Iraqi Christian refugees you are helping: Ammar

Ammar’s story

This is Ammar, his wife Athraa and their two children, Ethan and Athena. They are an Iraqi Christian family living in Jordan who you are helping. Below is an interview we did with the family about why they left Iraq, what it’s like being a refugee in Jordan, and their hopes for the future:

 

FRRME: “What was your life like before you came to Jordan?”

Ammar: “We were living in a Christian town called Qaraqosh about 20 miles from Mosul. About 60,000 people used to live in Qaraqosh but now it is a ghost town. I was an art teacher. I also ran a mobile phone shop. I got married there and my two children were born there.”

FRRME: “Why did you leave Iraq?”

Ammar: “ISIS attacked Qaraqosh. There were three choices for us: convert to Islam, pay a tax, or leave. We decided to leave. We could not take anything with us, we left in our clothes and went to Erbil in Kurdistan. We stayed in Erbil for one month until we got visas for Jordan. When we got to Jordan, we lived in Marka for seven months in a church. It was a large hall with families separated by sheets. There was no privacy. It was 2 by 5 meters for each family. It was a bad life there. My children were sick and ended up in hospital. But FRRME paid for us to live in an apartment in Madaba. They continue to pay our rent.”

FRRME: “The choice that ISIS gave you, did they tell you that face-to-face?”

Ammar: “We didn’t hear this from them directly, we heard this from people who were living in Mosul. ISIS went to Mosul first and they told the Christians there this message. Those Christians then came to Qaraqosh and we all left together.”

FRRME: “It was reported that the tax didn’t always work in the way it was presented, that it was difficult to stay even if you did pay the tax. Is that correct?”

Ammar: “We heard that some of the Christian people decided to stay and pay the tax but when they went to the mosque to see how they will pay, the ISIS soldiers there refused and said this choice was no longer available. They said the Christians needed to convert to Islam or leave. They gave the Christians one week to leave Mosul, saying anyone who stayed in Mosul would be killed.”

FRRME: “Since you’ve been in Jordan, you’ve been helping us as a translator. Have you been able to do anything else to keep yourself occupied and to keep busy?”

Ammar: “I tried to work here in Madaba but I had a problem with my back and couldn’t work anymore. I thank God that FRRME paid for my surgery. It was very expensive. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to pay for this surgery myself. We have nothing. I keep myself busy by going to church and studying the Bible. I am now going to Theology seminary in Amman.”

FRRME: “Do you have any idea of how long it might be before you might be able to get asylum in a western country and emigrate?”

Ammar: “No one knows about this. Every month there are new rules. It used to take six months to leave from Jordan to Canada. Now it is at least ten months just to do the first asylum interview. After that you have to wait for another six to eight months. I applied to the Canadian embassy and I have already been here for two years. That means I will stay here over three years. I don’t know if I will survive being here for this long. And the UN is closed, especially for Iraqis and especially for Christians. Many times I went to the UN to renew my papers. When I go there, I saw the people that are going to leave. All of them were Muslim.”

FRRME: “If you make it to Canada, what would you do?”

Ammar: “I would hope to be a pastor.”

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,
The FRRME Team

First impressions by Helena Scott,  FRRME’s new Project Officer in Amman

May

After just two weeks in Amman, I’m already starting to feel at home here. This experience stands in stark contrast to the last city I lived in, Washington, D.C., which I came to love but where it took time to feel fully settled in. That memory fades into the distance now as I’m greeted with the warm hospitality ingrained and embedded deep into Arab culture. As a foreigner, I’ve been welcomed into the homes and places of worship of strangers immediately.

I was introduced to Father Emmanuel, a Syrian Orthodox Christian pastor, who at our first meeting gave me a welcome gift along with qahwah (coffee) and sweets. He showed me pictures of a toddler who was maimed and burned by “DAESH” (as he refers to ISIS) and goes into details about how the Church serves as a refuge for so many people in need – one of countless stories like this I’ve encountered since moving here.

