Bringing God’s love to Mosul, Iraq
Today we were very close to where Jonah of old preached within the city limits of Nineveh. Those awaiting their parcels of rice, flour, sugar, and oil stood in a quiet and orderly fashion as more folks appeared from broken places of refuge. The faces were kind but accented with fear, struggle, and need.
With the help of a translator, I spoke to the group of about 150 people that had gathered. “People in America work hard just like you do, and because they love and follow Jesus and care about you, they have sacrificed, reached into their pockets, and given money which we have channeled to you.”
While much of East Mosul is clear of conflict, and commerce is gradually returning, we are aware of thirteen villages bordering the Tigris River that are yet under oppression. This situation will likely afford additional opportunities once the thunder of bombs and shelling becomes more distant to our ears than it is presently.
Presently I am sitting on the roof of a house on the outskirts of Mosul, with a pen and the cardboard of a cereal box as my word processer. Surrounding me is a small dwelling in the nearby village, where a mother hangs clothes on the line while children romp around in the confines of their small compound, and a shepherd, possibly Dad, is leading his sheep across the brown desert in search of grass. One sheep with an injured or missing leg limps along behind.
During a kerosene distribution I befriended a young man who shared his story as follows: “I was captured by ISIS. At first they said they would kill me. I was blindfolded and jailed for seven days. My captors were desperate for money so I was given the options – money or death. They tied me to a chair, blindfolded me, and then laid a long sword on my lap instructing me to carefully feel along the edges. Then I was told the amount of my ransom, or the sword I was feeling would be used to cut off my head. With the help of others, the demands of funds were met and I was freed.”
As I conclude this writing, the nearby bombing has increased and air traffic is nearly constant, but these sounds cannot shatter the peace that rules in our hearts.
–A CAM staff member in the Middle East
Middle East Refugees Long for Peace
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.
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
“Our children cried for days at a time.”
Multitudes of people are pouring out of Mosul, Iraq, trying to escape the fierce fighting that has broken out between ISIS and the Iraqi army.
ISIS, a brutal and hardline Islamic group, has been seizing cities and villages in northern Iraq since 2014. Their goal is to set up a region where they can govern by strict adherence to Islamic law. Now the Iraqi government is attempting to take back the territory that ISIS has seized. The heat of the battle is in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the site of the Biblical city of Nineveh.
A CAM team recently visited the city of Qaraqosh near Mosul. This city had been overtaken by ISIS in 2014, but in recent weeks, the Iraqi army had forced ISIS out. Our team found the city, once home to 60,000 people, almost completely deserted. Most of the houses were burned, and the streets were littered with gun shells. A large church was burned out and had been used for target practice.
During the time that ISIS was in control of Mosul and surrounding cities, the group ruled with an iron fist. A fifty-five-year-old woman who recently fled from an ISIS-controlled village was reunited with her husband who had escaped earlier. She hadn’t seen or talked with him in two years. ISIS prohibited communication with the outside world. “They told us, ‘If we find a cell phone on you, we will behead you,’ ” she said.
Throughout the region, stories our staff are hearing from others who managed to escape from ISIS rule are also terrifying:
“We saw many people being killed.”
“ISIS killed my brother-in-law. They exploded our house and took our car. We and our four children escaped in the night and walked two days and three nights in the desert. We had no food or water. Our baby became very sick.”
“Our children could not sleep at night. Sometimes they cried for days at a time.”
Talking with those who managed to escape the wars in the Middle East is heart-breaking and mind-numbing. Trauma is in their eyes. Fear is in their hearts. Almost everyone has lost a loved one, and some have lost their whole family. Others have been separated from family members and have no idea if their loved ones are dead or alive. Young widows struggle alone to provide for large families. Children live in terror, unable to forget the horrific things they have seen.
One source reported, “My wife’s brother . . . was crucified and tortured in front of his wife and children. [ISIS] told him that if he loved Jesus that much, he would die like Jesus.”
How can we help?
CAM staff who are on the ground in northern Iraq have been receiving requests for large quantities of blankets, food, heating fuel, and other aid. With the new surge of displaced people, the need for aid has skyrocketed.
Our goal is to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of as many people as possible, not only in Iraq, but also in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Your help in meeting these needs is greatly appreciated. God bless you!
Information compiled from various sources.