Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis - December 2015 Update

 Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis

Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis

In late January of 2014, a native of Mosul was consecrated as the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk-Sulimaniya. Barely six months later, ISIS would invade his hometown resulting in thousands of Christian families seeking shelter in and help from the churches under his watch. In March of this year, I and a small team from The Outreach Foundation met in Iraq with His Grace Yousif Thomas Mirkis. We were introduced to him by the Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, who pastors the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk. Both share the common burden of ministering to those whose lives were shattered when their homes, livelihoods and churches – not to mention their peace and security – were violently taken from them. 

Archbishop Yousif’s main concern? Iraq’s future, as seen in the hundreds of university students from Mosul whose academic studies were abruptly stopped and who had no home to return to when they fled the city. Very quickly, the University of Kirkuk opened their classrooms to these students but had no available housing for them. The Archbishop put together a team who began to identify homes which could be rented and shared. He then recruited adult volunteers to supervise these residences as offsite “house parents” and also make sure that daily meals were provided to these students. This has been an enormous encouragement to the parents who might otherwise have to contemplate leaving Iraq. There are now 300 students in the program, most of whom are Christian but with about 30 Muslims and Yazidis. 

Recently, all the students were invited to gather for a meal and fellowship at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. It was a time to reflect on the difficult times through which they had passed and to celebrate God’s goodness in providing “hope and a future” for them. Friends, your generous gifts to the Iraq Appeal are sustaining and encouraging the Christian presence in Iraq during this critical time. This is just one example. And although our main partner in Iraq continues to be the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, it is Rev. Haitham Jazrawi himself who  directs us to also support the wider family of faith in Northern Iraq, be that Orthodox or Catholic, so as to live out Christ’s prayer for the unity of his Church (John 17): 

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one –  I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

 Kirkuk, March 2015: (l to r) Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, Ben McCaleb, Rev. Mark Mueller, Marilyn Borst, Archibishop Yousif, Staci Graham, Mayada Jazrawi

Kirkuk, March 2015: (l to r) Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, Ben McCaleb, Rev. Mark Mueller, Marilyn Borst, Archibishop Yousif, Staci Graham, Mayada Jazrawi

To date, your generous gifts to the Iraq Appeal total over $700,000 and have brought much help, healing and hope to thousands of (mostly Christian) Iraqis who have been internally displaced as well as for those who are refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The Outreach Foundation will continue to receive gifts in support of our major Iraqi partner – the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iraq – as well as several other Christian partners in the region. Gifts to the Iraq Appeal may be made by clicking HERE or by mailing a check to our main office.