This blog was written by Emma, an Open Doors Australia worker.
Suaad Has Been A Tailor In Iraq Since The 1980s.
I met Suaad when I travelled to Iraq earlier this year. Suaad has worked as a tailor since the 1980s, in Mosul. In 2014, Islamic State militants forced her to leave her home overnight. Now Suaad is staying with her brother and his family in a city in northern Iraq. She’s a widow and has no children, and hasn’t been able to return to her town.
She said, “I feel heavy inside, not knowing what has happened to my town. But one thing I do know—God is still there. Whatever other people have done to us, God is the one in charge.”
Living As A Displaced Person.
Along with over 125,000 other Christians in Iraq, Suaad is displaced. Since the early 2000s, thousands of Christians have been displaced from their homes. By the time Islamic State came to the world’s attention in 2014, a new wave of terror had displaced an additional 100,000 Christians.
Many live in same city that Suaad now lives. They live in makeshift homes – tents, porta-cabins (“caravans”), unfinished buildings. Some of these camps have thousands of people living there. Others, like Suaad, had family or friends living in the area and were able to stay with them.
When I was in Iraq earlier this year, many of the people I met said they weren’t expecting to be displaced for this long. They told me that they thought it would last three days, at the most, before they could go back to their homes.
Two years on and thousands still have no way to go home. Open Doors is working with local partners and churches to continue strengthening the church. Many people have no way of supporting their families and work is hard to find. So we created jobs. We’re supporting this bakery and this sewing factory.
The church supporting this sewing factory is Suaad’s church, they asked her to be the manager.
Suaad Loves Her Job.
Suaad was eager to share her work with me when I met her. She lead our group over to a fabric cutting table, explaining how the machine worked. She took us into the adjacent room where the sewing machines were, then sat down and began her work. She unrolled some fabric to show us what she was working with. The smile never left her face!
When she was first asked to manage the factory she said, “I would have done it voluntarily if needed, but I am happy that I get some money so I can share it with my family.”
I learnt later that she helps others in need, and makes clothes free of charge for those who can’t afford to buy.
“It’s what I like most about the job.”
Suaad said, “It’s what I like most about the job, that I can share with those in a worse position then me. Sometimes a displaced person comes to me to ask if I can make them a dress. Then I do that and I don’t charge them. How could I?”
Suaad also supports her brother, contributing to the family’s income, and helps train other displaced women. She runs regular classes and has the opportunity to offer some of the women jobs in the factory.
She said, “In a few weeks I teach them the basics of tailoring. They can use these skills to earn some money for their families here in the factory or elsewhere. Either way it helps them work toward a future.”
The Next Step?
This is the next step in the journey for many displaced Christians in Iraq. For two years, many have been living not knowing what would happen next. They didn’t know when or if they would be able to go home.
As a ministry, we have been working in Iraq for over 20 years. In 2014, we were able to provide immediate relief for the displaced.
Now we want to support Christians as they rebuild their lives and restore their dignity. Part of that work is to provide jobs and new opportunities for believers. This will enable them to continue supporting their families. You can support this work too!
Will you pray? Praise God that He is growing His church in Iraq, and that His children are trusting Him in the unknown. Pray that He would continue His work in that country.
Pray that as a church in Australia and New Zealand we would love our brothers and sisters in prayer and in action.