The Chairman’s Report for February 15, 2019

In this issue of the newsletter:
Update:  Diapers for Refugees program continues to fill a critical need
Update:  Still no consistent power for Qaraqosh and other Christian towns
New:  Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians in Jordan can’t return to Iraq
New:  The horrid plight on Christians in a no-mans land between Israel and Jordan

Diapers for Refugees in Iraq and Jordan

            One million diapers in 2018: The supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition propelled the Diapers for Refugees project to a record number of Christian families in Iraq and Jordan. In all, over one million diapers were delivered to Christian families in need during 2018.

All of the families helped were in situations where cloth diapers for babies could not be used. All of the families faced economic situations caused by the destruction of their homes in Iraq and Syria by various Islamic jihad fighters, including those from the Islamic State.

While the Islamic State did a great deal of damage and killed tens of thousands, the jihad fighters of other groups including al-Nusra killed and destroyed as well. Al-Nusra is currently known as Jabbat Fetah al-Sham, but the first name it used was al-Qaeda in the Levant.

Yes! This is a branch of the organization that attacked the United States on 9-11. This is the organization founded by Osama bin Laden. It is also the main group fighting to overthrow the secular government of Syria. When the United States armed the “opposition” in Syria, all the funds and missiles wound up in the hands of al-Qaeda.

William Murray in Qaraqosh just after it was liberated in 2016. No civilians had moved back.

Situation no better: I first visited the Christian town of Qaraqosh, Iraq in December 2016 just three months after it was liberated and before one single resident moved back. While I was there I could here the artillery fire from the front lines outside of Mosul, the largest city that the Islamic State occupied.

At the time I led a caravan that took food and water to members of the Christian militia known as the Nineveh Protection Unit. They, along with a Shia Muslim militia, had liberated the town from the hands of the Sunni Muslim jihadists.

I know we are told by our government officials every day that the Sunni Muslims are our allies, but sadly this is a lie. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) were Sunni Muslim, and both at one time or another have been funded by the Sunni Muslim state of Saudi Arabia.

Every terror attack you can think of against Americans including 9-11 and the attacks at Ft. Hood, San Bernardino, Orlando and others were all carried out by Sunni Muslims, and every one of the murderous perpetrators had some connections that led back to Saudi Arabia.

Two million diapers in 2019:  More help is needed for Christian families on the Biblically important Nineveh Plain — not less.

There is no running water in many of the Christian towns on the Nineveh Plain.

Two full years after liberation, areas of Qaraqosh still look like this. Note that the power lines actually are not connected to anything.

Their water came from the dam on the Tigris river near the major Iraqi city of Mosul. That was the largest Iraqi city held by the Islamic State and it took more than a year for the Iraqi Army and Shia militias to take the city back from the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State even with nearly constant bombing by The United States and other Western air forces.

The electric power plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water treatment plants were destroyed in the bombing. The water pumping stations were destroyed in the bombings. Most of the power lines came down and the water pipelines were hit as well.

When I was in Iraq this past December, there were still craters in roads. While many of the bridges that were bombed by the Western Coalition to stop Islamic State movements have been rebuilt, there are still some bridges that are down making transporting water difficult.

During 2018 the need for diapers increased as families moved away from aid centers and tried to move back to their looted homes.

It gets worse: As I have mentioned previously in newsletters the water from wells on the Nineveh Plain is as salty as the sea. The well water is not drinkable. Cloth diapers cannot be washed in well water as the salt will stay in the diapers and irritate babies, causing diaper rash. The whole purpose of our Diapers for Refugees program is to reduce or stop completely the problem of severe diaper rash that can cause bacterial infections.

As more families move back to Bartella, Qaraqosh, and other towns on the Nineveh Plain they receive less aid than they could have gotten in the larger city of Erbil.

Keep in mind that every Christian home was looted. The washing machines are gone as are the stoves, air conditioners, furniture and even the clothes and dishes.

Because of the images many Americans have of those living in the Middle East, I have to emphasize over and over again that these Christian families were almost all well educated and middle class.

The Christian families did not live in tents or huts, like the image many have set in their minds. Many of these homes were anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 sq. ft.  and had tiled floors with full modern baths and kitchens. That is all gone, every bit of it.

I have been in these homes … before and after. I have enjoyed dinner in more than one Christian Arab home in the Middle East. I have met Christian men and women who are doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Some were millionaires before the invasion.

