iraq. “As a society, we don’t accept the concept of trauma,” Vian continues. “We see people who are mentally ill as either crazy or lazy.” 

Reflecting the presence of God

The need is huge, but there is hope. Through Open Doors’ Hope for the Middle East campaign, three trauma care centres have been created, together with a two-year counselling course for Christians in professions that encounter traumatised people. Shorter trauma awareness courses are also available as well as conferences and retreats for local Christians. 

could help a believer get trauma support and counselling to heal from their persecution.

“I can reflect the presence of God and help someone out of their sorrow,” shares Vian, who serves at the trauma centre in Al Kosh and is six months into the two-year counselling course. She is one of 30 people currently taking the course. 

“I meet a lot of people who just need someone to listen to them, clear their minds. I want to take people outside of their box, let them look at their problem from another angle. I won’t give people the solutions, because there is no one who knows their life better than themselves, but I will help them to find that solution or answer they are looking for.”

For Vian, the course helps people find peace not just in themselves but with others. “One of the most important things that I learned in the school is co-existing,” she explains. “I was previously not able to be in the same room with certain people, but now I can. It is also one of the things we do in the centre – help people to co-exist again, with their family and with wider society.”

Trauma care meets alarming need

Vian’s passion for counselling is shared by Wisam, a monk from a monastery just outside the Christian city of Qaraqosh. He is one of the driving forces behind the trauma care initiatives run by an Open Doors local partner in Iraq. “If we don’t deal with the trauma in our community, the future of Christianity in Iraq is very dark,” he shares. 

“What I saw working with the people during the displacement and afterwards alarmed me: people cannot get rid of the anger inside of them,” Wisam continues. “It’s triggering conflicts in families, sleeplessness, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, especially among youngsters.

“If we don’t deal with the trauma in our community, the future of Christianity in Iraq is very dark”


“After IS, people lost their trust – trust in each other, in the future, and even their trust in God. You have to imagine that some people lived next to their neighbours for 40 years, but when IS came the neighbours didn’t help them; even worse, they stole from their house after they’d fled. And if you cannot trust people that you see, how can you trust God, someone you don’t see?”

Wisam is helping people trust God again. And significant inroads have been made to break the stigma around mental health in Iraq and begin providing care for those in need, but there is a long way to go. 

“This is only the beginning of the journey,” Wisam stresses. “Because of the projects many people are at least able to function in their daily lives. They are struggling but survive. But wounds as deep as we are facing here aren’t fixed with one training. Creating awareness and achieving healing takes time. It might take years, generations. We have no other way. We must become people of peace.”

With your continued prayers and support, Open Doors local partners will continue to walk beside the Christian community in Iraq, helping enable the local church to be a beacon of hope in the war-torn country.

This Christmas, there will be an empty chair at the table for Rafif’s family in Iraq and Sele’s family in Nigeria. Both of their fathers were killed for their faith – Rafif and Sele have never known their dads. But you can spark hope for them, and thousands of other persecuted Christian children.

Rafif in Iraq has never known her father – now she’s finding hope through Christian classes

“When he saw the bomb, he ran towards the bus,” says Rafif, from Iraq. “Mum and other people always say that he saved so many people’s lives and that he is a hero.”

Everything Rafif knows about her dad she has heard from her mum, and other people who knew him. Because when Raddif ran towards that bus filled with Christian students, warning them of the planned bombing, he saved a lot of lives but was himself killed. It would be a few more months before Rafif was born. She’s 11 now, and she never got to meet her dad. She’s one of many, many Christian children across the world suffering the long-term effects of persecution.

Missing dad at Christmas

could help give a child discipleship and biblical resources so they can stand firm in their faith.

“I miss my dad,” says Rafif. “Especially when I hear my friends say, ‘My dad did this with me, my dad brought me that.’” It’s hardest of all at Christmas – a time when families often hope to all be together. In Rafif’s house, there’s an empty chair at their Christmas table. While Raddif can’t celebrate the birth of Jesus with them in person, Rafif does have something special to help remember him. He created a nativity scene out of papier-mâché, complete with figures representing Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

“My father made this,” Rafif says while carefully adjusting some figures in the scene. “I never knew him, but by setting up this nativity scene each year, I feel he’s there at Christmas a little bit.”

An extremist attack

When Rafif is asked if she understands why Islamic extremists planted the bomb, she puts it this way: “Because they hate Christian people, they want to get them out of this world. They didn’t want them to be here so they always tried to kill us. But we always stand!”

