Over 430 000 people from 127 countries have signed a petition calling on world leaders to support persecuted Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, as part of a campaign by Open Doors to help bring hope to people in the Middle East.
WATCH the video below in which Noeh, 12, shares his hopes on returning to his home village in Iraq that has been liberated from ISIS but is now in ruins:
Over the past seven years, millions of people have been displaced by the conflict in Iraq and Syria as civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict marked by unmatched suffering and destruction. Over the past decades, the number of Christians in Iraq has dramatically fallen from just under two million in the 1990s to just over 200 000 right now. And in Syria between 300 000 and one million Christians have left since the civil war started in 2011. Today, around 795 000 Christians remain in Syria.
The One Million Voices of Hope petition was created after an eight month consultation with Christians and church leaders in Syria and Iraq to understand their needs, what challenges they face, and what support they need. The petition will be presented to the United Nations (UN) on December 11 2017 and calls on the UN to ensure that Christians and other minorities in these countries have:
- a right to equal citizenship;
- dignified living conditions;
- a role in bringing reconciliation to their communities and rebuilding society.
Open Doors is aiming to gather at least one million signatures from around the world before this date. George, a church leader from Qaraqosh, Iraq stresses the importance of global participation in this campaign: “I think we need at least an international commitment to survey our situation, to push the government to protect the vulnerable minorities like the Christians and the Yazidis.”
Open Doors Southern Africa aims to also mobilise the Church in South Africa to add their signatures to the petition and stand alongside people in the Middle East that have been affected by years of war and instability. “More than 126 000 of the signatures gathered to date, come from the Middle East itself. Let us take hands with our fellow Christians in the Middle East and show them that we care. We need to show them that we in South Africa are united with them,” says Jan Gouws, Executive Director of Open Doors Southern Africa.
The public can learn more about the cause and add their voice at www.opendoors.org.za/hope.