22 September 2014
CNEWA is partnering with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, such as Sister Antoinette, shown here on the left distributing clothes to Iraqi refugees. (photo: CNEWA)
In spite of the lack of resources, Jordanians are still receiving Iraqi Christian refugees. Our team in Amman has visited the many parish centers housing these families. Here is what we have learned:
- At the beginning, the Jordanian government granted visas for 1,000 Christians to flee to Jordan in agreement with the churches. But now the door is open, and many more are arriving every day. There are seven church centers full of Iraqis with no room to accommodate more; therefore, many have no choice but to rent a house or stay on the streets, knowing that houses are not easy to find, and rents are very expensive even for locals. So, you find more than one family living in a house of two bedrooms — up to 20 people sharing the space and paying rent that exceeds $700 per month. Most of the rented houses are empty (cheaper than furnished); we saw Iraqis sleeping on a thin mattress or on the ground.
- The centers, mainly the halls of the churches, are not designed to host people. All were designed to serve the parishioners’ multipurpose activities. It’s not a proper place to host a large number of people. Also, facilities (such as bathrooms) are not available in the halls. Most showers and kitchens were built outside. Refugees have to walk in an uncovered area and wait in line; it will only get worse when winter comes.
Many refugees are crowded into small spaces, with little privacy. (photo: CNEWA)
Sister Antoinette and parish volunteers help distribute mattresses — gifts from CNEWA’s benefactors — to newly arrived refugees. (photo: CNEWA)
- Parishes were so kind to receive the Iraqis at their churches’ halls — sacrificing the income they receive from renting out the halls, which helps pay for salaries and bills of the parishes. But the parishes still have to face unexpected expenses without any idea of how long this situation will last or how they will meet their expenses.
- Most of the parishes are poor, especially the ones located in major centers like Ashrafiyeh and Zerqa. They don’t have enough resources to rehabilitate and maintain their facilities. During our visit, we noticed damages to infrastructure due to the humidity, with leaking roofs, broken windows, no bathrooms or showers. Parish centers also need water tanks, stoves, large refrigerators, kitchens, and kitchen supplies, heaters, blankets, mattresses, etc.
- Another issue facing the Iraqis hosted by churches is the matter of privacy, especially for the women who are sharing space with too many people, along with one or two bathrooms and showers.
- All Iraqis who recently arrived — whether staying at centers or houses — are suffering from stress. They have lost trust in everyone. And they need everything, from personal items to food, medicines and medical treatment, milk and diapers for children. Many are worried about their relatives, who couldn’t leave Iraq, and they told us very depressing and heartbreaking stories about their fleeing from Da’ash (ISIS).
- We asked the Iraqis how they felt about going back to Iraq, if it became peaceful and safe again. The answer was no, never.
- When refugees arrive, they contact the United Nations. The U.N. starts gathering the individuals’ information in order to prepare a file, and then hands each family a refugee document — a separate document for each son and daughter older than 18. Their next meeting is to take place four to six months after they arrive. Those who were in the first wave will have their second meeting in December 2014.
CNEWA has responded to these needs with an initial disbursement of $72,500 in funds to five parish centers. Among other things, the funds are providing water, electricity, food, clothing, health care and psychological treatment to refugees.
The need remains great. Please visit our giving page to learn how you can help these refugees.
This young father was beaten and his leg smashed by ISIS before he was able to flee to Jordan.