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After its first mission “Christmas in Syria” at the end of 2013, the association came to the aid of the poorest Christians in the Nineveh plain during its second mission “Easter in Iraq”. A few days after the end of the third mission, in August 2014, the Nineveh plain fell into the hands of the Islamic State organisation.
Within 24 hours, thousands of Christians left their towns and villages in a desperate flight. In the following weeks, thousands of others who had chosen to stay will have the choice between conversion to Islam, forced departure, with only a suitcase, or death.
The volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient were the first French people to be deployed in the camps for displaced people in Kurdistan in Iraq. As soon as the crisis began, in less than 72 hours, a team from SOS Chrétiens d’Orient flew to Erbil where around 80,000 displaced Christians, deprived of their possessions and sometimes separated from their families, were crammed together under a blazing sun.
In August 2014, a permanent mission was opened. The association set up a wide range of emergency actions: providing first aid, meeting basic needs, supplying water, medicines, hygiene products, etc.
Faced with an extremely heavy daily life for the displaced, sports and cultural activities are organised every day: for the youngest, choreography and manual activities; for the teenagers, football and volleyball tournaments; for the oldest, backgammon and domino tournaments.
As the situation improves, the association is also pursuing structural projects that meet medium-term needs. For example, the association is building a water purification system, chicken coops and gardens, collective kitchens, and centres so that the displaced people can re-socialise.
Finally, it carries out long-term projects in the heart of Iraq’s Christian communities, by increasing the number of educational projects, intensifying construction work, particularly on schools, and developing French language courses by volunteers. The association also provides medical cabins, rebuilds clinics and distributes medicines.
In October 2016, the Christian villages of the Nineveh plain were finally liberated. But all that remained were ruins: houses burned, bombed, devastated, churches desecrated…
Since then, the team in Iraq has been helping exiled families to return home, to rebuild their homes and villages and to revive the economic fabric by promoting the development of zero interest solidarity loans.