An Iraqi Christian and former employee of SAT-7 talks to us about returning to his home country. He speaks about his renewed faith, which, during these uncertain times, is enabling him to strengthen others.

Firas was born and brought up in Baghdad. In 2006, he and his family left Iraq in search of a better life away from war and turmoil. Firas worked for SAT-7 for several years until November 2016, when he decided to return to Iraq. He currently lives and works in Erbil.

He was apprehensive about returning. The ongoing violence has destroyed towns and displaced families. “I was afraid of coming back and what I would find here, but I also felt excited to see my country,” he says.

Starting from nothing

Life in Erbil is a challenge for many displaced Christians from Mosul, even as the Church tries to help them. “These families are living one day at a time,” Firas says. “They left everything behind starting again with nothing.” Churches and non-governmental organizations have set up camps to help families with their needs. Some churches are supporting them by paying their rent so that they can live in homes with better conditions.

Most of these families cannot see a future in Iraq, Firas explains. “They don’t feel safe and most want to leave Iraq.” When part of the Mosul area was secured by the Iraqi military in the past, fighters from the so-called Islamic State still managed to get through. Homes were attacked, and many people were kidnapped or killed.

Church leaders in Erbil try to offer hope to the many struggling families, not wanting them to leave the country, but cannot guarantee them security if they return to their homes. “They fear that in three to five years, Iraq will be empty of Christians,” says Firas.

“I say to the young people “Never say there is no hope. There is always hope.”

Encouraging the youth

Firas describes troubling conditions in Iraq’s schools, which have lost many teachers. Teachers remaining in Iraq are struggling, and many children are not motivated to learn. Firas has seen an opportunity to give back to his country by reaching out to young people and guiding them from his own experience. He encourages them not to feel limited by their educational system and to look for other ways to develop themselves. Firas tells them, “Never say there is no hope. There is always hope.” He says: “Because of my experience at SAT-7, my faith has matured. When I came back, I noticed that most people’s faith is limited. They pray, but they have less hope.”

Asked if he feels safe, Firas replies, “I keep reminding myself of the Bible verse, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5). It always gives me strength. I gave my life to Jesus, so I am not afraid.”

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