The Coronavirus pandemic has created both physical and financial barriers to our programs to help persecuted Christians.
In my work to serve the victims of radical Islam, the need is so great, and my time and resources are stretched so thin that it can be easy to get discouraged.
Restrictions caused by the Coronavirus have been even more discouraging.
For the last two months our ministry partners in Iraq have been unable to deliver adult diapers to those who have a critical need, including some elderly and those wounded during Islamic State attacks who cannot leave their homes.
The lock-down in Iraq may be over soon and I am concerned that the backlog of need will be far greater than we are able to fill.
With few stores having been able to open in the Nineveh Plain after the brutality of occupation by the Islamic State, there are few places available to purchase even basic needs.
My heart aches for those in whose homes I have been, those whom I have prayed with and promised aid to. One I am concerned about is Intesar. I told you about her in a newsletter last year.
Intesar was just 38 years old when I met her. She is a paralyzed mother of two who receives adult diapers from Diapers for Refugees.
She told me her story:
“In 2005 I went to a clinic at Mosul to receive a treatment…unfortunately, when I finished my visit and was on the way to my home village (Qaraqosh), I was shot by an unknown gunman during confrontations between U.S. military troops and terrorists. This shot has changed me from being a normal woman to a paralyzed woman.”
Intesar stopped talking for a while as her eyes filled with tears while she described the crisis she had gone through.
When asked about her living conditions when ISIS occupied Qaraqosh, she replied:
“In August 2014 ISIS started to attack Qaraqosh with mortar fire, some people were killed, and then everyone started to escape from there seeking refuge in Erbil. It was so crowded, tragic to see such view.”
“We left everything behind and went to an unknown future, after waiting for so long in the main checkpoint of Erbil. We finally managed to get in the city, at that time we were sleeping in the streets and gardens. It was so hard for us. Now, we rent a small house because ISIS burned our entire house after collecting our furniture and putting it in the middle of the house to ensure that the fire would increase faster and destroy the house totally. They destroyed all our beautiful memories with it.”
“We don’t have adequate money to rebuild our house. My husband is just a daily worker and we lost all our belongings and savings during the war with ISIS. So many of us are fighting just to live,” she said.
“These helpful diapers are one of my much-needed items that will help me survive. Your team is doing an effective role in presenting services that the government cannot or does not provide for disabled people with their families. You indicate that you do love me through your visit. God bless you all for your faithful loving service to our Lord.”
Stories like Intesar’s tell me why Diapers for Refugees should continue the adult diaper program and expand it, even at a cost of 50 cents each in Iraq.
There is no Medicare or Medicaid in Iraq, and there is no social security for the elderly. Many older Iraqis whose sons were killed by the Islamic State now have no one to support them. They must seek out charity for their needs.
Many of the injured such as Intesar do not have even the shell of their former home left, and now must live in smaller rentals that often also have been damaged by the terrorists of the Islamic State who occupied their towns.
Other Christian Iraqis, including young families with babies and toddlers, have returned to their ancestral homes on the Nineveh Plain.
They have returned to looted and destroyed homes, often without clean running water and with few job opportunities.
My friend, our ministry is blessed to have the opportunity to make a very real impact on Christians who have suffered loss and humiliation.
This is why I have prayed daily through the Coronavirus emergency that the Religious Freedom Coalition would be able to continue to provide diapers every month.
Not just to the disabled elderly, but directly to the babies and toddlers of Christian mothers in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq who have suffered so at the hands of Islamic terror.
New Diaper Program: The coronavirus was introduced to the Bethlehem area by Christians on a pilgrimage from South Korea. No infections were reported until more than two weeks after they left.
Some areas of the Church of the Nativity are small, such as the Grotto of the Nativity. Often areas of the church are very crowded, with virtually no fresh air.
My wife and I have been there many times and in 2017 came across a large group of Korean Christian pilgrims who were singing beautiful hymns in one of the chapel areas.
This year the Korean Christian pilgrims who were infected before leaving Korea also ate at the breakfast buffets this Middle Eastern area of the world is well known for. That is an example of the complexity of a virus spreading.