“They hate Christian people. But we always stand!”


As in many countries in the world, children suffer more than grief when a father is killed for his Christian faith. Because Rafif’s family lost its breadwinner, making them economically vulnerable. They also lost their home – she and her mother had to flee Mosul when IS invaded. The city is still too unsafe for Christians to return.

Generations of believers

At her church, there are many other young children who’ve had a similar unsettling and uncertain start to life, even if their parents haven’t been killed. Iraq has seen a sustained campaign of violence by so-called Islamic State (IS), and persecution doesn’t just affect the individuals who are killed or otherwise targeted: it has an impact that lasts for generations.

Order carol sheets, Christmas cards and more to make the persecuted church part of your Christmas celebrations.

And that’s why, with your help, persecuted Christian children are supported – not just with vital short-term aid and shelter, but with long-term education, discipleship and investment. Sparking hope that lasts.

Open Doors believes that every child persecuted for their faith should be protected, provided for and strengthened to ensure a better future for them and the long-term survival of the church.

Rafif’s favourite Bible stories

Rafif loves the Christian education classes that she gets from Open Doors partners in Iraq. “The thing I like most is that we learn more about God,” she says. “The second thing I like is that we learn new stories.

“There are stories in the Bible where people save other people’s lives,” she adds, and it’s clear how much they mean to her. “When I hear those stories, I think: ‘Hey, that is my dad! He also died to save the lives of others, just like the special people in the Bible.’”

“God is always there for me”

Above all, these classes help Rafif get to know more about her Heavenly Father. “The most important thing I have learned in Christian education class is that God is always there for me,” she says. “He never leaves me.”

“Every one of those kids should have a Christian education class like I do”


In the face of uncertainty, we can all be sure that God doesn’t leave us. It’s a truth that Rafif and her mother hold dear as they spend Christmas without Raddif. And your gifts and prayers help make God’s presence even clearer – through Christian classes and church – as well as showing that their worldwide family cares for them.

Rafif knows that Iraq is not the only place where children are persecuted for their faith. All over the world millions of children miss a parent, face violence or are discriminated against for their faith. When Rafif is asked about them, she knows what would help: “Every one of those kids should have a Christian education class like I do,” Rafif says.

Sele in Nigeria was very young when his father was murdered for his faith

Sele in Nigeria

One of those children is 13-year-old Sele in Nigeria. He loves the Christmas period. “My favourite thing about Christmas is the dramas we watch in church and the songs we sing,” he says. But as he and his mum prepare for Christmas, they also have an empty seat at their festive table.

Though Sele lives far away from Rafif, they have something very significant in common: his father was also killed because of his Christian faith.

“Sele never knew his dad”


“Sele never knew his dad, Solomon,” explains Cecelia, Sele’s mum. He was only two years old when his father was shot and killed in 2011, part of a wave of extreme violence that engulfed Nigeria’s Plateau State at the time. Christians in the region still face kidnap, attack or murder from different groups of Islamic extremists.

“I was preparing food,” remembers Cecelia. “We began to hear gunshots everywhere. The last call we had, Solomon said I should go home and take care of our children. He said everything in town was on fire, but I should stay calm.”

It was the final call she received from her husband. The next day, she heard confirmation that he had been killed.

Holding on to Jesus

“When my husband was alive, we were living peacefully,” remembers Cecelia. “He was a farmer and provided for all our needs.”

could pay for four months of basic schooling for a child of a Christian pastor who was killed for their faith.

Without the family breadwinner, Cecelia had to take over the farming herself. Many people might have despaired – but she knew, like Rafif knows, that God will not abandon her. “I decided to hold on to Jesus,” she says simply.

Sele has to help his mother with difficult farm work but, thanks to the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters, there is also money to send him to school. And Sele has big dreams that show his caring heart.

“One day, I want to be a doctor,” he says. “I want to save lives and help people. I love my school – my teachers teach me very well, and they are helping me to become what I want to be. If I don’t go to school, I will feel very sad, because I will not become the doctor I want to be.”

“I want to be like David”

And it’s not just science that Sele is learning: he attends a Christian school, where he can hear more about God and live out his faith openly. The story he likes best is one that many children around the world also love reading: “My favorite Bible story is David and Goliath, because I want to be like David who had faith in God and defeated Goliath.”

“I want to say thank you to the brothers and sisters who are helping me”


Sele is thriving at the school. Cecelia shares: “When he receives exam results, he asks me if I can call the office [Open Doors local partners] to tell them he came first in his class. I thank God for Open Doors – they constantly come and visit me, and always support me with Sele’s school fees.”

