How one youth pastor is bringing hope to persecuted Christians in Iraq

A Christian man fixes a picture of Jesus Christ on the wall of his damaged house near the city of Ras al-Ain, Syria.Reuters

The charity Open Doors is mobilising thousands of Christians worldwide to bring new hope to the desperate crisis in the Middle East.

A seven-year campaign,  Save Me, will involve regular prayers and help from partner churches working with Open Doors to reach out to the millions of people who have fled or been displaced by war and Islamic extremism.

Many of those who have stayed are struggling to survive, often too poor or unwell to leave, the charity says. Christians in particular face the added threat of being targeted by terrorists, who are determined to eradicate the church from the Middle East, warns Open Doors.

"And yet, many of our brothers and sisters are choosing to stay and serve their communities. They believe they have a vital role to play in rebuilding their nations," the charity says.

"The global church cannot stand by and let the church in the Middle East be destroyed or forgotten. This is why Open Doors is launching a global, seven-year campaign to mobilise Christians around the world to bring hope to the Middle East – and we need you and your church to be a part of it."

Open Doors cites the case of Martin, aged 25, a deacon who is to be ordained priest, who fled to Erbil after his community was driven from their village of Karamles near Mosul in Iraq in 2014, when Islamic State militants took over the region. 

Martin said: "The displacement causes a type of stress that we haven't experienced before. You have to realise that IS didn't only take their house, the place they felt most comfortable. IS also seized their university and their future. They used to be my classmates in Karamles primary school."

A church to worship in was the first thing many Christians asked for when they arrived in Erbil.

Martin said: "Having a place to search for God is invaluable. We need to proclaim the Word of God in this portacabin every day. By reading the Bible, we know how to be Christian in this situation. We don't have any other weapons."

Open Doors has worked with a partner church to support Martin with a university-level online pastoral course.

 "I teach them how to translate the words of Jesus into their own lives. The most important thing I want to teach the youngsters is that Jesus trusted His Father completely, even in the most miserable situation of being on the cross. I want them to know what we can trust in God, trust in Jesus," he said.

Open Doors is seeking more people to help displaced and persecuted Christians like those in the Karamles camp. Details on how to become a partner church can be found here.