The situation in the West Bank comes just as we had begun a diaper program at a nursing home for very elderly Christians who are in need of constant medical aid. A local charity provides the beds and medical care, but families must bring in adult diapers which are very expensive there. There is no state program there such as Medicare. The elderly are on their own.
The adult diaper program will be a small start for us, as there are only 30 residents of the nursing home. Almost half do not have family members who can afford the diapers and must depend on occasional gifts. We would assure them a monthly supply.
Please be in prayer for those in the nursing home there. Many of those who died of the coronavirus in Washington State were from just one nursing home.
For now all we can do is pray that funds will be available to wire to those carrying out our programs and that sanity will return to the American financial system somehow.
Two million diapers in 2019: In September the Lord provided the funds through ministry supporters to purchase a four-month supply of diapers instead of three months. The purchase was a real blessing because it relieved the burden of buying and shipping diapers the same month as the Christmas programs in Iraq.
In total, over two million diapers were purchased for distribution in Iraq. Diapers are purchased in bulk four times a year. All diapers are not distributed when shipments are accepted.
We maintain large seagoing containers which we use to warehouse the diapers. Containers are in Ankawa, which is near Erbil, and also at a facility in Qaraqosh. The real name of Qaraqosh, from the time it was an Assyrian Christian town, was Baghdadi. The name was changed when it was overrun by Muslims centuries ago.
I often refer to “two million diapers” but in reality, we buy and distribute many more. The Religious Freedom Coalition is furnishing tens of thousands of adult diapers for special needs. We also supply feminine pads to the mothers of the infants and toddlers.
On the Nineveh Plain, the people have given us the nickname of the Diaper Ministry!
Diapers for Jordan: The Diapers for Refugees program was expanded to Jordan in December of 2018. The majority of diaper recipients in Jordan are special needs Iraqi and Syrian refugees. There are over two million refugees in Jordan with 1.4 million of those “unregistered.” For the most part the Christians, for obvious reasons, are not registered.
The Diaper Ministry: The Christians of the Nineveh Plain call us the “Diaper Ministry” and often tell our associates in Iraq what a blessing the gift of diapers is.
I first visited the town of Qaraqosh shortly after it was liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2016. The battle for Mosul was still ongoing and the front line was close enough for me to hear artillery fire. A Shia militia was using the Christian town as a staging area before moving to the front lines to fight along with the Iraqi Army against the Sunni Muslim Islamic State which still held Mosul.
No civilians had returned, and the only Christians present were members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit (NPU) which is a Christian militia that fought with the Shia Muslims to liberate the area. I met some of these Christians when I led a convoy of three trucks and vans to Qaraqosh to take food and water to the NPU, as they had been isolated by the Kurds.
Our convoy was initially blocked by the Kurdish Peshmerga, who are viewed in the United States as the great heroes of Iraq. In reality, the Kurds were attempting to cut out a piece of Iraq for their own nation and wanted to take most of the Nineveh Plain for that purpose.
The Kurds are not America’s helpers in Iraq; they are helping themselves with American funds and arms. I wrote a column when I returned to the United States about the Kurds stopping our convey from reaching Qaraqosh. It was entitled “Iraqi Palace of Mirrors” and was widely published. It can still be found at WND.COM and other news outlets. Help Christian Refugee Families Today
Since my first visit, I have returned to Qaraqosh several times most often to watch the delivery of diapers to the families who have moved back. The real name of the town is Baghdadi. Baghdadi was the Assyrian name before it was renamed by Muslim Arabs after their expansion out of what is now Saudi Arabia.
This photo of a business looted and burned out in Qaraqosh was taken by me in December 2016. While I was there, a Shia militia drove through town on their way to fight in Mosul, which was held by ISIS.
As far as the Christians who live there are concerned, the name of the town is still Baghdadi. In June of this year, when I visited Baghdadi I was given a shirt with the ancient name of the town on it.
