Posted on August 30, 2016
Over the last two years, thousands of Christians in Iraq fled their homes in hopes of escaping persecution from ISIS. Christians have faced the worst that the Islamic State has to offer – crucifixions, beheadings, gang rapes, sex slavery, beatings, and robbery – it is rare that the mainstream media reports this fact to the public. When news articles do appear they are watered down.
Since ISIS took control of Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in the Nineveh Plains, these Christian families were forced to move into refugee camps in the Kurdish region of Iraq, while others fled to other countries, including the United States.
The Iraqi army has laid out plans to retake the city of Mosul, which is now controlled by the Islamic State. If the country’s army is able to retake the militant-held city, thousands of Christian refugees would be given the opportunity to return home. However, these Christians fear that even after Mosul is recaptured by the Iraqi army, they still won’t be safe.
In the historically Christian neighborhood of Ankawa, located in Erbil, Iraq, is where over 5,000 Christian refugees currently reside in 1,200 white trailers. On August 10th an Associated Press published an article by Balint Szanko detailing the thoughts and feelings of some of these displaced Christian refugees.
In interviews with Szanko, many families expressed their concerns about returning home, saying they would rather leave the country and go abroad than face the uncertainty that lies ahead for the minority group. The camp manager, Father Emanuel Adel Kelo said “if organized migration were possible, then I can say that 90 percent of the inhabitants of this camp would leave. That’s 4,500 Christians who no longer feel safe in the town they once called home.
Raad Bahnam Samaan told the Associated Press his story. He, his wife and their five children fled Qaraqosh, leaving everything they knew behind, in August 2014. Making them seven of the 150,000 Christians who left the areas surrounding Mosul for safer areas under Kurdish control. Samaan describes living in the refugee camp as “being stuck in limbo” and many have lost hope of returning to their old lives, “there is always hope, but when? Nobody knows. It might be a year, or two years, a day, a couple of days. Three or four years from now if we go home there won’t be anything left of our house.”
Samaan expressed his hesitation in living in a freed Mosul because he fears the damage caused by ISIS will be irreversible, and people he once called friends will look at him as an enemy, “We’ll still be afraid. I will go to Mosul and I will be afraid because they will say, here comes the Christian.”
The horrors that these Christians face every day is unimaginable. Christians in the West were appalled by the gruesome beheading of Father Jacques Hamel in France two weeks ago. However, that is a reality for Christians in the Middle East. Every day they wake up and realize today may be the day they die for their faith.
Religious Freedom Coalition sponsors the Diapers for Refugeesprogram which aims to send high quality disposable diapers to these Christian refugee families located in camps around Erbil. Families in these camps are dying from diaper rash because of the inability to wash cloth diapers with soap and clean water. Due to the lack of diapers, mothers are forced to use donated clothing as diapers for their children, which still can’t be cleaned properly.
With help from our donors, the Diapers for Refugees program gave nearly 300 families enough diapers to last for three months, totaling 160,000 diapers in the first shipment which took place in March 2016. In June of 2016, 160,000 more diapers were sent and distributed to families in the refugee camps located in Erbil. Our commitment for the remainder of 2016 is to provide these Christian refugee camps with diapers every three months, totaling 640,000 disposable diapers given to displaced Christian families.
The price of a single shipment of diapers ranges from $18,000 to $20,000 or 11 cents per diaper. These shipments are distributed by large truckloads to Christian refugee camps across Northern Iraq. Next month, our third shipment of diapers will be sent out to 5 different camps near Ankawa, but in order to do this we still need to raise $8,000.
Every day Christians living in the Middle East are targeted for their faith. The Islamic State has declared war on Christianity too many times to count. Christianity is under attack and thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters are dying because of it. These Christian refugees need our continued prayers and support. Learn how you can help.