Just as it did during most of 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create 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 thin.
Restrictions caused by the coronavirus have caused even more stress on our systems to distribute aid to persecuted Christians.
Since March of last year our ministry partners in Iraq have had great difficulty delivering adult diapers to those who have critical needs and cannot leave their homes, including the elderly and those wounded during Islamic State attacks.
Our operations in Erbil have been forced to shut down and we are now working with partners in Duhok, which is north of Erbil.
Duhok, a city of 1.5 million, is the center of Assyrian Christian culture but now has scores of empty churches, as Christians have been forced to abandon the area over the last several decades.
Many Christians are in poverty, having had their homes and businesses destroyed by the Islamic State.
Many of those in need in Duhok are from the same Christian towns as those who also fled to Erbil. They are displaced in their own homeland.
There is no Medicare or Medicaid in Iraq, and there is no social security for the elderly. Many older Christians, particularly women whose sons were killed by the Islamic State, have no one to support them. They must seek out charity for their needs.
The Christian community in Iraq has been badly broken by the continued attacks since the first Gulf War. The Islamic State destroyed Christian families and homes, and the Muslim controlled Iraqi government does little to help Christians rebuild. Then came Covid-19!
One church we were working with in Duhok was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to suspend operations. Medical care had already been poor in Iraq, before Covid-19 completely overwhelmed the hospitals.
My good friend Ashur Eskrya, who was president of the Assyrian Aid Society, died due to Covid-19 in April. His organization was one of those assisting in the distribution of diapers.
As bad as Covid-19 is in Iraq, we still managed to distribute about 10,000 adult diapers monthly to special needs elderly adults and 50,000 diapers monthly to destitute families with infants.
Each month the reports from Duhok arrive on my desk, with the stories of special needs adults that break my heart.
Often, along with the reports are photos that I just cannot share here, such as one of a man whose feet had turned black from lack of proper medical care.
There are still lockdowns in Iraq. Hopefully those lockdowns will end this year.
When the lockdowns finally end, it is important that we have in place the financial resources to reach the special needs adults, including those gravely wounded by Islamic terror.
Young families are financially worse off than ever as the Christian population continues to shrink in Iraq. Parents with babies and toddlers have returned to their ancestral homes on the Nineveh Plains to find factories and businesses destroyed.
What work there is goes to Muslim men, not Christians.
Iraqi and Syrian Christians have fled to Jordan.
There is still fighting in Iraq and the Sunni Muslim revolt is still ongoing in Syria.
Many of the Christian Iraqi and Syrian refugees we help in Jordan are not infants. Many of those receiving aid are elderly and have special needs. Because they are not Jordanian citizens, they receive no government aid.
Many we supply adult diapers to in Jordan are not elderly but were wounded in terror attacks or are extremely ill. Mrs. Al-Daoud, an elderly woman now living in Safout, Jordan had a stroke during an attack that caused her paralysis, and she is unable to move.
Mrs. Al-Daoud is not a citizen of Jordan and receives no government aid. We supply adult diapers and wet wipes to her continuously. Without state aid she must rely upon an unemployed daughter who came with her for all her needs.
Despite the Covid-19 lockdowns we are able to continuously supply diapers to 97 special needs Christian adults, most of them elderly but some younger who are paralyzed.
Up until Covid-19 began to sweep across the world the Diapers for Refugees program was growing in Jordan and Iraq.
During 2019 we were able to increase the size of the program, so the cost per diaper went down. The more diapers we are able to buy at one time, the less each diaper costs!
The bad news is that our funding has become tighter as the coronavirus has affected the incomes of the vast majority of Americans.
In 2019 we were able to deliver over two million diapers to toddlers, infants and special needs adults. In 2020 our totals were down to one million, but our costs per diaper increased.
Diapers for Refugees: The Covid-19 situation and continued lockdowns in the Middle East have stalled much of our Diapers for Refugees efforts, particularly in Iraq. Lockdowns are a real problem for many ministries operating in Middle East nations. Because medical care is so limited in some, the only solution the governments can seem to come up with is lockdowns.
A reality check: California had nearly total lockdowns with even public parks and beaches closed. Florida had virtually no lockdowns. The result? The numbers of infections per 100,000 residents were almost exactly the same in both California and Florida.
Charts of month infection rates shows the two states as almost identical although Florida had fewer cases of Covid-19 and fewer hospitalizations per one million residents than California overall. The lockdowns did little to help, and many people were infected in their homes by someone that had to work.
It isn’t getting better in the Middle East because many of those nations cannot afford to buy any Covid-19 vaccines. They do lockdowns instead making economic measures worse.
Because of the lockdowns our Diapers for Refugees program came to a halt except inside some churches. In the Iraqi city of Dohuc we have one church distributing infant diapers, and the Assyrian Aid Society distributing both infant diapers and adult diapers to the neediest Christians.
Our diaper and food programs in the areas of the Holy Land controlled by the Palestinian Authority continue, but again the number of cases there continues to climb.
Although Israel had inoculated over half its population by mid-February, only 5,000 doses of vaccine had made their way to the West Bank where 2.9 million Palestinians live. None of the 5,000 vaccine shots were given to Christians in the West Bank. (Note: Our worker there, and his entire family have already suffered from Covid-19. )
The Christian population of the West Bank has dropped under Palestinian Authority control and is now about 50,000, far too few to maintain a self-sustaining population.
We have a food program for those Christian families most in need in Bethlehem and in the Christian town of Beit Sahour. Each month our worker and volunteers deliver packages of food to impoverished Christian families.
Lists of families in great need are obtained from churches and each has a story.
One of the families consists of a widow who has 5 children. Her husband died 10 years ago at the age of 35 due to cancer. She was left all alone to raise and provide for her 5 children.
Another family we help consists of a widow named Nadia, 71 years old, living with her 2 sons. Her eldest son is 50 years old and is unable to work due to being almost completely blind. He can only see within a yard and with a blurry vision. The other son has been handicapped most of his life and unable to move his body on his own at all.
Nadia is now unable to work due to her age and physical health and is constantly in need of support as there isn’t any source of income for the family. When we knocked on her door and provided her with the food packages and told her that we will see her in a month, she was both confused and happy, with tears in her eyes that she was holding back in front of us.
There is no help for Christian families such as these from the Palestinian Authority. In the next newsletter I will share more stories of these families with you.
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.