06 March 2021

The Carpenter of Qaraqosh

Olive Tree Centres

If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.

— Thomas Edison
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In this old photograph from about 2009 a man stands on top of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Mar Gorgase in Baghdeda  (Qaraqosh) in the Nineveh Plain. His name is Falah Zaki and we tell a little of his story below.
Today the Pope visited Iraq
One million Christians have already left the country
In 2003 it is estimated that there were perhaps 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now there may be less than 250,000. This is an exodus of Biblical proportions. We should not forget that Christians have been in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years; far longer than in the UK for example.
Falah Zaki was one of those who left with his family after ISIS swept across the north. He was a famous carpenter in Iraq. He led a team who built a series of beautiful churches in Qaraqosh and the surrounding areas, as well as other landmark projects.
Now at the age of 50 he is a refugee in Jordan with his wife, two teenage daughters and 3 younger sons. Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work for a living in Jordan. This law is to protect Jordanian jobs. It means that the talents of this man could be going to waste.
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The church of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah built by Falah Zaki and his team.
It was desecrated by ISIS in 2014; the inside charred black from fires and its bell tower demolished.
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The church under construction in northern Iraq before ISIS
The Olive Tree Centre restores dignity and purpose
Many of the refugees we support (men and women) were highly skilled, educated and ran their own businesses in Iraq. Now as refugees in Jordan they have to rely on relief from charities and churches. Not being able to provide for their families, boredom and lack of purpose has a detrimental effect on the mental health of the refugee men in particular. Many tell us they feel “stuck” and lack a healthy outlet for their feelings of low self-worth and frustration.
But Falah Zaki is volunteering at the Olive Tree Centre in Madaba, Jordan. He will help construct the wooden trunk for our 'Tree of Hope' art installation at the second Olive Tree Centre which we hope to open later this year in Amman, God-willing.
And Falah is eagerly awaiting the creation of the woodwork shop at the Madaba centre where he will be the lead instructor of woodworking classes. He will pass on his skills and knowledge to other men and teenagers in the Iraqi refugee community. Falah learnt his trade at the age of 12, so he is eager to teach others.
Helena, our Jordan Country Director says, "The Olive Tree Centre helps the Iraqi men regain a sense of purpose and dignity in their lives. It really rejuvenates them as they are able to practice and share their skills again. The Centre gives them a place to step away from the despair they have felt. It has been wonderful for me to witness."
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Please help grow a second Olive Tree Centre
In just 3 weeks our Tree of Hope Appeal has raised well over £32,000, including the Gift Aid we can reclaim from the government. Once we have raised the total of £44,000 we will have all the funds necessary to establish the new centre.
Thank you to all who have already given so generously. We deeply appreciate your support which will bring hope, help and healing to Iraqi Christian refugees who have suffered so much.
When you make a donation to sponsor a leaf or olive you will help make this dream a reality, bringing hope to thousands of refugees in Jordan. All of the roots and doves have now been sponsored, but we still need lots more sponsors for the green leaves at £100 each, the gold leaves at £250 each. And ten olives are still available at £500 each.
The Tree of Hope will be made up of mosaic elements, all hand-crafted by Riveen and other refugees, and assembled to form this unique and colourful piece of wall art. Over 3 metres tall it will be installed on the wall of the main room in the new Olive Tree Centre.
Every person who supports the Tree of Hope Appeal with a donation for a leaf, olive or dove, will have their names or the names of their loved ones recorded alongside the tree in the new centre. To say thank you, we will send you a commemorative certificate and a print of the Tree of Hope mosaic once it’s completed.
Support the Appeal Now
Help bring restoration and transformation to the lives of thousands of Iraqi refugees.
Tree of Hope Appeal
Posted by Mosaic Team