Christmas for Refugees program to expand
We made a special day even more special: During December, 2013 the first ever Christmas for Refugees dinners were held despite numerous last minute problems including the heaviest snow storm in Jordan in decades.
Originally just one dinner with as many as 900 children was planned. Honestly I must now say that this was a mistake. For an event that large to be successful, everything had to go perfectly including weather conditions. Yet our primary facility had no power, and buses to bring the children could not be moved because of the heavy snow.
As I previously related I arrived on the last flight to make it into the Amman, Jordan airport during the storm. It took me over eight hours to make the journey from the airport to the hotel in the city of Amman just a few miles away.
The original dinner had to be quickly downsized and moved to an area with power. Two more dinners had to be held on different dates for children who could not attend on the originally planned date. The last Christmas for Refugees dinner was not held until two days after Christmas on December 27th.
Even more than the snow on the roadways, our single biggest problem was power. The roads were cleared within three days of the storm in Amman. My hotel in the more modern section of the city with underground power lines, was never without power. The older areas of Amman and the towns to the north of the city were for the most part without power for nearly a week in freezing temperatures.
Many people rely on kerosene heaters during the winter and no one in the city itself was reported to have died from the cold, although nine Syrian children froze to death in the UN refugee camps while I was there. I visited many refugee homes while in Jordan and will write more on the heaters and the dangers involved with them later.
Christmas for Refugees in 2014: In 2013 I made some mistakes in planning the Christmas for Refugees dinner, the biggest of which was attempting one large grand event as I have done successfully in the United States in the past. Planning an event such as this one anywhere in the Middle East is just not the same as holding a reception for a congressman in the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC.
First and foremost the dinners must be smaller and held in different locations, some closer to the refugee camps themselves. Secondly we
must have backup plans in case of weather or power issues. And most importantly, we must begin earlier in the year with both the planning and the fund raising efforts.
Christmas for Refugees and fund raising: For over two decades I have personally been involved in raising funds to assist Christians in the Middle East. I saw firsthand the plight of Christians and the persecution they faced long before 9-11, and before there was any awareness in America of problems with radical Islam. My first efforts at raising funds for persecuted Christians were centered on helping Palestinian Christians in Samaria (the West Bank).
Those who have been supporting this ministry for many years may recall that at one time we actually sold olive oil soap handmade by Christians in the West Bank who could not work in the villages because they were outcasts. To this very day I continue to support efforts to assist Christians in and around Ariel where we support a mission headed by David Ortiz. I have stayed in his apartment, the same one in which is son was severely injured by a bomb.
I have personally taken medical supplies with me to Christian clinics in Kosovo and the South Sudan as well as to Christian clinics in Jordan for refugees from Iraq and Syria.
Virtually every effort I have made to assist Christians has been done at an overall deficit to this ministry. We have never recovered actual or administrative costs through fundraising. Every single project was run at a deficit – EXCEPT THIS ONE!
For the first time ever, our fund raising efforts were successful outside the base support of those who have been friends of the Religious Freedom Coalition for many years. Dozens of new supporters came forward who heard about the Christmas for Refugees program on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. About $7,000 was raised through social media, which allowed me to expand greatly the amount of food in the “joy bags” prepared for each child to take home to their family. I am encouraged to continue the Christmas for Refugees program as long as there are Christian refugees forced from their homes by persecution.
The current Christian refugee situation: I cannot even begin to explain the refugee situation in Jordan without tears coming to my
eyes. No one should live in the conditions that I have seen in refugee homes in Amman and the surrounding areas.
Currently more than half of the population of Jordan is made up of refugees. Some are permanent and dangerous such as the Palestinian refugees that Western nations have kept in camps rather than resettling them. Millions more are refugees from Iran, Iraq and Syria. In the midst of these mostly Muslim refugees are tens of thousands of Christians.
Two out of three Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Jordan do not live in established refugee camps. There is simply not enough room in the camps. In addition once in a UN Camp, mobility and the ability to make money independently is lost. The result is a huge urban refugee crisis.
During this last mission to Jordan I entered one basement apartment with three rooms and a kitchen. There was no shower and one Chinese style toilet that was outside. Including all adults and children, there were thirty (30) people living in the apartment! The basement was never actually intended for human habitation, but the building owner was willing to rent it out to them. Cooking and heating in the windowless apartment was provided by kerosene heaters. Those heaters had been provided by our local partner ministry in Jordan. In freezing weather the heaters are used constantly with no ventilation.
At every apartment I visited we left some food stuffs and kerosene – all that we had. Sadly, on the day I visited these refugee homes we only
had one van load of supplies. These families get nothing from the United Nations because they are not in the camps. However, if they showed up at one of the refugee camps they would be turned away for lack of space. Christians are often turned away even if there is space.
There is no trash pickup at many of the refugee apartments I visited, because they are not officially places people are supposed to be living. At one building I was horrified to see that trash had been burned on the roof.
You may have noted through the years that it is very rare that I show a photo of anyone’s face when reporting on my mission trips. Those I come into contact with could face death just for publicly acknowledging Jesus in their current circumstances. I wish I could, because of the many smiles I am greeted with despite the despair these refugees live in.
Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today, and have been in Islamic nations for the past 1,400 years. Only Jews have been treated worse under Islamic regimes.
I continue to work with congressmen and Senators on various issues regarding persecution of Christians in the Middle East and religious freedom issues back here in the United States. Just prior to leaving for the mission to Amman, Jordan in December, I spoke to several congressmen about the mission. I also contacted several former congressmen, Senators and governors, asking them for public statements of support for the Christmas for Refugees program.
Domestic issues not forgotten: Often I arrange meetings with congressmen and Senators for conservative leaders who do not have an office in Washington, DC. On many occasions I escort those leaders to meet with congressmen and Senators as well. One such leader who recently came to Washington was Dr. Ted Baehr, the founder and president of the Christians Television and Movie Commission. You are probably more familiar with him as the founder of MovieGuide.org, the number one movie review site for Christians.
Just before leaving for Amman, Jordan I arranged several meetings for Dr. Baehr on the only day he would be in Washington starting with a noon luncheon attended by Majority Leader Eric Cantor. I arranged for Dr. Baehr to speak at that luncheon and Eric Cantor accepted a copy of one of his books.
The timing was so close that I had to hire a car to stand by to rush us to a meeting with Congressman Sam Johnson, a true war hero who spent years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. His hands were crippled by torture and he still bears those marks. We spoke with him about his bill to stop the Air force Academy from dropping “so help me God” from their sworn oath for cadets. It was an amazing meeting.
We then literally rushed over for a meeting with Randy Forbes, the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Congressman Forbes is extremely busy, as he is chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. Most of our aircraft carrier groups are stationed in his district. After the meeting with Congressman Forbes we spent nearly an hour with Congressman Louie Gohmert. Congressman Gohmert is a pro-life champion and has a great interest in the work Dr. Baehr is doing in Hollywood.
Finally that day I escorted Dr. Baehr to the office of Congressman Steve King who serves on several important committees including chairing the Subcommittee on the Constitution & Civil Justice. All of these meetings involved the importance of changing the politics of America by changing the culture, which is what Dr. Baehr is doing in Hollywood by drastically improving the content of movies. Please keep updated on many stories such as this one at our main site at www.ReligiousFreedomCoalition.org or at www.Facebook.com/ReligiousFreedomCoalition.
William J. Murray, Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #900, Washington, DC 20004 * (202) 742-8990