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Catholic Official: Funding Running Out for Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi refugee children stand outside the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady’s Assumption in Amman, Jordan, in late October. A Catholic official warned that funding will soon run out for the refugees, who fled Islamic State militants. (photo: CNS/Barb Fraze) 

09 Jan 2015 – By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — A Catholic official warned that funding will soon run out to feed and house thousands of Iraqi Christians sheltering in Jordan after being made homeless by Islamic State militants.

Syriac Catholic Father Noor Alqasmosa, who is charged with helping the refugees, told Catholic News Service that the funding situation is desperate, as the chances for many to restart a new life now further dim.

The priest said many Iraqi Christians probably will not be able to seek resettlement in the United States or other Western countries in 2015 because these countries appear to give priority to Syrians fleeing their nearly four-year conflict.

“I was shocked when I was told that neither the U.S. nor the EU would take in Iraqi Christians from Mosul and Ninevah for resettlement,” said Father Noor, as he prefers to be called.

“We had everything in Mosul and left with nothing,” the Iraqi priest said following recent talks with U.N. and foreign government officials in the Jordanian capital.

“We have Caritas funding lasting just until the end of February to help the 7,000 Iraqi Christians in Jordan,” the priest said, his voice lowering with concern and strain visible on his face. “There is no hope among the people. They believe the world has abandoned them and are leaving them to die.”

The bulk of the international assistance for displaced Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities is going to northern Iraq.

There, the majority of the displaced shelter after Islamic State militants brutally overran Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, and the Ninevah Plain last summer. The Christians have called these northern areas home for the past 16 centuries. The Islamists told them to convert to Islam, pay tax, flee or be killed.

It’s unclear how many Christians are among the 2 million internally displaced in Iraq because the U.N. said it does not track individual figures for religious minorities.

Many Iraqi Catholics, such as Hala, a 32-year-old pediatrician, see Jordan as a temporary place for their onward journey out of the Middle East. She has relatives in Sweden and hopes to apply for family reunification with them, rather than refugee resettlement, which now seems out of reach.

Iraqi Christians with direct relatives — such as a mother, father, sister or brother — may apply for family reunification with the country where the relative lives, but approval is not guaranteed.

“I believe this awful situation with IS will continue for years, not days or months,” said Hala, a petite, bespectacled brunette who arrived in Jordan in August and chose only to use her first name.

Now she shares a cramped, makeshift shelter with 40 other Iraqi Catholics inside St. Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Church perched high on one of Amman’s hills. It’s one of 17 churches housing Iraqi Christian refugees.

“We lost our homes, jobs, money and lives there. Everything has been reduced to zero,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “Even if IS were destroyed quickly, we couldn’t go back home because we no longer have any confidence that we would be protected or safe.”

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Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees Iraqi