The entire Nineveh Plain region was Assyrian Christian before the invasion by Muslims. It pretty much remained Christian despite persecution by Arabs and Kurds — until the American intervention in Iraq. Since that time, most Christians have been forced out. There were two million Christians in Iraq when the United States invaded in 2003. Today there are only about 200,000 Christians left and most of those would escape if they could.
The few Christians who remain need our help. The Christians of the Nineveh Plain are returning to homes that at best have been looted and at worst completely destroyed. “The diaper ministry,” as we are called there, brings some sunshine to the bleak existence in the devastated towns of the Nineveh Plain. There is no cable TV, no high-speed Internet. There is not even any water pressure. Worse, the well water is as salty as the sea and drinking water must be trucked in. What water is available is too valuable to wash clothing with.
The Christians returning to the towns of the Nineveh Plain find few jobs and have the great expense of rebuilding their lives. Those with babies and toddlers cannot wash cloth diapers because of the water situation. All power is still only by generators as power lines are not up yet. The cost of disposable diapers is a real burden but one that keeps infants free of severe diaper rash infections. Our program removes that burden form these desperate families.
Our Diapers for Refugees program will distribute 500,000 diapers during September, October and November thanks to the generous gifts of the supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition. The mothers of each of those children also receive feminine sanitary pads for themselves.
We don’t stop there. We also distribute adult diapers for elderly and handicapped who have special needs. We transferred the funds for the September purchase of high-quality diapers made in Turkey and the diapers have been delivered to our associate ministry’s warehouse in Erbil and to a distribution facility in Qaraqosh (Baghdadi).
We require the official government ID of the infant or toddler to make sure diapers are used by those in need.
The families are in great need and we work to make sure those in the greatest need are assisted. We work with pastors and priests of all denominations to obtain lists of those in the church who require diapers. Although the volunteers work off those lists to help distribute the diapers, we still require the ID of both the parent and the infant to make sure the diapers go to help those most in need.
Our commitment to the Diapers for Refugees program in Iraq calls for a December distribution of an additional 500,000 diapers, along with sanitary pads and special needs adult diapers. We are very close to achieving that goal at the same time we are ramping up for the Christmas programs in five nations including Syria.
Please pray that whatever funds may still be needed for the Diapers for Refugees program will be raised quickly, allowing us to concentrate on providing Christmas events for thousands of displaced Middle East Christians. Please pray for the children and their parents, that their lives can reach some kind of peace in the middle of the chaos of the Middle East.
Our ministry partner in Jordan has called me several times, pleading for the Diapers for Refugees program to help Christians families there. The small pilot program he envisions would cost only $7,500, but I will not make a commitment until I am sure that every dime needed for the program in Iraq is available. The commitment in Iraq was made for four distributions in 2018, and that promise must be kept.
If current price of diapers stays the same we will distribute 500,000 again in December!
Diapers for Refugees: One million more diapers this year!
Good news: I have sent the $35,000 to Iraq needed to purchase 500,000 diapers for distribution in September.
We distribute six sizes of diapers to displaced Christian families. The small blue package is women’s sanitary pads. Not pictured are adult diapers for special needs individuals.
Bad news: We still need $35,000 for the December distribution at the same time we are preparing for the Christmas for Refugees program expansion.
It will be difficult to raise the $35,000 needed for the diapers at the same time we are raising funds for the Christmas for Refugees program which will be serving refugee children and their families in four, and hopefully five, different nations. Please help Christian refugee children
We are currently buying 500,000 diapers at a time which greatly reduces the cost. Each diaper shipment supplies diapers for about 2,000 infants and toddlers over a three-month period. Since we buy in this quantity, we can buy them direct from the factory in Turkey for just 3.7 cents each. Over a three-month period, around 300 diapers are distributed per child. The actual number for each child depends upon age. Packages contain from 24 to 44 diapers depending on the age.
Diapers for Refugees will distribute 888 of these packages of adult diapers in September to those in the most need
The Diapers for Refugees program began in 2016 when I learned of the horrors caused by a lack of clean diapers. Some babies were scarred for life from extreme diaper rash that became infected. Cloth diapers could not be washed properly as there was no hot water and so many people were sharing the limited bathroom facilities that there were outbreaks of disease.
