The Middle Eastern country of Jordan is now home to tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people. For Iraqis, serious concerns prevent return home.
Iraqis Displaced in Jordan
Anne Hamming, communications director for Tent Schools International, says the challenges for displaced Iraqis are significant, especially for Christians. Historically, some of the oldest Christian communities have existed in Iraq. Typically, Iraqi Christians were left relatively out of conflict in the country until the mid-2000s, when Islam was declared the national religion.
Then, in 2014, the presence of ISIS forced Iraqi believers to flee ancestral lands where their families have lived for centuries. Today, those who fled to Jordan are in a complicated situation, and many of the Iraqis that a partner of Tent Schools works with say they do not feel safe returning to Iraq.
Statistics also show the number of Iraqi Christians is diminishing. Hamming says 10-15 years ago there were 1.5 million Iraqi Christians, but now, the number has dropped to under a quarter of a million.
“They indicate that…their communities have largely dissolved or been destroyed. Their homes and property were destroyed. Now their numbers are so small that they feel they would be isolated and at great risk of intimidation, discrimination, and flat out harassment,” Hamming says.
Building a New Normal
The Iraqi Christians would love to return home, but given their circumstances, many do not see this as a viable option. The question now—how and where to build a new life.
“Because they are not technically refugees, they do not have some of the protections and rights that a refugee might have, in terms of getting work or getting services for their children,” Hamming says.
“Make no mistake, they are safe and they are fed, and they are housed. But they have great restrictions on their ability to work, and there are very, very limited educational opportunities for their children.”
The lack of educational opportunities puts an entire generation at risk of being forgotten and stuck. It also puts these kids at risk as recruits for extremist groups. Without education and a skillset to build a life, extremist groups have better odds of luring teenagers into their system. Tent Schools is changing this through its partnership with Good Shepherd Center.
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Bethann Flynn