Water Wells for the Nineveh Plains

One of the many needs faced by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) trying to return home is the need for clean water. SWIC has partnered with Christians in and around Qaraqosh whose lives have become more settled, to help support those whose lives are still severely disrupted and to help build non-potable water wells in the Nineveh Plains area, to provide clean water for basic needs like bathing, cleaning, machinery, and agriculture.

Each of these wells costs around $1,600-2,000; we continue to raise funds to provide more of these water wells. There is currently a waiting list for areas in need of clean water.

[Image description: two men stand outdoors, on a street or walkway, talking. The man on the left, in a brown suit jacket and blue tie, is speaking, with his hands out to his sides, palms up. The man on the right, in a blueish-purpliesh button-down shirt and sleeveless jacket, is looking at the man on the left and listening. He has is hands behind his back.]“Initially our city, Bakdeda (Qaraqosh), was attacked by Daesh, which resulted in lots of confusion in our city. That day was terrible and I can’t describe it,” a resident (pictured to the right, in the brown jacket) told us. “The good point is that after three years, we are back to our city and beyond those three terrible years. But we found out the infrastructure was damaged. Houses were burned and lots of families immigrated.

“Even with all that pain and suffering we didn’t lose hope! We are investing all the efforts to rebuild our houses and our wonderful village to bring it back to the old days. Today we are at Sumer district, where SWIC dug a water well! This is something we need because in the previous months we used to buy water other places. We thank the organization SWIC for their efforts.”

“The time has come for peace in Iraq” – video from UNICEF-MENA

Hopefully, Lent provides, us among other things, with a jolt.

A jolt out of habit. A jolt of need. A jolt of awareness that opens a new more vivid experience of God. Perhaps a jolt of conscience or compassion.

I just received the short video below from my good friend and SWIC collaborator Sinan, who lives in Baghdad and works with Fr. Faiz at St. George’s Church, one of our primary partners there. The video was made by a friend of his working for UNICEF Middle East and North Africa (@UNICEFmena on Facebook).

This short video sums up beautifully what our mission to Iraq and its people is all about: creating new possibilities of hope, reconciliation and peace in a land torn apart largely by the greed, violence and indifference of the Western world.

As the video expresses: “They need assistance, they deserve assistance.” In the coming weeks we will be bringing you up to date on this amazing mission and how together we can move forward with our sisters and brothers toward Easter and beyond.

(If embeded video does not play, please click here to watch video.)

Epistles from Father Chris: 2018, A New Year

2018 will be crucial for the Christians in Iraq.

Our long-time friend and collaborator Sinan now works with Fr. Faiz at St. George’s, and both of these extraordinary people are becoming important voices in the growing ecumenical and interfaith dialogue occurring among all the faith communities in Baghdad and throughout the country.

Sinan told me on the phone just the other day, “It’s fantastic that we are all doing mission projects to deal with this crisis, but simply helping Iraqis materially is not a long term solution. The future is integrating Christians in Iraq as full and participating people in its society.”

In this new year, I wish God’s blessing upon you all and thank you for your faithful commitment to SWIC. I pray that 2018 is a year of growth in grace and spirit for all of us. We can move forward confident in the knowledge that we can, and will, make a difference for our sisters and brothers in Iraq, all with God’s help!

Peace and blessings,
Fr. Chris Bishop

Epistles from Father Chris: The End of 2017

2017 has been a year of anxiety, uncertainty and hope for Iraq’s Christians. With Da’esh (ISIS) driven militarily from the north this fall, displaced Christians and others were encouraged to return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains. But enormous challenges face them. A central question has always been whether Christianity has a future in Iraq. It is not for those of us outside Iraq to give our views on the right road for them, but we are called to offer our friendship, strength and spirit to our Iraqi friends who are showing the faith, energy and determination to remain in their historic homeland. Stand with Iraqi Christians will continue to walk hand-in-hand with these friends-wherever the path forward leads-and it’s a good path guided by God’s spirit and the faith of Iraq’s people.

As our good friend Archdeacon Bill Schwartz of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf wrote recently, ” Christianity’s chances of survival in Iraq rest on whether Christians are willing and able to return to their homelands.”

SWIC is deeply committed to accompanying these Christians on that journey. In November, we were saddened that our planned mission trip to Baghdad and the Nineveh Plains had to be postponed due to Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian anger over the Kurds’ referendum on independence which caused the closure of the Erbil airport. However, we are moving full steam ahead on funding projects with our friends at St. George’s Church (Baghdad) and in the destroyed Nineveh Plains city of Qaraqosh (also known as Bahkdida) in the northern Kurdish portion of Iraq. We plan to visit Iraq this spring.

In his recent report on the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the ministries of the Middle East, Bishop Michael Lewis writes, “For me, [witnessing Christian rebuilding efforts] is a deep reminder of the power of celebration in uniting and building the community in a strongly future orientation.”

SWIC understands that the future of Christians in Iraq is tied inextricably with the reforming of the community relationships in the whole of Iraq- ethnic, sectarian, political and cultural. For now it is essential that SWIC participates in addressing the ongoing crisis and rebuilding efforts, but we are also in it for the long-haul.

Peace and blessings,
Fr. Chris Bishop

Back to School: St. George’s Church in Baghdad

SWIC has partnered with St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad to help them expand their kindergarten program into a full elementary school for students from age six (kindergarten) through twelve (sixth grade). The expanded school, which will serve about 300 children, is scheduled to open in Fall 2018.

Saint George’s vision is to run a school where Muslim and Christian children, both boys and girls, will be able to grow and learn together. The student population of the expanded school is expected to be 10% Christian and 90% Muslim, both Sunni and Shiite (which is consistent with the demographics in the current kindergarten).

Christian and Muslim families in Baghdad lack access to (among many things) basic educational programs. Enormous infrastructure problems are the new realities of human existence in the country and safe, inclusive learning environments are scarce. One safe education option is St. George’s school, but many families lack the funds to enroll their children. We are proud to partner with St. George’s and be able to assist in providing a secure learning environment for these children.