“I want to say thank you to the brothers and sisters who are helping me,” adds Sele. “Merry Christmas everybody – may God bless you!”

Spark hope this Christmas

God is certainly blessing Sele and Rafif through you – and hundreds of other young persecuted Christians. There are so many more children who need to know that God is with them as they face discrimination, persecution or grief simply because they and their family follow Jesus.

With your support, Open Doors brings short-term care and long-term hope and provision for the next generation of believers. It’s vital because God loves these courageous boys and girls – and because we have to invest in the next generation to ensure the survival of the church.

This Christmas, can you help remind Christian children that God will never leave them – and neither will their worldwide family?

After the trauma of war, Iraqi Christians are receiving precious Bibles and rebuilding communities, thanks to you.

If you only had a few moments to leave your home, knowing that you might never return, what would you take with you? Jalila (75) from Iraq took her Bible. During her long displacement away from home, she was sustained by God’s Word – and now, thanks to your prayers and support, more Iraqi believers are receiving their own Bibles. 

Jalila is able to share her faith with her grandchildren using their very own Bibles, thanks to your prayers and support

In 2014, so-called Islamic State (IS) extremists swept through Iraq, forcing Christians from their houses and burning down homes, villages and towns. Jalila’s town in the Nineveh Plain was on their target list, and so, as the extremists approached, Jalila found herself with not much time – and a difficult decision on her hands. But she knew the one thing she had to take with her. “The Bible is the food of the soul,” she says. “It is the most important thing in my life. I stood in front of the bookshelf, not knowing if I would ever return. I took my Bible with me and asked the Lord to protect the rest of my home as we left.”

Jalila ended up in a refugee camp – a church hall shared with other families. Although her circumstances were challenging and her future uncertain, her Bible sustained her. “Through the Bible, I listen to His voice. I know the hand of my Saviour is with me,” she says. Each day, Jalila would gather others in the hall to study a Bible verse together. Thanks to you, Open Doors local partners were able to supply more Bibles for those in her study group!

“Food of the soul”: Iraqi Christians receive Bibles thanks to your support

Jalila has since returned home, after her town was liberated from the Islamic State extremists. She still has her original Bible. And, while her eyesight isn’t what it used to be (she uses a magnifying glass to read the small text), she is still sharing God’s Word – now with her grandchildren. Thanks to you, they have all received their own Bibles, along with other books to help them understand their faith. Her grandson, Aram, says, “I share the stories I read with my friends in school.”

Stirring up love in the face of hatred

Jalila is one of many believers who drew extraordinary comfort from her Bible when persecution arrived. School teacher Bashar (35) began to read the Bible when he was threatened by Islamic extremists. “We were the only Christian family in our neighbourhood in the city,” he says. “Extremists told us they were going to ‘clear the ground’ of Christians. They hated us. It made me depressed and scared. I thought I was useless.

“But one day I had a vision from the Lord; I saw Jesus being baptised in the Jordan, and I saw myself next to Him. A dove landed on my shoulder and said, ‘Stay strong, I will never leave you.’” As Bashar started reading the Bible, God changed his life: “I started to love myself and the people around me. I am here to testify to what Jesus has done in my life.”

“The most important book in the world”

“Food of the soul”: Iraqi Christians receive Bibles thanks to your support

It’s so easy for us to pick up a Bible in a shop, or online, or even on our phones. But in Iraq, it’s far more difficult to obtain a copy of God’s Word. Through your gifts and prayers, Bibles are being distributed by Open Doors local partners like Ramy*. Every morning, he loads up his van with Bibles and other Christian literature and sets off around the country. His work has become more difficult due to the pandemic: the borders between different regions are closed and special permissions are needed to pass. But God is faithful, and the Bibles get to where they need to go.

Ramy’s delivery route often includes churches. Sedar is 21; she is passionate about her church and the Bible: “I would like to tell people to come to Jesus with all their difficulties and struggles. It’s good to pray together when we feel weak. And we shouldn’t forget about our Bible: reading the Bible gives inner peace.” 

Thanks to you, these precious books are encouraging our sisters and brothers in Iraq who are rebuilding their communities after the invasion of IS. “The Bible is the most important book in the world, it is the book that teaches us most,” she says. “We need to rebuild our lives with a strong base. The Bible is such a base.” 

Get involved

Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus. Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.