1 December 2014
A sister walks among families in the basement of an unfinished building in Erbil now used as a shelter for displaced Christians. (photo: Don Duncan)
We recently received the following urgent appeal from Sister Maria Hanna, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq:
After four months of exile there are no signs of hope that the situation here in Iraq will be resolved peacefully. Unable to think or make decisions, everything is vague and we feel as if we have been living a nightmare. Christianity in Iraq is bleeding; so many families have left, and many are leaving to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, preparing themselves for second immigration and an uncertain future. We do not know how long these families will be able to tolerate the burden and survive financially.
The conditions remain the same for those of us in Iraq. Many still are forced to stay in unfinished buildings on construction sites. In one place, a mall has been remodeled to accommodate families, with the hall divided merely with partitions. Although they are better than tents, they resemble dark, damp cages with no ventilation. Most difficult of all is the lack of privacy.
There have been some attempts to provide containers and rent houses and flats, but this is not enough, as the number of displaced people increases each day. Many come from cold, mountainous places. Psychologically, people are tired, worried, confused and irritated — who would blame them? They are jobless, their children do not attend school and young people are still waiting to start their academic year. Some tried to register at Kurdish universities, but they were not accepted. All this is causing tremendous strain on the families, and the result is abuse and relationships that are unhealthy. The problems are totally overwhelming, and it seems as if our efforts are amounting to nothing.
People have been stripped of their dignity and unjustly deprived of all their money and possessions. What money people do have cannot be withdrawn from banks as the central government has frozen their accounts. Moreover, some people desperately look for work, ready to labor for minimum wage.
Despite this, things would be much worse if it were not for the aid we have received from you and the many benefactors who have contributed what they can.
Thank you. Indeed, we are so grateful to you, and we have tried to help as many people as we can with these donations. Our focus has not been on the refugee centers and camps only, as refugees at these centers are supported by the organization and the church. Rather we are trying to help those families who rent houses, but cannot support themselves. So we help them by providing bedding and clothing.
As for our community, we are extremely exhausted with concern for the family and friends we have who are unjustly forced to leave us. Everyday we hope that tomorrow will be better, but our tomorrows seem to bring only more tears and hardship. “Out of the depths we cry to thee, O Lord! When will you rescue us?”
We desperately count on your prayers, and we need you carry us to Jesus like the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus.
God bless you,
Sr. Maria Hanna, O.P.
Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena — Iraq
This comes at an especially difficult time in the region, amid reports today that the United Nations is cutting food aid to refugees:
A lack of funds has forced the U.N. World Food Program to stop providing food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the agency said on Monday.
“Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating,” said WFP, which needs $64 million to support the refugees for the rest of December.
Please visit our giving page to help our brothers and sisters during this hour of great need. Please remember them in your prayers.
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Sisters Iraqi Refugees Relief