As Christian families move back to their looted and burned out homes in the Nineveh Plain, the situation has not improved. The well water has the same content of salt as sea water and can’t be used to wash cloth diapers. Drinking and cooking water must be trucked in for perhaps another year, until lines are repaired to bring in fresh water from elsewhere.
Adult diapers are a separate issue. We are buying 888 packages of special needs adult diapers for distribution in September. These are very high quality manufactured in Turkey. There is a great need for these among very elderly Christians who did not receive critical medical care earlier.
Please pray with me that all the funds needed for the Diapers for Refugees program for the rest of the year will be raised well before the beginning of the Christmas season. There is a critical need.
I do not want to be forced to choose between funding the Diaper program in December or cutting back on the number of children and their families we can help celebrate the Lord’s birth at Christmas for Refugees events.
Many of these Christians have seen loved ones die in horrible, violent ways and at the very least all of them have lost their homes and possessions. Let’s do what we can to help them! Help Christian Refugee children today
While many families have been able to return to their destroyed homes in the Nineveh Plain, there is still a desperate need for disposable diapers. Without supplies needed to wash cloth diapers, and barely enough clean water for drinking, our Diapers for Refugees program is needed more then ever. In 2017 we were able to expand our program from providing not only diapers for families with babies, but we were also able to provide much needed sanitary pads for women, and also adult diapers for the elderly and disabled.
The following testimony was shared by one of our ministry partners from the February 5, 2018 diaper distribution where a three months supply of diapers was delivered to 1,037 families with babies or toddlers, and also to 112 elderly or disabled adults in need of diapers. While making diaper deliveries in the almost destroyed town of Qaraqosh, the ministry worker met with an elderly Christian man who had been driven from his home by Islamic State terrorists, but has recently been able to return home. In his own words, Matthew expressed his thanks.
(Alias Matthew Shooshandy) 85 years old and paralyzed:
“I love to state my gratitude for your help, because we use this aid as much as we have it, plus… I want to ask you to keep providing this kind of help, because I can’t effort the diapers for myself due to my disability and illness. “I am aged patient, but now at least I can sleep in properly in my home with a proper life. I am satisfied with what God done for me that He made me be able to return back to my hometown, I believe that he didn’t forget me. I love my hometown; And my church which my father, the village families ,and I helped to build Al-Tahera church that’s why I will never leave it; part of my life. my 2 sons left Iraq and went to find a new life USA and Australia, and and my daughters went to live Sweden since 2015 but I decided to stay here in Qarakoush till I die”.
In 2018 we hope to expand the diaper program even more. Our goal is to provide disposable diapers, sanitary pads, and adult diapers to over 600 families who need them. That comes out to $36,000 needed every 3 months.
Chairman William Murray traveled to Iraq to help with the diaper deliveries and distributions in June.
Our ministry partners in Iraq have pleaded with me to expand the diaper program. In December of 2017 they made an urgent request to increase the quarterly shipment of diapers from 160,000 to 180,000 and to increase the number of adult diapers and feminine sanitary pads.
I had closed our fundraising for the program in July of 2017 as I thought our goal for the year had been met. The increase in need presented a problem. By the grace of God, unsolicited donations to the Diapers for Refugees were received in December allowing the program to be expanded.
Double the program? During 2016 and 2017 diapers were being supplied to the families “most in need.” Many families in the refugee camps in Ankawa and Erbil we did not help with diapers were able to “get by.” Now, many of those families have moved back to their devastated towns including Qaraqosh where the only water available is bottled water for drinking. Washing cloth diapers is not possible and now the need for the disposable diapers we furnish has drastically increased.
The hard facts: The numbers in our diaper program sound big. But, the Diapers for Refugees program provides for just six diapers per day for 300 of the Christian families with infants and toddlers that are in the most need. As they return to the destroyed homes in their villages without access to other aid, the number of families needing help with diapers now exceeds 600. That is double the number our Diapers for Refugee program now assists.
