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Since fleeing genocide and persecution by Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, Iraqi Christians have begun returning to their homes. Upon returning, however, they have found their entire home towns, including their businesses, are completely destroyed.

These religious minorities in the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar regions have received little help or investment from either the Iraqi government or the international community.

Without economic revitalisation projects to create jobs, poverty, migration and unrest will continue to form barriers to peace and stability.

Voice of the Martyrs is investing in the work of local mission partners to restore and restart businesses as a means of transforming devastated towns and villages. The work assists Christian minorities resettling in their liberated cities by funding small and medium-sized businesses through grants. These Christian minorities are given the opportunity to work and earn a living to rebuild their lives with dignity and purpose and to strengthen these beleaguered communities so they can thrive in their homeland.

Some of the new businesses are a bakery, a mechanic, shopfitters, mini-markets, a medical clinic, a honeybee farm, a sheep farm, restaurants, pathology labs, a mobile painting business and barbers.

Many of these businesses are family run and employ multiple family and community members so the benefits are far-reaching.

Below are some examples of projects already organised by our mission partners. Voice of the Martyrs is privileged to partner with them in helping to fund many more like it.

BEAUTY SALON

Like many religious minorities that fled when Islamic State attacked Iraq, Bayan and her family left with nothing but what they could carry, within a few hours of the first bomb exploding as Islamic State advanced into their home town. Eventually, after ISIS was expelled from Qaragosh, they were forced out of the displaced persons camps and told to return to the destroyed villages of the Nineveh Plains.

As Bayan travelled into what was once a beautiful village of Christian life, she wept. The town had been destroyed by explosions, and mines were still scattered throughout. The church steeple had been detonated and the interiors of the churches were blackened

from burning – their homes and businesses were obliterated. Empty-handed and without assistance, just to feed her children was a daily struggle.

Desperate, she sought help to start a business using her skills and training as a beautician and willingness to work hard. She submitted a budget and business plan and has now opened her own beauty salon.

Bayan immediately had clients and her salon has become most popular. She is earning enough to pay bills and feed her family of four. She can pay for her children’s education and their future seems brighter.

“I do not know anything else than to struggle for my family. I am grateful for this chance, which is a gift from God.” Bayan

TRUCK TURNER BUSINESS

Hamayun lived in the Nineveh Plains, Iraq, where Christian families have lived for centuries. Many are tradesmen, who form the backbone of the area’s economy. Small family-run trade businesses are typically inherited by the children who are taught the family trade by their fathers.

When ISIS invaded the region, Hamayun and his family, with all religious minorities, were forced to abandon their businesses and homes. Those caught were forced into sexual slavery, were tortured or were forced to convert to the jihadists’ radical form of Islam, in the attempt to establish a socalled ‘caliphate’.

Terrifying scenes of their friends and neighbours running for their lives have understandably traumatised the children.

After the family returned home, Hamayun and his son began by working as day labourers, but they didn’t earn enough money to support their family.

Hamayun now has the opportunity to reopen his business. Conveying goods by truck across this empty desert landscape is a great need. Hamayun has the skills and experience and just needed help with the tools and precision equipment. Today he is servicing the trucks which transport supplies across the Nineveh Plains and is able to provide for his family.

“This is a big gift and a big chance to restart my business. This allows me to stay in my homeland. I want to show all Iraqis that it is possible to remain in Iraq and I hope that most of the emigrants will return to their homeland.” Hamayu

HONEY FARM

Majed and his family owned over 300 beehives prior to ISIS attacking their home in the Sinjar region of Iraq. When ISIS invaded, the Christian families, knowing they would be targeted, immediately fled in fear. ISIS destroyed their beehives, which were their sole source of income.

When it was safe to return, Majed’s father, who was elderly and traumatised, passed on the business to his son.

It was decided that the beehives would be built by local craftsmen using local materials, thereby providing work for local businesses to help the economy. Finally, 190 beehives were returned to the fields of wildflowers.

They are producing honey again which is much enjoyed for its sweet flavour by locals. People come from near and far to buy the honey and the family has expanded the business.

“I am to be able to continue my father’s business and to support my family, and now we even employ more people.” Majed

Please pray for Iraqi Christians returning to their homeland.