I have also seen the jihadist writings on the walls of destroyed homes. I have visited the shops and even factories that were owned by Christians that now lie empty or in ruins.

There was a huge metal door and window factory at the entrance to Qaraqosh that now lies in ruins. All of the equipment was stolen and carted off to Turkey.

Currently the biggest industry in Iraq is demolition and the reprocessing of scrap metal and cement. Those are not great paying jobs.

And sadly, I must report that most of the wealthy Christians, those that were millionaires fled to Europe during the occupation by the Islamic State. They don’t plan on coming back. Without the wealthy the rebuilding process will be even slower.

Every dollar counts in a situation like this: This is why the Diapers for Refugees program is so important. Every dollar’s worth of diapers we can furnish to families in need is one more dollar they have to rebuild their shattered lives, one more dollar to help buy dishes or linens or a mattress to sleep on.

These are the reasons I want to keep the Diapers for Refugees program alive in 2019.

The Jordan diaper problem: The local ministries we work with in Jordan have pleaded with me to expand the Diapers for Refugees program to their areas. In December we did deliver a small quantity of diapers for infants as well as special needs diapers for adults.

Why is the need so great?

There are still tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan. Many of them are not from the Nineveh Plain but from formerly Christian areas of Baghdad and other cities. Those neighborhoods have now been taken over by Muslims. 

After the fall of Saddam Hussein the Muslims, unhappy about the American occupation, took out their hatred for America on the Christians. There were kidnappings and bombings. Even churches were bombed. In the chaos, entire Christian areas were emptied out and the homes taken over by both Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Keep in mind that the vice president of Iraq was a Christian and the head of Saddam Hussein’s air force was a Christian before the invasion. Christian influence in the military ended after the invasion because Christian leaders were in the Baath socialist party.

An entire Christian refugee family lives in this one room in the basement of the building. The combination heater/stove was provided by the Religious Freedom Coalition.

The Christian population of Iraq has dropped by over 75% since the invasion in 2003. Many from Baghdad fled to the Nineveh Plain to start over.

The head of the ministry that operates our programs in the Nineveh Plain fled Baghdad with his family and started over again in Erbil ten years ago. He was the pastor of a large church in Baghdad before being forced to flee for the sake of his threatened family.

The Syrian and Iraqi Christians in Jordan have no homes to go back to and by law they cannot work in Jordan although their children have finally been allowed to go to school there. But they still live in deplorable conditions.

This is not something I have read about. I have been in the basements of buildings where each of the rooms housed an entire family and the only toilet was outside. Each family uses a combination kerosene heater and stove to cook on. In winter it provides the heat in rooms that are often unventilated.

How do I know this? Not only have I visited the “homes” of these Christians in the basements of buildings, but I purchased the kerosene heaters from China that they are using.

Just because the war has “ended” in Iraq does not mean Christians can return. They are fed up. This is the third time the war has “ended” since 2003. Most do not have homes or jobs to return to. They need our continued help until they can return or immigrate to Europe.

Jerusalem is just on the other side of the wall that separates Israel proper from Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is not in Israel: In the last newsletter, I wrote about the Christmas party we staged for Christian children in Bethlehem. In the newsletter I used this sentence:

The wall that Israel has built separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the other Christian towns on the “West Bank.”

I continue to be surprised that the vast majority of Christians in the United States believe that Bethlehem and the other Christian towns around it such as Beit Sahour are still part of Israel. They are not. Only those Christians who have residency status in Israel can travel and even go back and forth from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and other areas of the “West Bank.”

The Christians living in Bethlehem do not have valid passports and cannot travel anywhere, not even into Jerusalem. They are not considered citizens of Israel or of Jordan. Under special circumstance they can obtain a United Nations document to travel if they have a visa issued from another country. Travel is very rare.

To make sure no Palestinians, including the Christians, enter Israel proper, there is a wall around Bethlehem. American Christians who visit Bethlehem must pass through the wall.

The wall did stop Islamic suicide bombers, but it also stopped Christians. In one case the wall goes across the property of a church, separating the church school from the church.

In the photo above the wall is to the right and a narrow street separates the wall from a small hotel. The entrance through the wall is just up to the right. My wife and I used this entrance to visit Bethlehem during Christmas last year.

Abandoned: The Christians of Bethlehem and the West Bank have been abandoned. They receive virtually no aid, principally because most Christians in the West do not understand their plight. American Christians support the wall that protects Israel but don’t understand that the Christians stuck behind it are under the control of a Muslim majority and need our help.

William J. Murray, Chairman

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