In a decade marked by humanitarian crises, the forced migration of people continues to limit lives and spread despair. But it also provides opportunities for generosity to thrive.
In the town of Qaraqosh, thirty minutes outside Mosul, Iraq, Sam Kanaan* takes a hesitant step into his house and looks about him. Almost four years have passed since he last stood in the home that has been in his family for generations, and the memories flood back. Children’s birthday parties, Christmas morning celebrations…
But not all the memories are good. Like the day his neighbours told him of militants in the city nearby, when fear began to spread through the house. And then, the summer of 2014 when ISIS finally arrived. Sam fled in the dark of night, and began the long journey to safety.
Sam and his family ended up, like so many Iraqis, in Amman, Jordan. He had left more than his home behind in Qaraqosh. ISIS took his business and the people who transported him and his family the 700 miles to Jordan had taken most of his savings.
He was poor and the winters were cold. The two rooms they rented were damp and barely big enough to house him, his wife and his four children, let alone the other six members of his extended family who had travelled with them. With no possibility of work, he joined the other Iraqis standing vacant on street corners. Businessmen and lawyers, doctors and builders. It didn’t matter what you’d been back in Iraq. Now you were just another faded man in a faded suit jacket.
In 2018, when the news came that ISIS had been defeated and that Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages had been liberated, Sam wanted to know if it was safe to go back.
And so, in early 2019, he is standing, alone, in his house. He tries to look past the walls blackened with soot, the fact that whatever furniture they left has either been looted or destroyed, even the anti-Christian graffiti sprayed on the walls. Walls can be painted. Furniture can be replaced. Hatred can be forgiven.
He hears footsteps and looks up. There are two men with AK-47s.
“Salaam alaikum,” Sam says. They do not return his greeting.
“What are you doing here?”
“This is my home,” Sam says. “I have returned.”
The men do not pause to consult. They point their guns at Sam. “This is no longer your home. You do not belong here. If you choose to remain, your home will become your grave.”
Within days he is back in Amman.
Despite the fact that ISIS has slipped far down our news agenda, the lives of so many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees remain in limbo. Trapped by the threat of death at home and a future of poverty and struggle in exile, many of them are living in painful despair.
But some are blessed to come into contact with Jamal Hashweh, a remarkable man working with the remarkable charity Global Hope Network International.
Global Hope has met and helped thousands of families who don’t have enough money to buy their next meal. They give clothing, food and blankets, educational material and medicine. Sometimes they even pay for minor operations.
“We also go beyond relief work,” says Jamal, Global Hope’s Director in the Middle East. “We train men and women to gain a skill to help income generation. Some are able to pay their rent by doing embroidery or other work. It’s amazing to see people get their dignity back by being productive.”
At a time when immigration appears to be even more politically toxic than usual, Jordan’s generosity stands out. Estimates suggest that there are almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees and fifty thousand Iraqis living in the country. “We’re one of the poorer countries in the area, but we are fortunate to have a wise king and royal family doing their maximum to help the needy. It is in the nature of Jordanians to be hospitable, loving and kind. When we visit refugee families we’re not surprised when a neighbour knocks and brings food to help them.”
Their weekly meeting for refugees can attract over seven hundred people, a colossal number for a country where just three percent of the population are Christian. “Most of them would say ‘We left everything back home, but we now know why God has allowed this in our lives, because we wouldn’t have discovered the truth that has given us the real hope we never had before.’ They leave as transformed people who will share the message of hope with the world.”
After a lifetime of service, Jamal is at the age where there are plenty of reasons to take life easy, not least a good number of grandchildren. “A lot of people say, why not retire? I say not unless God tells us.” For Jamal, the life of generosity lived out is the richest life possible.
“We have helped ten thousand families in the last year alone, but if we had enough funding to help a further ten thousand families we could find and help them within the next two months. At £50 per family the total would be £1m.”
“That’s a big figure,” he says.
Then he pauses.
“But God can provide. He always does.”
You can support the work of Global Hope Network International here.
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