WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) -- As U.S. military forces launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB and Baptist Global Response (BGR) are asking Southern Baptists to help provide humanitarian relief for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds forced from their homes.
Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a "looming humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country's Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar's Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.
While the U.S. has begun airdropping water, food and other supplies to Yazidi refugees in the mountains, BGR representatives are focusing efforts on helping the reportedly 200,000 internally displaced Iraqi refugees who have fled ISIS militants' rapid advance. BGR is a primary ministry partner of IMB.
In June, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, ordering thousands of Iraqi Christians to leave, convert to Islam, or pay heavy taxes. Yazidi Kurds and other Iraqi minorities have been forced from Sinjar and surrounding villages under threat of death. Many of the refugees have fled to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, or south to Baghdad.
"The news coming out of Iraq is even more heart-breaking than usual," Jeff Palmer, BGR's executive director, said. "We have been helping Iraqi families over the past few months but must now intensify our efforts due to this heightened conflict. We are grateful to have so many friends who care about people in need. Suffering Iraqis will have an opportunity to know God's love firsthand as our partners bring desperately needed relief."
Rallying for relief
Thursday, Aug. 7, more than 150 Yazidi immigrants rallied in front of the north lawn of the White House to plead for American involvement in the growing crisis. The protestors came from across the U.S., with at least one group driving more than 30 hours from Phoenix, Ariz. Holding signs and chanting slogans such as "Down with ISIS!" and "Save our kids!", the Yazidis' pain and sense of desperation was evident in the faces of protestors such as 27-year-old Nayyaf Abdo.
Abdo grew up in Sinjar and came to the U.S. in 2011 after serving as a translator with the U.S. Army. He traveled to Washington for the rally with a group of more than 50 Yazidis from Lincoln, Neb., and said his parents, six brothers, sister and grandmother are among those stranded in the Sinjar Mountains. Read More