1.8 million children, mothers, and fathers have been internally displaced because of the conflict in Iraq. World Vision has recently begun relief operations to help them.
"We are going into Iraq," writes Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U. S. "Difficult, challenging, and risky as it might be."
Why? Read more to find out.
This month, World Vision is starting relief operations in northern Iraq. It will be the second country this year in which we have restarted or begun new operations following a crisis.
In a way, with the conflicts accelerating in the Central African Republic, Iraq, and other countries, 2014 seems to mark a new challenge for World Vision. More and more, poverty is a byproduct of violence and instability. Solving poverty—in Iraq and dozens of other fragile states like it—is more complex and risky than ever before. Despite these obstacles Jesus still calls us to care for the world’s most vulnerable people.
In Iraq, 1.8 million children, mothers, and fathers have been internally displaced because of the conflict. Whereas in earlier years they might have been able to flee to neighboring countries such as Jordan, those countries are already overwhelmed by refugees from Syria. The crisis seems to have exploded out of nowhere. In just one week recently, 200,000 people were made homeless.
Mothers, fathers, and children are sheltering in schools and churches wherever they can. Iraqi minorities, such as Christian and Yazidi families, have fled towns and villages with little or nothing to sustain them. Iraqi refugees are in need of the most basic supplies—food, water, and shelter. Heartbreakingly for us as Christians, the 2,000-year presence of the church in many areas is being extinguished. This is a life or death situation for many families and children as well as for the church.
In effect, we’re going to Iraq to throw out a life preserver.
World Vision is working with local partners to meet the needs of thousands of displaced children and their families who lack adequate food, shelter, health care, water, sanitation, and child protection. The first supplies of World Vision-funded aid included hygiene items, clothing, baby supplies, and toys, distributed to 350 families—more than 2,000 people—in Dohuk. It’s a small, but necessary beginning that will be scaled up quickly.
Poverty is tough enough to tackle when the solutions are wells and latrines, education, and microfinance. The traumatizing, destabilizing influence of violence paralyzes progress against poverty. Yet, more and more, the poor are in countries like Iraq, Syria, South Sudan or the Central African Republic, where instability and violence cause and perpetuate poverty. In fact, by next year estimates are that half of the world’s poor will live in these kinds of fragile states, even though they make up just 19 percent of the world’s population.
Going into Iraq is one of the most risky assignments World Vision has undertaken. We understand how dangerous this is. The most seasoned relief and development experts are scratching their heads about how to best meet the needs in places like this. Because of violence, our staffers are once again putting their own lives on the line. There is a long list of reasons why we should stay in safe countries where we can work with good people in stable, yet poor, communities. But that isn’t what God has called us to do.
God’s call for the church—and therefore for World Vision—isn’t to take care of those who are easiest or most convenient to reach. He simply tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to demonstrate his love around the world. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” Jesus said. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
We are going into Iraq—and we are in a total of 32 of the 50 most unstable, chaotic countries in the world—because that’s Christ’s call to the church. Difficult, challenging, and risky as it might be, when Jesus calls us, we must respond.
Join us in responding to Jesus' call for the displaced people of Iraq. Give today.