1200 Displaced Christians Found shelter in Amman Churches
(LWI, October 2014) – Maryam clutches a green Bible. Tightly, as if the little green book would give her stability in a life where everything changed within a couple of months. It’s one of the few things she has left. The others are her passport, declaring her a citizen of Iraq, and the clothes she was wearing when she left her hometown close to Mosul in a night last June.
Her youngest son was about to complete the school year, when the family heard of approaching ISIS troops. “We did not have time to pack, or to think. We just left” the 58-year-old woman recalls. On foot and by hitchhiking the family reached Erbil in Northern Iraq.
Maryam and her family belong to the more than 1000 Iraqi refugees sheltered in Jordanian churches. Upon invitation of the Jordanian monarch, they were brought from Erbil (Kurdistan) to Amman, where they are now housed in church centers. The main assistance is provided by Caritas. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is assisting in three places by building the necessary infrastructure like partition walls, toilets and showers and improving electrical installations.
“We have expertise in the rehabilitation work which is needed here,” Josef Pfattner, Interim Leader of the LWF Country Program in Jordan says. “So we are complementing the support Caritas is giving to the refugees”.
“We are housing refugees in 11 places. In each parish a small hall has been transformed to care for our brothers and sisters from Iraq” Wael Suleiman, head of Caritas Jordan says. “The parish youth is doing voluntary work in assisting them. It is an experience of communion”.
The refugees in Amman are Christians from the Mosul area. They tell of threats, sometimes by former neighbors and of bombings. “IS started attacking on 5. June” Lobna from Mosul recalls. “There was shelling all night, for four days. We were all sheltered in one room. We could only sleep a few hours. On the fifth day we were warned that they would attack homes. So we left”.
Several students were in the middle of completing final exams at university. They do not think they will be able to finish their studies in Iraq at all. For younger children, the school year has started. “Some parents have enrolled their children in Jordanian schools” Pfattner, says. “The schools in Amman however are not equipped to handle the high influx of students from Iraq”.
The tall partition walls and infrastructure provided by LWF are an improvement to makeshift partitions of blankets and cardboard in many other places, but nobody can tell how long the families will have to live here. Many of them hope for a quick resettlement. They have their next appointment for deciding resettlement in April 2015.
By Cornelia Kästner, LWF Office for Communication Services