Cooperative project between Christians in Israel, Jordan and New Zealand.
Established in early 2016 to help Iraqi Christian refugees in Amman, Jordan.
100-200,000 refugees (it is estimated over 100,000 families) fled from ISIS on the night of 6-7 August 2014 when ISIS attacked their communities in Mosul, Iraq and gave the ultimatum that they must leave their homes and businesses immediately or die.
From June 14 of the same year, ISIS came into Mosul, occupied the city and began the ongoing wave of atrocities against the Assyrian, Chaldean, and other Christians living there. It was a campaign of destroying the Christian presence where they had lived for thousands of years. The Islamic State destroyed churches and monasteries, beheading and crucifying Christians and mounting a concerted effort to totally destroy the Christian community by means of persecution and genocide. Many people were killed in the initial entrance, and many brutally tortured.
ISIS gave the Christians the option to convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya) and stay and live under ISIS control, or die. Having seen what ISIS had done to other Christians, and also the neighboring Yazidis from Sinjar, the Mosul Christians and the surrounding towns and villages knew that Isis was not going to take the tax and let them live.
The Islamic State issued an ultimatum: all Christians in the city must either convert to Islam, leave the city, or face execution in 24 hours. A few days before issuing the ultimatum ISIS started marking homes and properties belonging to Christians with the Arabic letter ‘n’ that stands for ‘Nisrani’ (Nazarene, ie Christian) along with the statement: “Property of the Islamic State of Iraq”. The N word was to identify them for slaughter if they did not convert to Islam or flee. Muslim neighbours reported to Isis who were the Christians and where their houses were located. On July 19 a photo was released showing a 1,800 year old Mosul church ablaze.
On the night of August 6, bells began to ring as Isis announced to the Christians that they had to get out or die. The Christian communities in Mosul got into cars and fled to neighboring Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Christians who fled lost their homes, businesses, belongings and nearly everything they had owned and known. On the way to Kurdistan Isis checkpoints were set up and the Christians were robbed of everything they had brought with them. Stolen were cars, money, valuables, food, mobile phones and anything else they were carrying, even medicines. Most arrived in Erbil with only the clothes on their backs.
The Christians who did not flee were captured, tortured and massacred by ISIS
The stay in Erbil was for a short time until King Abdullah of Jordan provided the humanitarian aid to airlift 12,000 of these fleeing Christian refugees on Royal Jordanian Airlines which took them to the city of Amman, the capital of Jordan, for a safer place to stay. They soon discovered that living in the temporary refugee camps in Jordan was not an option for Christians because of the daily danger from hostile Muslims who were already living in the camps from Syria. ISIS had infiltrated these camps to recruit members to their terror organization and the only option for the Iraqi Christians was to live among the churches in Amman like they had in Erbil until a way was found to relocate to a safer place in another country.
After arriving in Amman, the refugees were originally camped in church compounds where they lived until many moved into small cramped apartments in the districts closest to the church. The central church where the refugees came is St. Mary’s in the Marka quarter. It is a large compound. Fr. Khalil Jaar (pictured left) is the pastor there, and is key in the organization and pastoral care of many of the families.
Global Hope is another organisation which also pastors and cares for this community. Jamal Hashweh (right) is the director of this Evangelical Christian organisation which is a UN-recognised NGO. Pastor Rami Hanna is the director of personal relations. He is involved in the day to day needs of the refugees and also pastors a Free Evangelical church in the Hashemi quarter where he has started Iraqi only meetings. Global Hope has a program called “adopt a family” where individual families are provided rent and food via donations from individuals.
All refugees have registered for asylum with the UNHCR, and they all patiently await an exit visa to a host country. So far, Canada and Australia have been receiving families one by one. It is a slow process, and because refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan the basic refugee needs of rent and food are being met by several churches in Amman along with donations from churches internationally. The majority are presently continuing to live under difficult conditions in small rooms and apartments, or churches, temporary settlements and even refugee camps.
Sadly, for some Iraqi refugees whose family members have been abducted by ISIS, there is also the uncertainty of their missing loved ones' outcome. For the remnant of believers in Iraq, pending life-threatening danger is a constant concern. The months have now turned into a year and a number of months and so the majority wait in Amman patiently.
The monthly stipend promised by the UNHCR to refugees only goes to the Muslims who are in the camps out on the borders of Jordan, so the Christians who cannot live in the camps because of the danger to their lives, remain in Amman awaiting their exit visas.
There are three different categories of aid suggested and supported by this cooperative project:
1. The Stephen Project .(Te kappa Tipene).
A discipleship program to provide help, support and discipleship for service.
2. Marka School Support (Te Kura Tattoo Marka)
A program for the support of the Marka School for Iraqi children to prepare them for English-speaking host countries and to keep them progressing in their age categories.
3. Adopt-a-Family Program (Te Whanau Awhi Akoranga).
A development program for churches in NZ to receive an Iraqi family into their own church family in preparation for them to be integrated into the local community.