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Australia picked to help rebuild shattered Christian town Qaraqosh

Benjamin Blanchard

Rebuilding Chritian cities: Benjamin Blanchard will give a series of talks in Brisbane, New South Wales and Victoria between November 26 and December 10.

CHRISTIANS rebuilding their homes in devastated Qaraqosh could soon receive financial support from Australians concerned about the diminishing presence of Christianity in Iraq.

Benjamin Blanchard, the founder of a non-government organisation helping persecuted Christians living in the Middle East, SOS Chretiens d’Orient, will visit Australia later this month with the hope of raising $150,000 to help rebuild Qaraqosh.

Mr Blanchard will give a series of talks in Brisbane, New South Wales and Victoria between November 26 and December 10.

He will be welcomed into the country by Ora Duffley, a Brisbane Catholic who volunteered with Mr Blanchard’s organisation before Easter this year.

Ms Duffley became the first Australian to volunteer with SOS Chretiens d’Orient, which has attracted 1000 volunteers since beginning in 2013.

She said the organisation was impressed with the financial support she received from Australians and were now inviting the country to support in rebuilding one of Iraq’s oldest Christian cities.

“One of the projects they’ve given Australia is to help us rebuild the Christian city of Qaraqosh,” Ms Duffley said.

“We’ve raised a challenge for Australia to raise $150,000 in two weeks.”

Ora Duffley with a child in northern Iraq

Reaching out: Ora Duffley with one of the children she met while volunteering in northern Iraq recently.

Understood to be the largest Christian city in Iraq, Qaraqosh came under attack by Islamic militants ISIS, who raided the town to erase any traces of Christianity.

Families fled their homes, many losing their lives in the process, until Iraqi forces took back the city in October 2016.

Several families who fled Qaraqosh were able to take up refugee status in Brisbane and are now living in the Bracken Ridge parish on Brisbane’s north.

The funds raised during Mr Blanchard’s Australian tour will help SOS Chretiens d’Orient’s work in giving hope to those who lost everything to remain as Christians in Qaraqosh.

As well as providing emergency aid and medical care to Christian refugees in Iraq, SOS Chretiens d’Orient also helps displaced persons to return to the lands where their ancestors lived.

Ms Duffley said Christians in the Middle East had lived in the region for thousands of years and deserved to call their villages home.

“Christians in these countries, in Iraq and in Syria, they are peaceful people and they bring a stability and a civility to society, and the Middle East needs that,” Ms Duffley said.

“Christians are good citizens, they’re educated people.

“They bring a stability to this place and without that I think things would be even worse in the Middle East.

“Christianity is the only faith that really forgives whatever happens to you and that is a powerful thing.

“For the Middle East to lose their Christians, to lose this example, it will be a dark day.”

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