This report is contributed by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Need.
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A year ago, on Aug. 6, 2014, the life of Iraqi Christians was changed for ever: more than 120,000 faithful, most of them Chaldeans, left their homes and all their property behind on the Nineveh Plain as they fled the onslaught of ISIS. For most, the past year has been one severe deprivation living in Kurdish Iraq.
Today, Rami, 22, like hundreds of other people, lives in a caravan at the Mar Elia Center, a refugee camp in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan. Rami told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that he and his family had sought refuge in early 2014 in the Christian city of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain, having fled Mosul (which would fall to ISIS in June 2014). Little did the family expect that they would be on the run again so soon.
The young man has little faith that he and his family will be able to go home anytime soon: “I cannot rely on either the government or the army of my country. They simply left Mosul and the other places at the mercy of ISIS,” he said, adding that “Christians have no rights here and no security. Furthermore, the Shiites and Sunnis are at war with one another. This is why I want to get away from here. Today rather than tomorrow. I don’t see a future for me here in Iraq. It is my impression that most Christians want to leave.”
The camp at Mar Elia Center is run by Chaldean Father Douglas Bazi, whose efforts have made a tremendous difference in a year’s time. No one is sleeping on the ground anymore. Caravans provide more dignified housing for 130 families. Many families have moved into actual apartments. “I try to find something for the people, and especially the boys, to do. We offer language courses. The children are also learning how to play instruments or how to use a computer. But they ask me: What will happen next? This scares me. Soon, I may no longer have an answer,” said Father Bazi.
“The 6th of August is a day of sorrow, but also the day that God saved us,” the priest said, adding that “we are, after all, still alive. We will celebrate a Mass. We cannot forget what happened. However, we will ask God to forgive the perpetrators and to change their thinking.” He entreats Christians around the world to join him and the people under this care in prayer. “We feel the power of people’s prayers. This is the only reason we can continue. As the members of one body of Christ it is our responsibility to be there for one another. The Church in Mesopotamia is confronted with evil. Please pray that my people will be able to stand firm in the face of the devil!”
Aid to the Church in Need has spent some $7M to house and care for the exiles and to build a number of schools for thousands of refugee children. The charity is calling for prayers on August 6, 2015 for the benefit Christians in need in Iraq. #PrayForIraq #WeAreChristians #6thAugust
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)