Update: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq
August 25, 2014
On June 10, ISIS entered Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Before 2003, Mosul was home to 35,000 Christians and one of the five Presbyterian churches in the country. The Nineveh Province, in which Mosul is found, includes the largest concentration of Christians (many in small villages), churches and monasteries (some dating back to the fourth century). Many other ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Yazidis (a special target of ISIS), also made their home in Nineveh Province.
Soon, many of the remaining 3,000 Christians made their way to Erbil and Kirkuk, perhaps anticipating what would be the devastating pronouncement by ISIS on July 19: convert to Islam, pay an unspecified tax or be killed. In the weeks leading up to that announcement, the homes and businesses of Christians were marked with the Arabic letter “n” for “Nazarene,” the designation for Christians in the Quran. The mass exodus of Christians, religious minorities and moderate Muslims from Mosul was heavily monitored by ISIS, and no one was permitted to leave with any possessions or money. By the end of the month, ISIS had complete control of the city, and the Assyrian News Service published a list of 45 churches or religious sites destroyed or taken over by ISIS. On that list was the historic Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in the Middle East.
On July 26, the pastor of the Kirkuk Presbyterian Church appealed to partners like The Outreach Foundation for help as the internally displaced made their way along the 100 mile road from Mosul to Kirkuk:
We, the Presbyterian Church in Iraq, value your shared concern and partnership. And now we need your immediate financial support in order to better respond to this tragedy. We ourselves, from among our members, have already started to raise a collection for this. We plan to gather critical relief supplies to distribute (food, water, fuel, sleeping mats and pillows, clothes, towels, hygiene items, prayer rugs, etc.). We will also be working to help those displaced find housing and possible employment.
Their main efforts now are focused on 12 Christian families who are living at the Kirkuk Presbyterian church, spread out through their classrooms, offices and fellowship center. They are also assisting another 50 families at other churches in Kirkuk.
The Outreach Foundation is able to receive gifts in support of the relief work of our partner, the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iraq. Checks should be noted “Iraq Relief” and mailed to The Outreach Foundation, 381 Riverside Drive Suite 110, Franklin, TN 37064. You can also give online at www.theoutreachfoundation.org and under Designation, select Iraq Appeal.