Iraq (MNN) — In response to the flood of Iraqi refugees arriving in Kurdistan, the United Nations Children’s Fund upgraded its disaster designation. Greg Musselman, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, describes the situation for Christians. “They are going to places up in Kurdistan, and there are tens of thousands of cars that are lined up trying to get out of there. It’s an absolute mess. We need to really be praying that God gives our brothers and sisters wisdom.”
UNICEF raised the crisis to a Level 3–its most severe designation–as the UN and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) struggled to provide food, water, sanitation, and shelter to nearly 1.5 million people.
Iraq’s crisis has become critical, just one week after Sunni jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched a rapid sweep across the country.
What’s more, it’s not the refugee crisis alone that is cause for concern, but rather, three Level 3 crises that are raising the alarm. Iraq is under a Level 3 polio emergency, Syria’s civil war is a Level 3 humanitarian disaster, and now, Iraq’s insurgency.
June 20 is World Refugee Day. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says, “I call on the international community to intensify efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to help achieve peace and security so that families can be reunited and refugees can return home.”
Musselman says many followers of Christ are beginning to realize that might be hard to do. They already have a target painted on their buildings. “I know of a church in Baghdad, St. George’s church with Canon Andrew White. They’ve lost 1200 people (church goers) [who] were killed…and many hundreds more have left the country.”
Yet Canon Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” remains resolute. “I will not leave my people here, however bad it is,” he says. “I am not leaving, and neither is God.” White is one in-country partner of The Voice of the Martyrs presence in Iraq. Musselman says despite the nature of persecution, the up side is this: “God is still working in the midst of that. In our contact with people in the country, we’re trying to find ways–‘how can we best help Christians in Iraq,’ because that’s our focus.”
The displacement pattern begins to take on the shape of diaspora. “There are many things that are going on in terms of church planting, [that] God is really administering and encouraging us to do in working with our partners there. It gives us hope, but on the other hand, you see the chaos there and wonder how things will ever be able to continue.”
The church can be a vessel of God’s peace, extending love to all their neighbors. Musselman explains, “The average Iraqi person doesn’t want this. They just want to be like the rest of us, live a normal life, raise their children and their grandchildren, and have their dreams and their hopes for the future.” The story of Christ hits a nerve with many people. Church leaders are asking that you pray “in the middle of all this that they would see that Jesus is the only answer and He is the hope.”
Pray, too, for an end to the fighting and bloodshed in Iraq which have been mainly caused by tensions between Sunni militants and the Shia-dominated government.