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Iraqi Christians rebuild their lives

Iraq’s Christian chicken farmers are rebuilding their livelihoods in the Nineveh Plains, a region home to Jesus’ followers during his time on Earth, according to a report in the Episcopal News Service.

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The farmers have established two chicken farms as part of an economic revitalisation program supported by US charities Stand With Iraqi Christians (SWIC) and International Christian Concern

The farms are in an area of Iraq known as “Chicken City” before its occupation and destruction by ISIS.

“The SWIC initiative in chicken farming speaks to the need for sustainable economic development in a region devastated by violent conflict,” Robert D. Edmunds, the Episcopal Church’s Middle East partnership officer said in a statement.

“The local commercial infrastructure, being destroyed during the fight to reclaim territory from ISIS, needs to be restored to its former levels for job creation and food production. This is a far-reaching effort to start to reclaim hope for a prosperous future for the people of the Nineveh Plain.”

Bassam (right) in his newly rebuilt chicken coop. Photo courtesy of International Christian Concern and Stand With Iraqi Christians

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to overthrow the government of dictator Saddam Hussein sparked an eight-year war during which insurgents terrorised Iraqi Christians. Numbers of Christians fell from 1.4 million in 2003 to fewer than 250,000 today. ISIS began to take hold after the US withdrew its troops in 2011. Still, some courageous Christians chose to remain, including chicken farmers in the Nineveh Plains.

“In Iraq, 80 per cent of Christians from some of the oldest Christian communities on earth were driven from their ancient communities by ISIS. Yet, those who remain are extraordinarily courageous, resilient, faithful, and are desperately in need our friendship and help,” said Christopher Bishop, founder and president of Stand With Iraqi Christians.

“The Western Church and societies must understand that without our assistance, the impending loss of these communities would constitute a humanitarian, political, cultural and economic catastrophic for Iraq, and an irreparable wound to the worldwide body of Christ.”

Before ISIS’s invasion, the northern Iraq city of Qaraqosh, about 32km southeast of Mosul, was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community and had 100 poultry farms. ISIS killed or displaced the city’s residents and destroyed their farms.

Today, as conditions improve, chicken farmers are returning to the area. Stand With Iraqi Christians and International Christian Concern plan to help farmers establish six more farms by October. Each farm creates or supports 134 jobs.

“Once they get their chicken farms back up and running, they’re capable of running a successful business and supporting their families,” said Buck Blanchard, a Stand With Iraqi Christians board member.

Christopher Bishop launched Stand With Iraqi Christians in 2015 as a grassroots mission to address Iraqi Christians’ struggles; through friendship and material aid, it supports the right of Christians and their communities in Iraq to survive and thrive.

A former filmmaker, Bishop documented his first trip to Iraq in a 36-minute video, Where is Our Place?

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