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Overwhelmed by need: Christian refugees flood into Kurdistan

NEWS 

Friday 15 August 2014

A Bible Society team on the ground in Iraqi Kurdistan is seeing overwhelming need this week as thousands of refugees flood into the region, driven from their homes by the ongoing siege of the Islamic State.

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An Iraqi Christian family camped just outside the doors of a local church in Erbil. Photo taken from a member of the Bible Society team on the ground.

The United Nations today declared its highest level of emergency for Iraq, in an effort to speed up the humanitarian response. The UN estimates up to 1.2 million Iraqi’s have been “internally displaced”. Over 150,000 refugees have already arrived in Kurdistan.

Mike Bassous, who oversees the Bible Society workers in Iraq says 40,000 Christians fled from Qaraqosh alone—Iraq’s second largest Christian town—last week. Most fled on foot towards Erbil in Kurdistan.

“The trip took 15 hours for the young and 3 days for the sick and elderly,” said Bassous. “The arriving refugees are kept in open fields due to the large influx of people.”

Most fled on foot towards Erbil in Kurdistan. The trip took 15 hours for the young and 3 days for the sick and elderly

Those who arrived early are now camping out in churches and church halls. But there are many still travelling to safety. And some who refused to leave.

“Please pray for the safety of the remaining Christians, most elderly people, who have refused to leave their hometowns in the Nineveh plains,” said Bassous. “And for the safety of those still fleeing on foot towards the Kurdistan region.”

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This Iraqi Christian refugee family are sleeping on thin mattresses in a church hall in Erbil, wherever they could see an empty spot.

The Bible Society team in Iraq are working their way through Erbil and its suburbs, distributing aid packages including food, water, hygiene products and Scriptures. But Bassous says this is an international crisis that has only just begun.

“We need a unified Christian worldview towards what is going on with Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “It is not merely a humanitarian crisis but rather a disaster against humanity and a violation of basic human rights. Your prayers and support can help us meet the most immediate needs.”

You can donate to the cause of providing practical help to the Christian refugees in Northern Iraq at biblesociety.org.au/nineveh or by ringing 1300 BIBLES (1300 242 537) during office hours. 

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