Displaced Iraqi families receive help

IRAQ (BP) -- While the world's attention has been focused on the plight of Iraq's suffering Yazidi community, Baptist Global Response humanitarian partners have been working in other parts of the country among some 250,000 other displaced Iraqis.

Those efforts focused on providing survival supplies to new arrivals and helping displaced families launch businesses that can provide for their long-term needs.

News outlets reported Aug. 11 that Kurdish fighters were able to rescue about 20,000 Yazidi Iraqis after airstrikes broke a siege conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia. The United States and United Kingdom both had airdropped supplies to that group of Yazidis, which has since made the hard trek to the Syrian border.

As ISIS fighters overran the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Tel Afar, an estimated 200,000 people fled, many with nothing more than the belongings they could carry, a BGR partner reported. When about 20,000 of those displaced families arrived where the partners were working, the team was able to help meet emergency needs for several hundred families by providing locally purchased tents, drinking water, infant formula and basic food staples.

The same partners have helped an earlier group of refugees begin developing small businesses that will support their families and, as loans are repaid, help even more displaced families in turn.

Primary funding for these projects came through Global Hunger Relief, the Southern Baptist channel for combatting hunger in both North America and overseas. GHR funnels 100 percent of each donation to the hunger need. In this case, the two projects received a total of $55,500 from GHR.

The displaced families represented the range of northern Iraq's residents who would rather flee than submit to radical Islamist rule, including many Christians. Some observers believe northern Iraq's ancient Christian communities are on the verge of extinction.

"This season of turmoil has seen the Christian population of Iraq dwindle significantly and the survivability of those who remain become uncertain at best," Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, said. "This deepening crisis gives Christians worldwide the opportunity to stand by their embattled brothers and sisters in the faith, as well as to demonstrate the mercy of Christ to others who need to experience the love of God in the midst of great trial."

The multitude of displaced families had overwhelmed already strained job markets, said the BGR partner directing the relief operation.

"We have seen substantial needs for employment and sustainable income for these families," the partner said. "Dependable income from self-replicating sources is the answer for these families developing sufficiency."

Two micro businesses were launched as test cases, and the lessons learned with those two would help launch another 50 small businesses over a two-year period, the partner said. Proven business possibilities include shoe repair, transport of groceries or vegetables, and sales of tea, coffee sales, candy or fish.

Families receiving the first round of micro-loans would receive guidance, direction and supervision in growing their businesses, the partner said. Repaid loans would help other families launch businesses as well. Local government officials and Iraqi church leaders affirmed and encouraged the effort.

Chaos in the area has put the small business initiative on hold for the time being, the partner said.

Prayer is needed that peace would return to Iraq, Palmer said.

"The situation in Iraq is very volatile, and great uncertainty hangs over the country's future," Palmer said. "Please pray for peace so our partners can re-engage the small business effort. Ask God to make his great love known to every Iraqi heart that is searching for peace."

To donate to Iraq's refugee crisis through Baptist Global Response, visit gobgr.org or text bgr to 80888, which will donate $10 to BGR's disaster response fund. To donate through the International Mission Board, which partners with BGR in disaster response situations, visit imb.org or text imbrelief to 80888.*

*Text to donate: $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Message and data rates may apply. Must have account holder permission to donate. Terms: igfn.org/t


Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response. For more information about Global Hunger Relief, visit www.helpghr.org. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).