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News / Thoughts

How we’re responding in Iraq

August 20, 2014

As a result of the growing crisis in Iraq, Open Doors has stepped up its relief work in the northern part of the country. Thanks to the generous reponse to our Iraq appeal, our partners are now providing support to 3,000 displaced families.

“Seeing what is necessary, at present we provide food parcels, containing basic non-perishable foods, like noodles, cooking oil, beans, canned fish and rice,” one fieldworker explained. “Next to this we also distribute hygiene parcels which contain toothbrushes and toothpaste, but also soap and disinfectants.” Most families include four or five people and parcels like this will give them supplies for about a week.

Over a million flee home

An estimated 1.2 million people have now been displaced following the advances of IS into Iraq, many of whom were forced to flee their homes after IS militants told them to convert, leave or die. Louis Sako, the archbishop of Iraq, told Aid to the Church in Need that some 70,000 Christians have arrived in Ankawa, a Christian neighborhood in Erbil, and 60,000 refugees are in Dohuk.

In Erbil, one fieldworker said that many homes are filled with relatives who have escaped from other parts of Iraq, and churches are beginning to run out of space to house people. “When the church is full, the people go into other buildings or the halls of the church. If these are full too, then it flows over in the gardens or courtyard of the church […] They are everywhere!”

“I was deeply shocked to witness the seriously poor conditions these people have to live in,” another partner said. He described one church hall where 200 families were lined wall to wall, and still, two babies had even been born there.

The church responds

Open Doors has been able to support thousands of these fleeing families through partner organisations and local churches. One fieldworker went to visit a village on the Nineveh plain with food and hygiene kits because he had been told that 13 families were staying there – when he arrived he found 200 people. “Most had to sleep on the ground, so I returned to Dohuk quickly and bought over a hundred mattresses and pillows… It was hard to see that old people and children were sleeping on the ground. Now at least most had a better place to spend the night.”

Lydia is currently visiting a church in Erbil on behalf of Open Doors. The church is helping 260 families, 216 of which are staying in the courtyard of the church. Every day they give breakfast, lunch and dinner to over a thousand people. “Prayer and giving money often feels like it is too easy, but it’s not! It is making a huge difference in places like this.”

Pray for change

Iraqi refugees are still very much in need of our support and our prayers. “I have spoken with several people who want to leave Iraq now,” one fieldworker said, “but there are not a lot of places they can easily go to. The Iraqi’s are losing hope that anything will change. The thing for the body of Christ to do now is to pray. Pray that God will make himself known to the many who are now wondering if He will ever help. Pray for a change.

Source: Open Doors; Aid to the Church in Need; the Guardian

Please pray

  • For provision and protection for the many refugees in Iraq
  • That God will give displaced Christians hope for the future
  • For safety for Open Doors partners as they travel to villages and remote places to bring aid
  • For wisdom as world leaders consider how to respond to IS and the crisis in Iraq

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.