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I stand on the mound of dirt and scan the scene in front of me. Vehicles, a whole assortment of them, parked in rows, covered in layers of dust. Cars, trucks, vans, even an old tractor and wagon, all sitting there, abandoned. On some of them, a white strip of cloth still hangs dejectedly.

What is this all about? Why are all these vehicles here? Where are their owners?

The scene behind me tells the whole story. Behind me a sea of white stretches out, surrounded by a chain linked fence and barbed wire. The sea of white is tents, thousands of them. Milling inside is a mass of humanity, children, mothers, fathers, the elderly, the youth. Here are the owners of the cars.

What are all these tents about? Why are all these people inside surrounded by barbed wire?

This is a camp for displaced Iraqis. Close to two months old and already holding close to 30,000 people, it is one of the main camps for the thousands of people fleeing ISIS and the battle for Mosul. Around a month and a half ago the Iraqi army and the Kurdish forces set out to liberate Mosul from ISIS. As the battle rages and the armies advance, trucks and cars loaded with people and with white flags fluttering in the wind, have met them, desperate for safety, desperate for help.

The army receives them and they are then taken to these camps where they are screened and kept until the conflict ends. This is why all these vehicles are sitting abandoned, layered in dust. They are stark reminders of the desperate escape to safety and help.

Once inside the camp, we are taken to a section fenced off for distributions. Outside, long lines of people anxiously wait for their turn to come in and pick up their parcel. A whole mob pushes and shoves up against the main gate desperate to get in.

Soon the distribution starts and the people come through the line picking up their parcels. As they go by we are able to talk to some of them. A mother comes by with her three children. Stories pour out of the children’s hearts. Wide eyed, the small girl tells of having to hide in their house as the battle raged. So young and tender and yet already exposed to so much violence and pain. The stories, the pain that I sense in them grips my heart.

middle-east-refugees-long-for-peace

At the end of the distribution, I notice a young man looking though the fence at us. I walk over and try to talk with him. We find a hole in the fence where we can at least stick our hands through to shake hands. With his few words of English and my little Arabic we talk a little. He is from Mosul and had a job in a government office; now he is fleeing for his life. He is single and about my age. Just a normal young man, longing for an honest chance at life. Even though we can’t communicate easily and a fence is between us, we are able to connect. I feel his longing, a longing for peace from all the war and violence, a longing for life.

Again, it grips my heart. Here is this young man, here are these thousands of souls, yes, they need food, they need blankets to stay warm on the cold winter nights, they need shelter, but more than anything else they need peace in their hearts. Who will show them the way?

—written by a CAM staff member

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