It’s a humbling, shocking, and eye-opening experience to observe so many children, women, and men transplanted from their homes and lives, as they knew them. These families are uprooted yet positive, filled with hope and yearning for a better future, and a chance to rebuild the lives that were shattered by persecution and war.  For many, their hope is a result of their faith and convictions. FRRME/FRRME America’s involvement contributes to sustaining that hope, and I’m happy to witness this.

These families remind me that safety, security, and freedom of beliefs are luxuries that so many aren’t afforded. To many religious minorities throughout the Middle East, practicing religion is an active choice, one that can come with dire consequences, yet many still make the choice to express their faith and do not give up on their beliefs despite the risks and hardships they often experience as a result.

I recently met with one of several families who were directly threatened by ISIS. They fled Iraq in an attempt to stop the kidnapping of their 13-year-old daughter because of their Christianity. This meant leaving behind their livelihoods and starting afresh in an unknown place where they don’t have the right to make a living or get an education. Their daughter, now 16, once had dreams of becoming a doctor – but has yet to attend high school. To see this family’s ability to adapt and face the abrupt upheaval in their circumstances is truly inspiring.

Jordan – whose fabric and history is at once rich, diverse, and complex – needs the means and support to absorb the vast multitude of refugees being transplanted here. While D.C. is a diverse international hub, Amman and its surrounding towns serve as a melting pot of displaced people from around the Middle East. Irrespective of faith or nationality, the need for relief, assistance and hope is clear.

It is against this backdrop that FRRME/FRRME America has a direct way to help facilitate lasting impact and improve living circumstances for refugees undergoing immense hardship, and I look forward to helping continue these efforts.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,
The FRRME Team

Bombs in Baghdad but we are still there

St George’s Clinic

As Mosul is slowly retaken by Iraqi government forces, ISIS cells are ramping up attacks in Baghdad. In the month of April, sectarian violence claimed the lives of 317 people and caused injuries to 403 others in the city. This week, an employee of the Education Ministry was killed when an improvised explosive device was detonated in the Abu Ghraib district. Despite these attacks, Dr Sarah Ahmed, our Director of Operations in the Middle East, visited St George’s Church where we are fully funding a health clinic.

Dr Sarah Ahmed at St George’s Church clinic in Baghdad

The clinic is still run by Dr Duhair who is in charge of a team of 17 medical staff which includes 5 Physicians and 4 Dentists. The clinic provides basic medical care, diagnostic services, minor surgeries, orthopedic care, obstetrics and gynecology, dental operations and free prescriptions. It continues to treat 80-100 patients every day, regardless of age, gender or religion. The medical practice and medicines are all approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Health but the clinic itself is run entirely on donations.

Dr Duhair at St George’s clinic in Baghdad

Iraq’s healthcare system is in desperate need of money. Much of the healthcare currently being provided, particularly in the north of the country, is through international organisations such as Doctors Without Borders. However, the clinic at St George’s provides a unique opportunity to partner with local Iraqi healthcare professionals already in post.

The average cost of medical appointments is £28 / $36. The average cost of dental appointments is £22 / $28. The clinic continues to be in high demand and as of January 2017, there is a 2 week waiting list for an initial consultation.

Welcome to our newest team member!

 

A very special welcome to Helena Scott, who joins us as Project Officer in Jordan. Helena will be assisting the Iraqi Christian refugees who have fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and who are now living in Amman. Helena has an impressive CV and speaks Arabic. Click on the image below to read an article in the Episcopal News Service about her appointment:

As ever, your donations make all the difference. There have been very tentative moves this week from a handful of Christians to move back to Qaraqosh, a predominately Christian town 20 miles from Mosul. However, the vast majority are still languishing in church compounds in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, or are stranded waiting for asylum in Jordan and other Arab countries. If you would like to help them, please see the giving options at the bottom of this update.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,
The FRRME Team

How Christians in the West are saving Christians in Iraq

May

Last week a group of NGOs, including a representative from our Foundation, met with MEPs at the European Parliament in Brussels. The focus of the meeting was the persecuted church in the Middle East.

