Posts tagged Iraq Appeal
Iraq Appeal - Good Shepherd School and Nursery - March 2019 Update

The faithful Presbyterian families in Iraq always amaze me. And the extended family of Rev. Farouk Hammo, pastor of the Baghdad Church, is a prime example. Despite decades of hardships, terror, sanctions, and uncertainty, there is a deep commitment in this congregation to “be the Church” in Iraq and beyond. Their numbers may have diminished, but not their zeal to make Christ known. Along with Farouk’s sisters and their families and his niece and her husband, the ministries of the church – for women, youth and kids as well as outreach to those who do not yet “lift high the cross” – go on. But nowhere is the church’s vision to be “salt and light” more evident than in the Good Shepherd Nursery and newly-opened elementary school.

When our Outreach team was there in late 2017, an old house which stood in front of the nursery school was being renovated to become the elementary school. Rev. Farouk and the school’s principal, Ban, who is a member of the church, proudly shared the results of a university study done on the city’s 400 private preschools: the Good Shepherd Nursery School (which now has 108 students) ranked #2!

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Iraq Appeal - January 2019 Update

In October my colleague Rev. Nuhad Tomeh and I brought a small team to Iraq to meet the three Presbyterian congregations there – Basrah, Baghdad and Kirkuk. Rev. Ginny Teitt, Ms. Gretchen Tilly, Mr. Sichan Siv (a former ambassador to the UN) and Rev. Tony Lorenz were an encouraging presence to the Faithful Church there and we were all, in turn, moved and inspired by those who can say with confidence that they, “rejoice in their suffering, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rev. Teitt shares here her reflection on our time in Basrah.

Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

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Iraq Appeal Update - March 2018

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.  Matthew 25:35-36

Some parts of this passage are easier to live into than others. If you periodically bring canned goods to a food pantry, you have fed him. If you ever donated money in the wake of a natural disaster to provide potable water to victims, you gave him something to drink. Made a Goodwill drop off with old clothes? You kinda clothed him, I guess. And who hasn’t visited someone who was sick or injured in the hospital. But HAVE we ever invited in the stranger? The Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk opened its doors to 70 unfamiliar people fleeing ISIS in the summer of 2014 – and half of them are still there. And then there is that prison thing….

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Iraq Appeal Update - December 2017

This update is provided by Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, Iraq. It is a powerful reminder of how our faith can sustain us in the midst of unimaginable loss and brokenness.    
-Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

Since late summer 2017, the Iraqi Armed Forces and the Kurdistani Peshmerga Forces, aided by the U.S. Air Force, have been able to regain control of the Nineveh Valley and much of its surrounding towns. The capital of Nineveh Province, Mosul, was finally “liberated” from ISIS in late July. I use the term “liberated” very loosely in this sense because, in reality, Mosul hasn’t been so much liberated, as it has been obliterated. Western Mosul, also known as the “Old City,” is practically rubble; it’s easier to count the buildings that remain standing than the ones that have been destroyed.

Stories of families running as bullets rained left and right became the norm. Sometimes children laid in the rubble and used the bodies of their dead parents to shield themselves until the armed forces were able to pull them out of harm’s way. I still remember the sight of a mere five or six-year-old little girl; her face made the rounds on Iraqi television stations. She had clung onto her dead mother’s body in the street for three days in the hope that mom would wake up and save her. These are but a few of the sights that are burned into our memories from this past horrific summer.

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Iraq Appeal - November 2017 Update

“Joyful, patient, faithful…” is a pretty apt summary of the Presbyterian Church in Iraq which I encountered, yet again, on my trip to this beleaguered country just a few weeks ago. Iraq makes the “Top Ten List” of the most difficult places to be a Christian; 75% of all Christians have left since 2003 with only about 250,000 remaining, mostly in the Catholic and Orthodox communities. And yet this Presbyterian presence, with its small “footprint” (less than 200 families in three cities), is making a big impact. Ben McCaleb, First Presbyterian, San Antonio, and Steve Burgess, West Hills (Presbyterian), Omaha, were making a return trip with me as we spent time in both Basrah and Baghdad. We were guided by the Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tomeh, mission consultant to The Outreach Foundation and Syrian Presbyterian pastor. Following the Kurdish referendum vote, Rev. Haitham Jazrawi of Kirkuk advised us not to come north but instead came down to Baghdad to meet with us. 

