It’s been three years since we began The Refuge Initiative – a division of World Orphans focused on providing care to refugee families here in Northern Iraq.
First of all, as Christ followers in Iraq, we know that the eyes of the local population are riveted on us—eyes that wonder how we will respond to the plethora of needs all around us. Your support has enabled us to not only bring needed food, water, heating, and electricity to those in need, but by doing so, we’ve been able to express our faith in both deeds and words.
As some of the first Western families to live in this region of Iraqi-Kurdistan, we are many people’s first interaction with foreigners. The sea of misconceptions and walls of distrust are high, but slowly we have been able to gain the respect and trust of the locals through our service to the refugees and IDPs that poured into our valley in the summer of 2014.
The threat of ISIS dwindles by the day, but the threats of poverty, displacement, and despair remain key enemies in this fight.
We are already seeing many families return to their original homelands in the Mosul region; however, the layers of refugees and IDPs reveal a much wider conflict that has been going on for decades. Iranian Kurds just east of us flee because of persecution in Iran. Turkish Kurds just north of us flee to our location because of persecution in Turkey. And Syrian Kurds, by far the most displaced and persecuted, find themselves driven from their homes, seeking shelter in a land with an entirely different dialect of Kurdish and a world far removed from their own.
The threat of war continually hangs over this region. Just in the last few weeks, Iran started bombing Kurdish villages along the border as separatist elements within their borders are making new attempts to win freedom. One of ISIS’s final strongholds in Tel Afar lies just 50 miles south of Turkey’s border, and Turkey has threatened retaliation if Iraq’s Shi’ite militia army Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraq’s strongest force) is involved in the liberation. The US has their own efforts in the region, but those don’t always bring more peace, either. The power struggles are daunting, and the resulting refugees and IDPs make our response and your support so vital.
The outlook of the next few years without ISIS may indeed bring some sense of stability to the region, but if we have learned anything from history, we know that a power vacuum can be easily filled by something even worse. Of course, we are hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. It’s support from people like you that enables us to continue being the hands and feet of Jesus as we provide shelter, education, and counseling for those who need them most here in Northern Iraq.