Standing in the courtyard of his church where hundreds of refugees now live, Pastor Raja (name has been changed for security) said something very profound: “These refugees will forget those who caused this tragedy, but they will not forget those who loved them during it.”
Pastor Raja has helped establish a refugee camp on the property of his church in Ankawa, a Christian community just outside of Erbil. World Compassion supports the camp that Pastor Raja founded. Refugees living in this camp seem relatively happy, despite the recent tragedies they experienced at the hands of war and the radical Islamic group, ISIS.
One of these refugees is Ivana, a 12-year-old girl. She shared her story with our team:
ISIS came in with the sound of bombs and bullets. Uprooted from their home, Ivana and her family journeyed to Erbil, living with a family member before coming to this camp.
Ivana shared with a bright smile all the programs Pastor Raja started for the children to learn French, English, musical instruments, dancing, mathematics and other fun activities. This situation for Ivana didn’t seem bad at all.
When asked what it was like to live here she compared her two lives: “Before I had two friends in Karogosh, now I have five or six friends.”
She continued to tell us that she did look forward to returning to her hometown in order to teach her two friends how to play the guitar, a new skill she is learning in the camp.
As our team of doctors and nurses from America, Sweden, and Norway left for the day, Ivana and a group of children performed multiple dances and songs they had learned. Their smiles were brighter than the sun.
When asked about her love for dancing, Ivana shared something we’ll never forget. “Pastor Raja taught us to dance and sing so that when people like you come to help us, and put a smile on our face, we will be able to dance and put a smile on your face.”
World Compassion partners with local churches and pastors like Pastor Raja who desperately need help supporting the large number of refugees in their region of northern Iraq. Our support of Pastor Raja’s work through medical clinics, food, and nonperishable aid items like diapers has helped empower these life changing programs to continue each and every day.
The refugees continue to need continuous attention. Beyond their need, these food distributions, medical clinics, attention and care from foreign faces remind them that they are not forgotten and that there is hope for them.
Yet, in this small refugee camp, we were not the only one bringing smiles.