The desecrated and abandoned Church of the Immaculate Conception in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh (photograph courtesy of FRRME trustee, Christopher Segar)

Many churches in the north of Iraq, particularly those in Mosul and the surrounding area, have been desecrated by ISIS – the walls covered in graffiti, the pews burnt, the ceilings blackened by fire. In the case of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh (pictured above), the courtyard was used as a firing range. Thankfully, St George’s in Baghdad, which remains the only Anglican church in Iraq, endures, as does our health clinic in the church grounds which continues to treat people of all faiths.

Easter service at St George’s Church in Baghdad

However, despite the odd bit of good news, the future for Iraqi Christians looks very grim. In Brussels we presented MEPs with the facts: 175,000 Christians in Iraq have been utterly dependent these past 4 years on Churches and faith NGOs. While British and American governments have been very generous with taxpayers’ money, almost none of the aid given has reached the Christians. According to the 2011 census, the largest group in the UK is no longer Christian but that of “no faith”. Perhaps this is reflected in Government policy.

Children in the displacement camps of Iraqi Kurdistan this week (photograph courtesy of Dr Sarah Ahmed, FRRME’s Director of Operations in the Middle East)

According to figures released under a Freedom of Information Act request, less than 1% of refugees entering Europe are Christian or Yazidi, despite both groups being designated by the international community as victims of genocide. Private donations are drying up and yet many Christians are without any other form of funding. Despite our continued lobbying efforts, there has been a wall of silence from key policy makers and the mainstream media on this important issue.

With your support we continue to feed 7,000 displaced Christians in Iraq and Jordan through our food relief programmes (see above infographic). We hope in the near future that western governments, not just Christians in the West, will consider supporting the Christians of Iraq and in other countries in the Middle East where they are being persecuted. They have suffered for far too long.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,
The FRRME Team

An update on our work in Iraq and Jordan

April

Iraqi government forces, assisted by Iran-backed Shia militias and Kurdish Peshmerga, are slowly wresting Mosul from Islamic State control. However, the seeds of a new conflict have been sown this week with Turkish jets bombing Kurdish fighters in Sinjar near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Amid this emerging conflict, we are continuing our work on the front line feeding thousands of displaced people.

 Highlights of our work
 

Young people in northern Iraq: We provided 600 tracksuits for school children in Ankawa 2 in Erbil, a camp for internally displaced Christians (see above). We also provided 150 football kits to a group of young men in Harsham Camp, also in Erbil. At a processing camp near Mosul called Hassan Sham we provided 40 cradles for newborn babies. Providing cradles for newborns and growing babies is essential, to keep them off the ground which can be squalid. This project also provides local carpenters with work, who are able to build the cribs at a reasonable price.

Food relief in Jordan: Through our partnership with the Syrian Orthodox and other churches we fed a total of 780 Iraqi Christian families in Amman and Madaba. There are more families arriving every month but, with your support, we are feeding as many of them as we can. Sadly, they receive no assistance from the international community which, while acknowledging that Iraqi Christians are a persecuted minority, makes little provision for their care.

St George’s Church in Baghdad: Our free health clinic at the church is still operating perfectly, providing medical assistance and prescriptions for 80 – 100 patients every day. We are also providing 20 Christian families, all members of the congregation, with food relief. The congregation has dwindled but they remain a priority.

Lobbying the European Parliament: One of our trustees, Christopher Segar, who was Head of Mission in Iraq for the British Government in 2003 – 2004, is in Brussels this week meeting with MEPs to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East. We hope to bring you some positive news about this next week.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,
The FRRME Team

Easter at St George’s Church in Baghdad

April

At St George’s Church in Baghdad, where our work began and where we are fully funding a health clinic, the congregation celebrated Easter amid worsening sectarian violence. On Good Friday a bomb went off in the city’s Al-Maalef district killing two people and injuring four. Despite this, hundreds of people came to the church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Easter service was led by the Rt Rev Michael Lewis, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, who washed the feet of the parishioners. To watch a video of the Easter Sunday service click here.

