In the weeks that has given us packed ships being rescued off the coast of Italy, with images of the thousands of refugees huddled in the hold, as well as the news of Lebanon declaring that it cannot take any more refugees, and the more troubling news of terror in Paris; it is important to remember what we have done, what we are doing, and what we are trying to achieve in the face of persecution and terror.
The Ankawa Foundation is new, an organisation built out of the disaster in the Middle East specifically to try to bring hope to Christians in need in the small town of Ankawa in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. A town that has been a home for Christians since at least the 4th Century, and a refuge for Christians fleeing other parts of Iraq since the fall of Sadam Hussein, it is today once again welcoming, as best it can, the tens of thousands of displaced people fleeing death at the hands of Daesh.
The hope that Christians have in salvation through Christ, is often lost in the modern hubbub of western life as we become complacent of God’s gift. In Iraq, this hope is slowly being extinguished, as people who fled terror wonder what comes next.
Since our founding six months ago, we have helped raise just over £7,000 ($10,500), and have spent close to 80% of that directly on the ground in Ankawa. The remaining money is being used in the next few weeks to ensure that the nearly 1 tonne of clothing that has been donated can be taken and distributed as needed in the camps in Ankawa.
We have this last six months built a phenomenal network of people in the UK, Iraq, America, Australia and Europe who have been willing to give to support our work. In particular in the UK, thanks must go to the parents, students and staff at Radley College, who have donated huge amounts of clothing to the campaign, as well as money through chapel collections.
As we go forward into 2015, the camps are changing; not least they are now referred to as tented communities – with new washhouses, and improved provisions of showers and lavatories. As these changes occur, we are changing our focus.
The short term flee from fear, is turning into a new routine in life and lifestyle for these people, whose lives have been changed beyond recognition.
The need is no longer direct and immediate, but becoming more long term. Education and the needs of teenage children both in terms of development and enjoyment are where we will be aiming our support. Later this month, two of our trustees will travel to Ankawa to discuss how we can make this happen.
We will continue to build networks of churches, people and organisations that wish to show their solidarity with brother and sisters in Christ as they face such difficult times. Knowing that we are standing with them, praying and acting for them helps to give hope as well as real support in this time of difficulty.
Throughout 2015 we will be continuing to raise funds and share the stories of those we are working to help. We will keep people informed through these campaigns on this website.
In the meantime, we call on all Christians to pray for their brothers and sisters in need in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding countries, as well as more widely for those whose lives have been so dramatically affected by the violent actions of a few.