Iraq Update - December 2016
From Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development for The Outreach Foundation:
There are three Presbyterian churches still open in Iraq. Please know that your gifts to Outreach have supported the mission and ministry of all three congregations, which has been especially critical in the aftermath of ISIS’ takeover of parts of the country in the past two years.
Kirkuk – Rev. Haitham Jazrawi writes:
….although the Iraqi Army has managed to liberate many Christian towns surrounding Nineveh [Mosul] and even though the Christian refugees have been given permission to visit their hometowns and see what remains of their property (but not relocate, yet), most have not done so… The Iraqi Army has officially and publicly regained control of these towns, but they are still working on canvasing the grounds and making sure they are clear of booby traps and explosives. And so, I can say with confidence that the IDPS [Internally Displaced Persons] are in an even more desperate state, especially since they now know that many of their lands, homes, furniture, and belongings have all been destroyed. They are even more dismayed that the government is unable to fully secure their towns or reimburse them for a small portion of what they’ve lost. As for Mosul, itself, the Iraqi army has yet to regain control of the entire city. ISIS men continue to use residents as human shields to slow down the Iraqi army from advancing directly on their strongholds. Nevertheless, many families continue to flee Mosul in the middle of the night. Many of them include seniors, women, children, and disabled youths. ISIS has continued to recruit and force able-bodied young men to join their efforts, and as such they have not been fleeing with their family members.
We are now living in extremely cold conditions, where the temperature at night can and does fall below zero. Those that are fleeing at night often flee without any thick clothes on their backs or anything to keep them warm. Recently, an old friend of mine…called and told me that two families, numbering 21 people, had arrived and were homeless, living in the streets close to his home. We immediately went to see them and took with us 50 thick blankets to distribute. Similarly a week ago, we went and distributed 1,000 winter blankets to the refugees living at the UN camps in southern Kirkuk…
… Of course, we know that among the refugees, there must be some undercover ISIS members, or at least some fundamentalist Muslims. Nevertheless, we continue to proclaim God’s love to them through our service, reminding them frequently, that we are one human race, no matter what religion we are. They are always receptive of our message and often offer up their apologies for what has happened to Christians in and near Mosul and the Nineveh Plain.
As for the IDPs that have been living in our church compound since 2014 …we continue to remind them of our commitment to their safety and complete recovery. We have promised to help them rebuild their homes and whatever else they lost once they can return to their villages.
… This is the situation of our country these days. I ask that you all join me in prayer so that the Lord may bless and help all who continue to suffer daily.
Baghdad – Rev. Farouk Hammo writes:
A ministry of outreach is the heart of our church’s vision, and, in a non-Christian country…our ministry is even harder, especially with these challenges: tribal civil wars and conflicts; terror activities; and ISIS. However, wisdom and new modes of outreach can achieve the targets of the kingdom of God with these “opportunities.” As you know [sharing Christ] on the streets and knocking on doors is not permissible here – and so we need to create new opportunities for the community to knock on our doors! For that purpose, we have enlarged our preschool to include a nursery…which means our audience has widened. Our kindergarten and preschool are one of our main channels for getting out the word of Christ since 95% of the kids being enrolled come from non-Christian families – all have received seeds of salvation through this ministry.
The first thing that parents ask, before registering their kids, is "do you have your own bus that is driven by a Christian driver?” This is due to the security and safety issues here that raise fears in parents. Having a minibus will be considered a privilege and bonus for us. We found that 15-seat Jinbei China minibuses are available for only ($20,000). Our church activities and ministries will also benefit from this as we often hire buses to pick up our members for church activities, five-six days a week…
Basrah – Elder Zuhair Fathallah writes:
[Except for a brief interlude, it has been more than a decade since the Presbyterian Church has had a full-time pastor. Leadership of the church (preaching, a radio ministry, a preschool and nursery) fell to Dr. Zuhair Fathallah, who already had a full-time job as a surgeon and a professor at the Basrah Medical College! Recently, the Presbyterian Church in Egypt, in partnership with The Outreach Foundation, sent to Basrah one of their pastors, Rev. Amgad Samir, along with his wife and two young children.]
Pastor Amgad and his family arrived about a month ago; his children are registered now in their school…his wife got a job as an English teacher in her children’s school. The kindergarten and nursery are going well – there are about 200 [mostly Muslim] children enrolled in the kindergarten and the nursery has about 50.
The church started a non-profit called ‘Al Mahaba Charity’ [Love Charity], which is the same name as the kindergarten, and they have begun their activities early this month by visiting Basrah Children’s Hospital for Cancer with Pastor Amgad. They took with them some medical supplies. I hope we will have larger activities in the future...
We invite you to continue to support the work and witness of the Presbyterian Church in Iraq, such as the distribution of food to those fleeing ISIS (see photo below), by sending a check to our office marked "Iraq Appeal." You may also give online by clicking HERE.