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.
Our Diapers for Refugees program continues to
function in most areas other than Iraq, where there are continuing problems
because of Covid-19. Notably in Jordan
we have expanded the distribution of adult diapers to more elderly and special
needs people in need. Most of those are either Iraqi or Syrian refugees who do
not qualify for any aid from the Jordanian government, as they are not
The diaper program has also expanded in the West Bank areas of Bethlehem
and Beit Sahour. Adult diapers continue to be given at a Christian care center
there, but we have also ordered diapers for a Christian orphanage that takes in
severely handicapped children. As the children there are older, more expensive
diapers are required.
Please pray for all affected by Covid-19. Please pray for our continued
mission to persecuted Christians, in particular the children.
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.
No diapers this December: As mentioned in a recent newsletter, the Diapers for Refugees program has changed the dates we buy diapers making December a lot easier to manage financially.
In September we were able to buy diapers for four months by setting up the next purchase date in January instead of December. That is good news … But we still need $28,000 to buy a three-month supply of diapers in January.
Please pray that provision will be made not only for the shipment of diapers in January but for all of 2020 as well. There is a huge need for adult special needs diapers for the elderly and those with severe disabilities. Please pray for all those we assist in Iraq and other nations with the Diapers for Refugees program.
Why so many? Why is there such a horrific need for adult special needs diapers in Iraq?
One of the reasons for the need is physical injuries suffered during 18 years of continuous war in Iraq.
I have previously I told the story of Intesar (38), a paralyzed mother of two who receives adult diapers from our Diapers for Refugees program. She was paralyzed when hit by crossfire between American troops and Islamic State terrorists.
But cases like hers do not explain the large number of young people born with neurological disorders and other issues the last 10 to 15 years that cause them to need diapers the rest of their lives.
I am beginning to understand the cause and it is not going to go away.
Many of those born with neurological problems have high levels of uranium and thorium in their bodies. Some close to American bases have radiation levels in their teeth 28 times greater than normal. A lot of the ammunition we used in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan was made out of depleted uranium.
“Depleted” sounds safe, but there is no such thing as uranium that is not radioactive. Even the raw ore coming from the ground is radioactive.
But there is a bigger issue. Chemically, uranium causes the same problems that lead does.
Uranium mines are not safe and mining companies take steps to protect workers. Safeguards are mandated by the Federal government. The state of Virginia has the largest reserves of uranium in the nation and will not allow mining because of the dangers.
A mining association report says thaturanium ore “…has chemical toxicity similar to lead, so occupational hygiene precautions are taken similar to those in a lead smelter.”
In other words, the uranium can cause the same neurological damage as lead even if it was not radioactive, which it is. Yes, it is a small amount of radiation. The problem is the length of exposure. Children near American bases and in areas where there was heavy combat are showing the signs of neurological damage.
I am not judging the kind of ammunition our military forces use in Iraq or elsewhere. I am no expert on what is effective. All I know is that we need a lot more diapers for special needs children.
In the middle of preparations for the Christmas for Refugees program I can’t work on the special needs’ diapers program … but I promise you I will beginning in January. This problem is not going to go away.
There are many elderly who did not receive proper medical care during the last two decades who now require diapers. There are many middle-age and young who were injured in bombings and shot by the Islamic State. Then there are the younger ones that break my heart because they will never have normal lives.
The suffering of these younger Iraqi Christians is not abstract for me. My wife Nancy and I have been in their homes. We have prayed with them and we have promised them help. I intend, with the help of the Lord, to keep my promise to them.
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.
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.
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