Iraqi Christians face new death sentence

June

Iraqi Christians living in the US are being rounded up by immigration officials and deported to Iraq in what human rights lawyers are calling a “death sentence.” More than 200 Iraqis, many of whom are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, are facing deportation for committing petty crimes and misdemeanors. However, many facing deportation, described as “criminal aliens” by officials, have argued that the charges were handed down decades ago and that they pose no risk at all to the community.

To get a sense of what these people are facing if they are forcibly returned to Iraq, please read the below interview with Imad, one of the Iraqi Christian refugees we are helping in Jordan.

FRRME: “Where in Iraq are you from and why did you leave?”

Imad: “I am originally from Mosul. When we were there during the invasion in 2003 people were being killed according to their identity. If you were Christian they would kill you. I saw my friends in a car near my house get killed. My wife saw this too and said we must leave Mosul and go to another region. That is when we went to Nineveh. We lived a normal life there but when ISIS came in 2014 and the fighting started we went to Erbil in Kurdistan.”

FRRME: “What was life like in Nineveh before ISIS came?”

Imad: “It was good. We had a house, a car, and I ran my own car repair business. But we were afraid. It was dangerous for us because we are Christian. If, for instance, I repaired someone’s car and the owner of the car did not want to pay the bill, I couldn’t say anything as a Christian. Even though it was dangerous it was still a good life for us in Nineveh.”

FRRME: “What was life like before Nineveh?”

Imad: “It was tough. In 1997, a person broke into my house. He was holding a gun and wearing black clothes. He told us not to say anything. He told us to give him all the money we had. I told him I had 400 Iraqi dinars, the gold of my wife, and a car. Then I distracted the man for a moment and struck him, trying to incapacitate him. The man shot me in the chest. My uncle was there as well and was shot in the leg. My wife and mother and nephew hid and were safe. The man ran away, and my nephew took us to the hospital.”

FRRME: “What is life like in Jordan now with your family?”

Imad: “Life here is better than in Iraq. We live in safety, and we thank God and FRRME for everything. We thank the King of Jordan too for allowing us to come here.”

FRRME: “How have things changed for you in Jordan?”

Imad: “In Iraq, I went to church from time to time, maybe twice per year. Here in Jordan we have gotten to know Jesus more and more. When I was in Iraq, I didn’t read the Bible. Here in Jordan I read the Bible every day.”

FRRME: “Did the hardship you experienced make you trust God more?”

Imad: “Everything I went through brought me closer to Jesus.”

FRRME: “What is your hope for leaving Jordan? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do next?”

Imad: “I would like to go to Australia. Every day I pray to God that I will be able to go to Australia and that my wife and daughter will be able to go there as well. I pray that my daughter can go to school and that we can have a home of our own there, that we can have a normal and safe life again.”

FRRME: “Have you put in an application to go to Australia?”

Imad: “Yes, I put in an application with the Australian Embassy last year. We want to go to Australia because the Christians have more rights and help in Australia.”

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

Shelter and English Classes in Jordan

June

As Jordan continues to host the 2nd largest number of refugees relative to the size of its population – 9% of its inhabitants are now refugees (UNHCR*) – FRRME is providing hope to Iraqi Christians through relief and education classes with your help. 

In the past month 1,000 food packages were distributed to Iraqi Christian refugee families in Amman and Madaba, and new evening classes teaching English are now being provided by our local church partners.

  • As well as the English language, classes in cooking, sewing, woodworking and computer skills have now been set up to equip and train Christian Iraqi refugees.
  • Children’s bible study classes for kindergarten, elementary school and teens in Fuheis.
  • Transportation is provided for refugees to attend classes.
  • 100% of our aid relief to refugees in Jordan is to Iraqi Christians
  • As refugees they are not permitted to obtain paid employment, despite many having previously owned businesses in Iraq.

 Michael and Theresa are an elderly Christian couple originally from Mosul.

FRRME is giving rent for us and help with food packages and food coupons.

Michael and Theresa ran a restaurant in Mosul but Sunni extremists bombed it in 2008. They went to Qaraqosh but fled when Islamic State came in 2014. They managed to get to Jordan have lost everything, including their life savings and pension (the bank in Iraq will not give them their money because they are Christian). Thanks to you, we are supporting them.