To help those Christian families most in need the program must be doubled from 160,000 diapers per quarter to 320,000 diapers per quarter, YES – The number sounds high but it is just six diapers per day for three months per child. Younger infants receive more, toddlers less but the average is just six per day or 180 per month for each child in need.
In addition, our program must supply feminine pads for the mothers and adult diapers for some of the elderly.
Please add these families to your prayers. To double the program would be an enormous task. Please pray that the Lord will give guidance as to how to proceed with the diaper program.
If possible, please help us get a good start on the 2018 Diapers for Refugees program. The program must continue even if we are not able to expand. Pray the Lord will guide us.
Need increases as Christian families return to Nineveh Plain
Displaced Iraqi Christian women receive diapers for their infants and toddlers, supplied by the Diapers for Refugees program
At the request of the Diapers for Refugees ministry partner in Iraq, the number of diapers for infants and toddlers was increased and additional help was supplied for women’s needs and the elderly.
The number of diapers purchased increased from 160,000 to 180,000. The number of families returning to their burned-out homes in Qaraqosh and other Christian towns made the increase necessary, as some families who used to obtain diapers from other sources in the Erbil area can no longer do so. You see, not only were the homes burned and looted, but so were all the stores and businesses.
The increase to 180,000 increased our cost for the infant and toddler diapers from $18,000 to $19,800. At the beginning of 2017 the Diapers for Refugees program was also supplying the mothers of the children who received the diapers with feminine pads. For December the need was increased to 2,000 packages. Those 2,000 packages will be distributed over a period of three months as our purchases are made in bulk every three months in Dohuk, Iraq. A dedicated truck brings the supplies to the ministry warehouse in the Erbil area.
In addition, the Diapers for Refugees program during 2017 supplied adult diapers to grandparents of the children who were in need of these. The families moving back to villages also increased the need for these.
Other ministry organizations and secular groups are supplying food and other aid to displaced Iraqi Christians as they try to rebuild their lives. Food is not enough. Their homes and businesses were looted by the Islamic State (ISIS). I have been in their homes and businesses in Qaraqosh the last time in June of 2017. Everything was stolen, even the electrical outlets were taken from the walls and then most of the homes were burned.
The local ministries run by Christian aid groups operating in the Nineveh Plain keep track of what is supplied. A lot of things that have not been requested and are not needed, such as used clothing, are sent from the United States anyway.
Diapers for Refugees, along with other projects of the Religious Freedom Coalition, first find out what is needed by the refugees — and then try to fill the need. For that reason, the Diapers for Refugees program was expanded in December to increase not only the number of diapers but the number of packages of feminine pads and adult diapers as well.
As a result, our costs in December increased from $18,000 to $23,475. To help with the increased cost please donate here.
Girls hold diapers distributed by our Diapers for Refugees program
The general manager of the ministry that carries out our programs in Iraq is currently in the United States and may not be able to return to his base in Erbil except by dangerous means.
He and his wife (for security reasons I cannot use names) arrived in the United States on a special visa the last week of September. The purpose of their travel was to speak with the various ministries in the United States who support them and their organization in Erbil, which is located in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
While they were in Washington, DC I arranged an off-the-record meeting for Maher with an official with the State Department, and with other ministry organizations that can help them. I also arranged meetings with Senate offices on Capitol Hill.
On September 25th the Kurds held an “independence vote.” The Kurdish voters overwhelmingly voted to create an independent state. The reaction of the Iraqi government was to close the borders of Kurdistan and shut down airline operations into the Kurdish region including the Erbil airport.
Bottom line: The airline tickets they have to return to Erbil cannot be used to fly to Erbil.
They can, at a cost, change the tickets to fly into Baghdad but then would have to make a very perilous journey of 400 kilometers from Baghdad to Erbil by ground transportation. Currently the routes go through areas that are not totally safe from Jihadists and bandits.
Please pray for Christian workers in Kurdistan and all the areas of Iraq. They work hard to minister to the persecuted Christians of the Nineveh Plain.