All three congregations (Basrah, Baghdad, Kirkuk) have some things in common: they all run kindergarten/nursery schools which are so well-respected by the non-Christian families who attend them that they have been urged to open elementary schools as well; all three either run or are setting up Christian radio stations; for the first time in a long while, all three congregations have an ordained pastor to serve them; and all three congregations open their doors to those who have never heard the Good News, and the Holy Spirit is bringing hungry souls to receive the Bread of Life. 

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Iraq Appeal Update Kirkuk Church Update - July 2017

...we rejoice in our suffering, because suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint us….  Romans 5: 3-5

I first met them in May of 2015. They had been living at the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk for almost a year by then. Philip, the youngest member of this family who had fled the Christian village of Qaraqosh, had an impish smile and bright gray-green eyes. He was, in Southern parlance, “cute as a button.” 

His father had been a guard at one of the churches when they fled the onslaught of ISIS with only the clothes on their back. Along with his four siblings and parents, “home” was now a small Sunday School classroom at the Kirkuk Church – and they were so very grateful to Rev. Haitham Jazrawi and the congregation for it. Recently, I asked Rev. Haitham for an update on this family and the general state of those for whom the congregation was caring for at the church. This is what he shared: Philip is now entering the 4th grade! He graduated third grade as the #1 student in his class. Similarly, his sister, Vatican, is now entering 7th grade, which is the start of high school in Iraq (as opposed to 9th grade in the U.S.). She also finished 6th grade as the #1 student for her class! 

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Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis-June 2016 Update

Although the tragic events in Iraq from the summer of 2014 have mostly faded from our daily news cycles, the past is very much present for Rev. Haitham Jazrawi and his congregation at the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk. It began with a persistent knocking at the church’s gate late one night. It was soon inescapably evident in the streets around town as entire families stood dazed and bewildered, clutching small parcels and, for the fortunate ones, a suitcase containing a few changes of clothing and their important documents. And then the reports soon reached their ears of entire congregations of the Syrian Orthodox Church seeking haven in safer villages not far from Kirkuk….

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Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis - December 2015 Update

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. 

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Iraq Appeal/Refugee Crisis - November 2015 Update

Wiggly, giggly and mesmerized by the foreign visitors to their classroom in Erbil, Iraq, these precious little four and five year-olds seemed very typical for their age. But they were not. When our small Outreach Foundation team visited them in March, it had been about eight months since they and their families had run for their lives as ISIS marched upon their villages in the Nineveh Plain. 200,000 of these Assyrian Christians fled from their small, once peaceful enclaves: Bartella, Bashiqa, Batnaya, Karamlis. They found haven in safer towns deeper in the Kurdish-controlled areas of Northern Iraq and the big city of Erbil. Their young priests like Father Yacoub, whom you see here, shepherded and encouraged them along the road. And now those young priests, with no resources, work hard to create some sense of normalcy for these traumatized families. They have started a few kindergartens/preschools in which to nurture these tender young lives.

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians of Iraq - September 2015 Update

Most of these Christians fled ISIS last summer with little of their worldly possessions. Most were middle-class. Finding no safe haven in Iraq, they made their way to Lebanon and headed to Beirut where they hoped that the bigger city might hold more options for their survival. With so many displaced Syrians “in line” ahead of them, their situation grew quite grim…but they knew that fellow Christians would help them...