FRRME want to continue to provide shelter, food, education, fun and hope, with your help. How to make a DONATION to support FRRME:

  • If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking HERE. You can also set up a standing order and Gift Aid your giving. Regular giving mean we can keep planning ahead, and ensure that the queues for food, medical relief and education needs flow effectively. Together we are making a difference.
  • For our American supporters, make your donation HERE to qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-deductible status.
  • You can also make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking HERE.

We would also ask that you prayerfully consider increasing your standing order this month, if one is already in place. Contact our office@frrme.org.

Thank you for your support,

From the FRRME Team & the Nazarene Church Sunday School.

* UNHCR Jordan Global Focus

Fleeing to safe havens

June

As news reached our office of the continued barbarity inflicted upon Iraqi civilians trying to flee the city of MOSUL, your much needed relief support keeps the food queues flowing and hope defiantly alive.

In Northern Iraq, this week FRRME have continued to provide food, water, shelter, medical support and education at Harsham and Debaga camps, made possible with your donations.
  • This past month 1,800 families were helped directly through FRRME’s relief distribution. This is 10,860 individuals fed.
  • Our partners in Northern Iraq, including the Syrian Orthodox Church, Armenian Church and the Al-Bishara Christian charity were able to help feed 4,000 families – that is nearly 25,000 people.
  • FRRME contributed 845 much needed food packs to this distribution (see above infographic).
  • Educational projects continue to flourish at the Um Al Noor Christian Kindergarten and the Harsham Camp IDP School.
  • 85% of families helped were Christian IDPs, still remaining in Iraq.
  • At FRRME we want them to be able to remain, living in safety and hope.
  • 15% of families helped Yazidis, Shabak and Muslims – all suffering and displaced from their homes.

Your provision, both financial and through prayer, are making a difference; but we want to do more than just keep that hope alive. At FRRME we want it to grow, enabled by the effective and dedicated team in the Middle East, led by our Director of Operations ME, Dr Sarah. Please DONATE today.

HOW TO MAKE A DONATION TO SUPPORT FRRME:

  • If you are a UK resident, you can make a single or regular donation via our website by clicking HERE. You can also set up a standing order and Gift Aid your giving. Regular giving mean we can keep planning ahead, and ensure that the queues for food, medical relief and education needs flow effectively. Together we are making a difference.
  • For our American supporters, make your donation HERE to qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-deductible status.
  • You can also make a donation to our emergency appeal by clicking HERE.

We would also ask that you prayerfully consider increasing your standing order this month, if one is already in place. Contact our office@frrme.org.

Thank you for your support,

The FRRME Team

Children displaced in their own land

At the Harsham Primary School this week, the children were very excited to see our Director of Operations, Dr Sarah Ahmed, and her dedicated relief team. The team came bearing gifts!

In Northern Iraq, FRRME have continued to support our education projects at Harsham Primary School, the Kirkuk Autism Centre and the Um Al Noor Christian Kindergarten in Erbil. This month:

  • FRRME provided 782 books for Harsham Primary School.
  • The children did not have the right materials to complete their current term.
  • Your financial support assisted in providing over eight different teaching resources for the primary school.

Lowi happy to be getting new books!

Neither the Central Government Ministry of Education or the KRG Ministry of Education were able to provide the books in the IDP schools, simply because of the vast demand on their resources at this time of conflict.

FRRME where asked to contribute because of our well-known reputation in Iraq for supporting education for IDPs.

The reward was extremely happy children, excited to receive the books and the chance to learn and complete their school year.

We are so grateful for your support. Without it, the IDP children we are helping, like Lowi, would struggle. And most of all we consider every gift however large or small, as an act of worship and giving to God.

We would like to ask that you prayerfully consider increasing your standing order this month if you already regularly donate to FRRME. Regular giving mean we can keep planning ahead, and ensure that the queues for food, medical relief and education needs flow effectively. Together we are making a difference.

Thank you for your support,  

The FRRME Team

 

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.  You can also set up a standing order here, make a monthly donation and partner with us.

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:

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
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Insights from Sarah Ahmed, Director of Operations
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