Martin Banni is the last of his family in Iraq. The 25-year-old Christian fled his village of Keremles when the so-called Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014. Today he lives in a camp in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, while the rest of his family lives in San Diego.
The thought of one day working to preserve his ancient community is what keeps him here. “Abroad we might have safety,” he says. “But we will disappear.”
It takes a lot these days to convince Iraqi Christians they have a future in their homeland. Of the estimated 125,000 who recently sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan—an autonomous region in northern Iraq—tens of thousands have already emigrated.
While many predict the elimination altogether of Christianity in Iraq, Church leaders are doing their best to push back. Beyond managing the humanitarian need for their congregations, church groups are investing in longer-term projects as concrete symbols of hope, aiming to give those torn between their faith and their homeland reason to stay.
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