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Christians Displaced In Iraq Discouraged, Forced To Live In Squalor, Says US Persecution Watchdog

( [email protected] ) Aug 19, 2014 02:22 PM EDT

Iraqi Christians
Children are among those displaced in Iraq at the hands of ISIS (Photo: Open Doors USA)

The hundreds of thousands of Christians displaced in Iraq continue to be persecuted, as ISIS militants force religious minorities to flee their homes under threat of death.

"The suffering we see is unbelievable and it makes me cry every time I see something, either by visiting families or by the horrible pictures we see," says one of the field workers Open Doors humanitarian organization is partnering with in the region.

Louis Sako, the archbishop of Iraq, told Aid to the Church in Need that currently approximately 70,000 Christians have arrived in Ankawa, a Christian neighborhood in Erbil, and 60,000 displaced people in Dohuk.

According to Open Doors workers in Erbil, most the displaced people they meet fled from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other nearby towns and villages. Christians, along with Shia Muslims, Yezidis, Shabaks, and Turkmen, are given an ultimatum to "convert, leave or die" by the Islamic State terrorists.

In response, Open Doors missionaries and other Christian missions work tirelessly to offer relief for those displaced in the region.

"Seeing what is necessary, at present we provide food parcels, containing basic non-perishable foods such as noodles, cooking oil, beans, canned fish and rice. Next to this we also distribute hygiene kits which contain toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and disinfectants," explained one aid worker.

The materials Open Doors hands out, in partnership with churches and other Christian organizations, are sufficient for about a week.

However, churches and refugee houses are overflowing with Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and can hold no more.  

"When the church is full, the people go into other buildings or the halls of the church. If these are full too, then the people flow over into the gardens or courtyard of the church," explained a field worker.

"Also, several floors of buildings under construction are taken over by refugees as a place to stay. They are everywhere!"

Because space and resources are limited, IDPs are forced to live in squalor, added the field worker.    

"Yesterday, we distributed packages to approximately 600 families. When being there, I was deeply shocked to witness the seriously poor conditions these people have to live in. One church hall, for example, housed about 200 individuals, lined wall to wall on thin mattresses. They even told me that in the past week two babies were born here. Tomorrow we are planning to hand out relief materials to another 500 families and in the next days to come we will continue this pattern."

Sadly, while most Christians in the region have not renounced their faith, they have given up hope that the dreadful circumstances will ever change.

"I have spoken to several who want to leave Iraq now," the field worker says. "But there are not a lot of places they can easily go to as I heard that Turkey is trying to keep its borders closed to Iraqi citizens. The Iraqis are losing hope that anything will change. The thing for the fellow Christians around the world to do now is to pray. Pray that God will make Himself known to the many who are now wondering if He will ever help. Pray for a change."

For more information on the crisis in Iraq and Syria, and to donate, visit https://www.opendoorsusa.org/

Tags : Iraq, Iraqi, ISIS, Christians, displaced, pray, terrorists