Sadly, in other parts of Iraq Christianity has been driven out. A report in The New York Times this week showed footage of Qaraqosh in the north of the country. The journalist described it as a “ghost town”. Our team in Iraq visited Qaraqosh in January and found the same thing. Despite Daesh being beaten, Christians are still too afraid to go back to their homes.

We are continuing to feed 7,000 Christians in Iraq, many of whom have fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Others remain in Baghdad and receive food packages we provide through St George’s Church. If you would like to support this work or any of our other projects, please see the giving options at the bottom of this newsletter.

Special thanks to a special supporter
 

London: Joseph Moore ran from the Imperial War Museum to the Iraqi Embassy to highlight the needs of the persecuted church in the Middle East. He also raised £434 / $556 for our cause. Thank you Joseph, we really appreciate your effort. We encourage others to participate in this sort of fundraising as it really helps spread the word about our work.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you for your support,

The FRRME Team

Support the persecuted church this Easter

April

For the past 15 years, with your help, we have been transforming lives. We are proud of what we have achieved so far, despite our small size. But times are changing. A dark shadow has cast itself over Iraq. The war there has made 3 million people homeless and decimated the ancient Christian community in the north of the country. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Today, it is estimated that there are less than 200,000.

The desecrated baptismal font at the Church of the Immaculate Conception 
in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh

The churches of Iraq, though battered by war, remain faithful to Jesus Christ and committed to their congregations. In the bombed-out cities you will find faith undeterred by persecution. However, the people we are helping are exhausted by their plight. Sadly, they are not supported by the international community (which offers them little assistance) but by the kindness of fellow Christians in the West whose generosity has helped keep them alive.

Many displaced children now find themselves living in makeshift tents on the arid plains of Iraqi Kurdistan, or in overcrowded church compounds 

Through our partnerships with the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian churches, as well as our work with St George’s Church in Baghdad, we are feeding  7,048 Iraqi Christians. That is the equivalent of 1,400 families. Afnan, who was originally from Baghdad and who now lives in Amman with our support, describes the shocking sectarianism which forced her and her family to flee their home:

Afnan (right) with her sister Mariam (left) and mother, Vian

Afnan: “After the war [in 2003] anti-Christian sentiment was much worse and more open. My closest friend came to me once and said she must kill me and cut off my head. She said I was an infidel and should become a Muslim and start wearing the hijab. She said we [her family] should all become Muslims. She would always say the Bible was corrupted.”

Sadly, war in Iraq has driven a wedge between friends but as we celebrate Easter we pray that hope, peace and reconciliation returns to that broken land. The people we are helping, people like Afnan and her family, need your support more than ever. To make a donation this Easter, please see the giving options below.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can also make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

May this blessed celebration of Easter bring you faith, hope, love and joy.

The FRRME Team

More than 300,000 people displaced from Mosul

April

The UN said this week that more than 300,000 people have fled the besieged city of Mosul. Islamic State militants are reportedly holding the northwestern part of the city, using civilians as human shields. Those who manage to escape show signs of their capture – this week, our team on the ground saw young men shaving their beards off (they were forced to grow beards by Islamic State).

While the eastern half of the city has been liberated, on the ground conditions are terrible. Recent footage shows how desperate the people are for food (click here to watch). People think that because Islamic State is being defeated in Mosul that the situation for its residents is improving. It is not. There are more displaced people than ever and the needs are growing every day.

Dr Sarah Ahmed, our Director of Operations in Middle East, is leading our relief efforts in the region but sadly Iraqi Christians continue to be ignored by the international community. It is only thanks to the charity of Christians in the West that these people are being fed. With your support, the total number of Iraqi Christians we are now feeding is 7,048 (approximately 1,400 families).

