By Archdeacon Bill Schwartz, on cypgulf.org
The Iraqi people need our prayers. Iraqi Christians need our prayers. The climate of uncertainty and diminished confidence in the government armed forces to provide security and stability are causing many, particularly Christians, to seriously consider the hope of emigration.
Among the many Iraqis I spoke with while in Baghdad last week it was clear that they would prefer to stay in their homeland if they can, but almost all I spoke with are looking for options for leaving – ‘just in case’.
Unfortunately, among the few Iraqi Christians who even have passports, even fewer are in a position to obtain a visa to travel to any other country, and even fewer yet have financial and logistical resources to travel abroad. Iraqi church leaders are NOT recommending that their people leave Iraq.
Many Iraqi Muslim leaders (of course, those who are not associated with the IS fighters) have been communicating to the Iraqi Church leaders encouragement and hope that the Christian communities will continue to be a part of Iraqi history, culture and most importantly Iraq’s future.
In the midst of all of this uncertainty, fear and rampant rumours the town of Erbil has been considered a place of refuge and safety, and with the uncertainty in Baghdad many from there relocated to Erbil over the past weeks. In the past days, with the massive displacement of people from the Nineveh plain (Mosul, Qaraqush, etc), Erbil has become the centre of a massive relief effort, coordinated by a council of Church leaders from the Chaldean, Syrian, Armenian and other churches.
Funds from various church agencies worldwide are being pooled through this committee in the attempt to meet the needs of as many as possible, among both Christians and non-Christians, all who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and have been looted of all worldly possessions.
The immediate humanitarian need is massive – the ongoing humanitarian need is even more immense.
From my information the Church network is functioning alongside the Kurdish authorities in the absence of the normal international relief agencies. Food, clothing and medicine are available in the local economy, but the displaced people have no funds to purchase the necessary life-sustaining supplies.
The immediate need is funds for food. The next priority is providing accommodation for those sleeping in schools or even in the streets. There is no end in sight to the violence, the fear, and the humanitarian crisis. People on the ground in Erbil expect even more refugees from the surrounding area, and many are concerned that Erbil itself is in danger of being overrun by the IS fighters.
The Iraqi people and Iraqi Christians need our prayers, and our financial support. The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf will relay your donations to support the inter-church network in Iraq who are ministering relief to the thousands in need.
For more information about how to donate visit http://cypgulf.org/iraq/