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq - August 2015

Last summer, a fast moving disaster struck Iraq: the Islamic State set its sights upon making Mosul its capital. Once home to the highest concentration of Christians in the country, Mosul and the dozens of Christian villages in the surrounding Nineveh Plain were terrorized, as was the vulnerable Yazidi minority. Within weeks, your generous response to our Iraq Appeal (to date, over $600,000!) allowed us to quickly send resources to the region: to the Presbyterian churches in Kirkuk and Baghdad who began to minister to their displaced neighbors and to partners in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon who, within months, were called upon to serve, in Christ’s name, refugees who had fled Iraq.  

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq May 2015

In March, I was in Northern Iraq with a small team from The Outreach Foundation – Staci Graham, Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta; Rev. Mark Mueller, First Presbyterian Church Huntsville, AL; Ben McCaleb, First Presbyterian Church San Antonio. We had traveled there to visit partners, especially the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, who have been receiving funds from The Outreach Foundation for their ministry with fellow Iraqis displaced by ISIS from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain.

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq - April 2015

A three hour drive north of Erbil, not far from Dohuk, is a camp set up for some of the 23,000 Yazidis who had been driven from the city of Sinjar, north of Mosul, by ISIS. You can all probably remember the scenes (like the one to the left) of these beleaguered souls – almost 50,000 of them – who had sought refuge at the top of a mountain last August awaiting rescue. Several thousand men had been killed and young girls were taken as sex slaves...it is a staggeringly evil story.

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

Baghdad 

Fun and games with kids in the parking lot is an event often seen at churches. But this is Baghdad, after all, and those kids lined up for the zany competitions – and with unexpected smiles on their young faces – had experienced traumas unknown to all of us. For it was their families who had been driven by ISIS from Mosul and the surrounding Christian villages just a few short months earlier. Inside the church, their parents gathered, grateful that their children could experience a bit of lightness in an otherwise unsettling “new normal.”  

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Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

Lebanon is not a very large country. Its land mass is about the size of Connecticut, in fact. The narrow southern strip, which borders Israel, has experienced a lot of conflict over the years. With a highly visible presence of both Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, it is also home to five communities of Presbyterians – all of them pastored by the Rev. Fouad Antoun, who grew up there. Some of those communities have fully functioning churches, like the large one in Marjayoun. Others have only a handful of Presbyterian families remaining who are visited, periodically, by Rev. Antoun and come together to worship in their small, historic churches on a rotating basis. 

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Update: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

Dear Partners in Christ's mission,

It might not seem too remarkable, when, for a local church, a group of refugees from another country show up not far from your city and your congregation decides to reach out to them. But what if your own country had also been in midst of war for years, resources were thin, 75% of your congregation had immigrated and the roads to reach those refugees were dangerous…would you still feel the call? That question has been faithfully answered by the Presbyterian Church in Qamishli, Syria, after they had learned of 1,500 Yazidi families who had been driven from their homes on the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq by ISIS. 

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Update: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

Located in a poor Christian suburb of Beirut – Sad al Bouchreih – the Our Lady Dispensary (OLD) has just received $17,500 from The Outreach Foundation. In seeking to meet the needs of some of the thousands of Christian Iraqi families who were driven out of the northern part of Iraq in recent months and have now made their way to Sad al Bouchreih, the OLD is, quite literally, dispensing hope. This is an area where Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian Orthodox communities predominate and where migrant workers and displaced persons have made a precarious home for decades.

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Update: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

Before 2003, it was the largest Presbyterian Church in Iraq with a membership of over 1,000. But a decade of deadly sectarian fighting, which has plagued the capital with “routine” car bombings, has taken its toll on the Christian population here – as elsewhere in Iraq. And emigration has brought about a significant loss of Christian presence. This reality makes it all the more remarkable that Rev. Farouk Hammo decided about five years ago to make his way back to Iraq when he learned that the Arab Presbyterian Church in Baghdad was without a pastor. It had never been his intention to stay when he traveled to Australia to pursue his second career call, preparing for ministry. But when government offices in Baghdad were destroyed in the first Gulf War with the records for many citizens like Farouk who were studying abroad, he found himself in limbo. He was unable to secure permission to return to his homeland, until persistence and special interventions paved the way a few years ago.

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