How will our Christmas program be affected?: This will be the sixth year of RFC’s Christmas program. This year we will be our sixth year in Jordan, our fifth year in Lebanon and our third year in Iraq. Each year I have been at each location to oversee the program.
As of now I have no way to get into Iraq for Christmas. Until now, I could fly directly into the Kurdish region without an Iraqi visa. Now, because there are no direct flights to Erbil, I would have to fly to Baghdad first, which would require an Iraqi visa. The Iraqi government is NOT issuing visas to those who state their destination is in Kurdistan.
[su_button url=”http://christmasforrefugees.org/donate/”]Please help a Christian refugee child have a real Christmas[/su_button]
Worse, the Kurdish and Iraqi armies that together were fighting the Islamic State are now squared off against each other in the oil rich Kirkuk Governorate. The Iraqi Army has already pushed the Kurds out of the city of Kirkuk proper. Please pray that this situation with the Kurds and Iraqis is resolved without a full-scale war in which the Christians will suffer the most.
As of today, we are still able to get supplies into Iraq from Turkey, but we do not know how long that will last. I have sent some funds to our partners in Iraq to purchase in advance some items needed for the Christmas program. We can probably obtain everything needed in the next few weeks except the food for the meals at the Christmas events for the children.
Please pray for the Christians of the Nineveh Plain, particularly the children who have suffered so much already.
Jihadists threaten compound: The first June distribution for Diapers for Refugees was scheduled for June 16th and I was there at 9:00 AM despite not arriving from Amman, Jordan until 3:30 AM that same day. I was greeted with a threat.
The Arabic says: “Christians and Christ men must be cut.” The term “Christ men” refers to preachers and priests, and the word used for “cut” clearly means beheading.
The first distribution was set at the Ozal compound that from the outside looks like a nice suburban neighborhood of attached homes, similar to what we call townhomes. But it is far from normal, as up to five Christian families live in each house. It was in this compound that one of our first Christmas for Refugees events was held in Iraq three years ago.
As our trucks entered the camp I noticed spray painted graffiti on the external wall. The Arabic was clear. It said: “Christians and Christ men must be cut.” The term “Christ men” refers to preachers and priests, and the word used for “cut” clearly means beheading. That was the greeting I received on my first full day back in Iraq to take aid to the persecuted Christians there.
The outward appearance of the area is one of serenity, although I doubt that inside the homes there is much serenity, with several families living in each house and using the same kitchen and bathroom. All construction stopped on these homes when the ISIS army got to within 25 miles of Erbil, and some churches have been able to rent them for the refugees’ use.
Chairman William Murray passing out diapers.
There are many volunteers for the Diapers for Refugees program. Many of the men who escaped with their families from the Nineveh Plain and Mosul have no work, and they do what they can to help. There is no shortage of labor to unload trucks or set up areas for distribution. On some occasions, husbands or grandmothers pick up the diapers for busy mothers.
Over the past year sanitary pads for the mothers and adult diapers for special needs elderly have been added to the program. The women are particularly thankful for the sanitary pads which are costly when not bought wholesale.
While the need for the adult diapers is not acute, there are some in the camps that do require them. Many times, elderly women are too embarrassed to request these and a daughter or son will bring her ID to the distribution to obtain them.
We purchase 160,000 diapers every three months from a supplier in Dohuk, Iraq which is about a two-hour drive from Erbil. Dohuk is a major city with a metropolitan population of well over one million and it is a distribution hub for goods manufactured in Europe and Turkey. The diapers we purchase are of a high quality and are made in Turkey.
The entire three-month supply is not delivered to a family at one time for several reasons including the ability to carry them home, and the fact that the children grow and needs can change from month to month. The diapers are kept in a dedicated sea-going container that has been converted for warehouse use.
Our program shares a warehouse area that is literally made up of containers stacked up on each other. Fortunately, our container is on the bottom and easy to load and unload. The diapers are all stacked by size in the container leaving a walkway to unload the appropriate sizes for each distribution. Distributions are done monthly at several different camps.