By William J. Murray
Camps for displaced persons swelling during Mosul assault: Over the last two weeks I have received emails and urgent calls about the situation in northern Iraq. Refugee camps are being overrun by refugees from Mosul. In 2004 the city of Mosul had a population of 1.6 million. It is estimated that about 700,000 still remained after the takeover by the Islamic State in 2014. Most of the Christians fled to the Erbil area. Shia Muslims moved to other towns. Many of the Sunni Muslims stayed. Tens of thousands are now fleeing because of house to house fighting.
The Iraqi Army along with Shia Muslim militias have entered Mosul and the fighting is intense. When I was in Iraq in December, standing in the decimated town of Qaraqosh, I was close enough to Mosul to here artillery strikes in the city.
Christians who were trapped in Mosul in 2014 are now fleeing along with tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims. The result is chaos, as the Kurdish Authority who controls the area does not know who to trust.
Meanwhile the need is great.
Instead of the refugee camps we support in Erbil thinning out, there are more displaced persons arriving, many of them with babies. The Diapers for Refugees program does need to expand but the funds are not available now. The program is filling the needs of about 300 families and that is the best we can do.
Female refugees have an unmet need: One of the greatest needs is sanitary pads for women. As part of the Christmas for Refugees program last December, the family of every child who participated received hygiene materials. In these heavy plastic bags filled with soaps, shampoos, disinfectants, laundry soaps and other supplies, there were feminine sanitary pads. Some of the women visibly cried when they saw what they were getting.
The financial goal for the month of March for the Diapers for Refugees program was reached early, and I have been working to put together a program for the sanitary supplies needed for women. Our Iraqi partner is obtaining quotes for different quantities from various suppliers in Turkey. That is the only place, for now, where we can obtain high quality supplies without the expense of shipping from the United States.
This is such a taboo subject in the Middle East that even getting the men who run the ministry in Iraq to make calls to suppliers was difficult. This is not America, where products to enhance sex are advertised on TV during family hours. (I wish at least some subjects were taboo here, but it seems in the age of “gay is great” nothing is taboo in the US.)
I may travel to Iraq and Jordan in May or June to assess what is being done and how our capacities may be able to help. The need is very great and we must make sure that the small amounts we have to help with serve the needs of persecuted Christians in the most useful way.
Please continue to pray with me for the Lord to guide us as to how best to help the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.