This week, as part of her trip to the Middle East, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a new military training partnership with Jordan, where we are helping a community of Iraqi Christian refugees. Sadly, there was no talk, at least not publicly, of helping those Christians who have been languishing in the country for years waiting for asylum to the West. Perhaps the subject will come up when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, visits the country in May.

Many of the people we are helping are in a state of limbo. They include doctors, school teachers, civil servants, children; all of whom are forced to live in tents on dusty plains miles from home. Many arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Your precious support through donations helps us to feed and clothe these people. See below for a breakdown of how your donations help.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you,
The FRRME Team

Exodus or Execution: The Hell of Mosul

March

“ISIS Burns 3 Women Alive for Refusing to Slaughter Innocent Civilians” read  a news story in the Christian Post last Saturday. The message was clear: civilians trapped in the western half of Mosul are being used as pawns in an obscene fight to the death, killed in horrendous ways, or forced to kill others.

While this is happening, we are continuing to feed thousands of people who have fled the city and surrounding area, many of them children. Below are some photos of the children you have helped to feed (taken this week). On their behalf, thank you.

Is the West doing enough to help persecuted Christians in Iraq?
 

We participate in a caucus of Christian charities and NGOs which regularly meets to discuss the plight of the persecuted church in Iraq. This week, we met with Stephen Rasche, aid coordinator in the archdiocese of Erbil, who updated us on the situation facing Christians in Iraq. The news was stark:

  • The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.5 million in 2003 to around 200,000 today.
  • Of the $900 million in relief provided by the US through the UN, none has found its way to the Christians because the UN judges that they are receiving help from elsewhere.
  • The cost of rebuilding Christian villages destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq could exceed £160 million.

FRRME trustee, Christopher Segar, who attended the meeting, said: “If there were stronger voices from Christian leaders [in the West] it would make our work much easier.” This is indeed the case. To read an article about the meeting please click here.

Support your persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ

Your donations mean everything to us. They help buy essential items such as clothes, food and water. Regular giving enables us to plan ahead and keep the long queues of people fed. Please contact office@frrme.org for info about how to set up a standing order. Below is an infographic showing how your donations will help.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you,
The FRRME Team

Humanitarian appeal for Iraqi IDPs and Refugees

March

Thousands of innocent civilians, many of them children, are fleeing the war-torn streets of Mosul. According to the latest UN figures, over 195,000 people are currently being sheltered in 21 camps on the outskirts of the city. Our team on the ground has visited two of these camps – Khazir and Chamakor – delivering food and water to thousands of starving and displaced people.

While many hope for an end to the war in Northern Iraq, extreme sectarian violence has become the norm, with rival groups fighting for power and land. Consequently, the humanitarian crisis in the region has grown exponentially with over 3 million people displaced from their homes, with 1 million people needing daily humanitarian assistance.

As a Christian charity, our calling is to help the dispossessed regardless of creed. Through our unique partnership with the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian churches in Northern Iraq, as well as our partnership with the Bishara organisation, we continue to feed 5,000 families every month (this includes Christians, Muslims and Yazidis).

Through our partnership with four churches in Jordan, we are supporting hundreds of Iraqi Christian families who have fled to Amman and are waiting for asylum in the West (a process which can take up to 3 years). In addition to monthly food packages, we also provide money for sheltered accommodation.

As a registered charity we operate within the framework set out by the Charity Commission for England and Wales (our charity number is 1133576). As a registered charity, your donations also qualify for Gift Aid. In 2016, we raised an additional £108,511 in Gift Aid from the donations made to us. This money equates to an extra 650 emergency food packages per month.

As ever, your support makes our work possible. To make a donation, please see the giving options below. Here is an infographic showing how your donations will help.

Making a donation to support our work

If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking here.

American supporters can make a donation via our sister organisation, FRRME America, by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking here.

UK residents can make a donation via text message by following the instructions below:

Thank you,
The FRRME Team
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Insights from Sarah Ahmed, Director of Operations
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