Iraqi Christians in Jordan who lost everything when they fled Islamic State are benefiting from a second-hand clothes shop with one important difference. Everything in the shop is free.
The Christian charity Open Doors has worked with the Iraqi refugees to set up the boutique in Amman.
‘Just like in a real boutique they can come here to shop, to choose the clothes they really like, to try them on and to shop with dignity,’ said Lara, who works in the boutique. ‘This is a safe place for them where they can shop, have a good time and feel like a normal member of society again.’
The refugees do not buy the clothes but exchange them for coupons that they are given based on their situation and family size.
Many of the refugees stranded in Jordan want to leave and go elsewhere but the process can take years.
In Jordan they have no right to work, leaving them with no income for clothes or other basics.
Lara said: ‘Refugees need to eat, to dress and to have their basic needs cared for while they wait for their resettlement.
‘Often when people donate clothes to refugees they give them in big bin bags. They are unwashed, stained or damaged. For many Iraqi refugees, having fled from good families and good situations, that is a shameful situation. They find it hard to accept the clothes that way.
‘That’s why the boutique is important. This way, we can help to restore the dignity that was taken from them.’
All the clothes in the boutique are donated by people in Jordan. They are washed or dry-cleaned before going on ‘sale’ in the shop.
Open Doors has launched Hope for the Middle East, a seven-year campaign uniting the global church to ensure every person in the Middle East, no matter what their faith, has a home, a future, and a voice. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which will be presented to the UN on December 11, 2017.
Jordan is number 27 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. It has long been one of the Middle East’s more liberal countries for religious freedom, but the tide is turning for Christians, says Open Doors.
Expat Christians and historical Christian communities are relatively free, as long as they do not evangelize Muslims. But believers from Muslim backgrounds face serious oppression from local authorities, non-Christian religious leaders, and even their own families. A large number of Muslim refugees from Syria and Iraq, combined with the rise of radical Islam, is also putting increasing pressure on Christians.