Some children in Iraq only remember a life on the run from the Syrian Civil War. It’s been five years since the war broke out when pro-democracy demonstrations were violently suppressed by the government led by Bashar al-Assad. In the years that have followed, the rise of ISIS has caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in the Nineveh plains to flee to Kurdistan in northern Iraq and join the Syrian refugees who had already been displaced for three years.
While a team from World Compassion visited multiple refugee camps this past week, we continue to get a clearer picture of just how difficult life is for these refugees. While talking with Hassam, a father of four children and a former resident of Bartella, Iraq, 21 km from Mosul, he said, “We are six people in this little caravan. It’s very difficult to eat and sleep all of us in this room. We are very tired from this situation. Every day we are very uncomfortable – no work, no jobs. We would love to go back to Bartella.”
As we were leaving I asked the family, “Are there any happy moments here?” Adra, their oldest daughter said, “From the bottom of my heart, NO.”
So what good comes from a situation this bad? To answer the question we’ll turn to a statement made by one man who asked to remain anonymous due to the risk of persecution for converting from Islam to Christianity. He said, “5,000 Yazidis were taken by force. No one from the Christian and Jewish religions are buying Yazidi women as slaves.” He paused, then finished, “This is not the case with ISIS and Islam.”
This man had been in Aleppo when the Syrian War broke out. He took his six children and fled to Kurdistan. While in Kurdistan he witnessed the relief, food and other supplies, provided every month by World Compassion and took notice that it was Christians who were walking alongside them helping them in this time of despair.
World Compassion committed years ago to help refugees living in northern Iraq affected by the Syrian Civil War and the attacks by ISIS who were not receiving aid like those in UNHCR refugee camps. This consistency to provide groceries every month has opened the door of opportunity to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
On this same trip to Iraq our team had the opportunity to baptize Mohammad, a translator who had experienced the love of Jesus Christ while working with World Compassion last year. The contrast between Islam and the love of Christ were powerful for him as well. In an interview he said, “When I met Jason, President of World Compassion, I was a strong Muslim, but when I saw Muslims like ISIS doing these bad things for our country and for our lives, that’s why I decided to change my religion.”
This has been our mission from day one: to empower the local church in environments hostile to the gospel to reach their people with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. Every time we send relief to Iraq and empower the local church to distribute the relief to families devastated by war and unrest, it breathes life and hope into their hearts. It kindles a desire to believe that everything will be okay and that they are not alone. They hear about a Savior who came to bring life and life in abundance.
The conditions in Syria and Iraq are horrible, no doubt, but beyond the spotlight of the media, many are being introduced to their Savior who came to bring life and life in abundance. It’s the true 360˚ view of what’s happening and how we can respond through acts of love and service in the name of Jesus Christ.