Iraq (ODM/MNN) — Christians who sought refuge in the northern Iraqi city of Qaraqosh because of fighting in Mosul are on the run once again.
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group extreme even by jihadi standards, tried to seize Qaraqosh Wednesday but were turned back by Kurdish troops. The city is located southeast of Mosul. Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra explains, “It’s a Christian village. There were some bombings, and there were some Christians that were killed in those bombings. Many of those people have left town and found shelter in the northern part of Iraq.”
About 40 families have now arrived in Erbil and found shelter in Ankawa. Meanwhile, Mosul’s Christian population, which had declined from 30,000 to 3,000 in the years following the 2003 U.S. invasion, is now down to virtually nothing.
Dykstra says, “These attacks are becoming more and more frequent. Our field workers have contacts in this town and are providing people with vital supplies.”
The occupation of the Iraqi city of Mosul by the violent extremist Muslims of ISIS forced up to 3000 Christian families out of their houses. Most of them fled to the safer North.
A few days later, Open Doors started supporting these refugees with humanitarian aid through local churches and partner organizations.
Dykstra observes that it’s a difficult situation, and it’s growing worse with every passing day. “Christians are being squeezed at every point by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Shiites, Sunnis, the jihadists, especially in Syria, the Assad government, al-Qaeda.”
Dykstra goes on to explain that “the goal of ISIS is to make a Caliphate State. That really means that they want to put into effect an Islamic State with Sharia law.” The result: “Death; bodies on the street. Soldiers, policemen.” This was what one of the refugees saw walking the streets of Mosul in the evening of June 9, the day ISIS took over the city. “There were lots of families walking, everyone was moving, it was crowded in the streets in the middle of the night,” he explained to Open Doors.
The team of fieldworkers has been involved with persecution refugees from Mosul, Baghdad, and other areas. They are ready to respond, says Dykstra. “We have been working in the Kurdish area for many years mainly because most of the Christians from Baghdad and other areas have fled there. So we have many programs set up there for shelter, trauma counseling. When this happened, we were set up, ready to really stand in the gap.”
They share, “The immediate needs were very obvious: water and food. Many of the refugees were placed in schools or empty buildings. They were sleeping on a piece of cardboard, so mattresses and pillows were needed, too. And with temperatures reaching 45 degrees during the day, a third need made itself known: air coolers, especially important for families with young children or elderly.”
Open Doors supports poor Christian villages and churches through local partner organizations with the finances they need in order to be able to continue to act in this charitable spirit. The ministry encourages the Christians to also be open to serve non-Christians trying to find refuge in their area. Dykstra notes, “When we say ‘be the light for all to show the love of Christ to their neighbors,’ they have done that.” Pray. “We need to take action. We cannot let them disappear from the Middle East. This would be a tragic situation.”
Through the extensive network, Open Doors will continue to support refugees like this family. Soon Open Doors hopes to be able to support 2,000 families in 21 villages, even the most remote ones. With reports of an increasing persecution in Mosul, local Christians don’t know if they’ll ever be able to return to their houses safely: “It might have been the last time that Christians fled Mosul, as I expect that soon all Christians will have fled the city” shares a fieldworker.