A conversation with the CEO of Crisis Response International about the situation in Iraq.
Q: How has this Iraq crisis been different from other crisis situations your teams have encountered?
Sean Malone: The Iraq Crisis is different than other situations because war and terrorism is a trauma on a completely different level. Another difference is that the war is ongoing and so security of the teams is a priority.
Our teams have experience in caring for survivors dealing with grief and loss in natural disasters, but in the face of the atrocities of war the issue of forgiveness is seen more clearly as essential to healing and moving forward.
Q: What are some of the unexpected challenges now facing both aid organizations and government agencies as they're trying to provide relief in the midst of terror?
Sean Malone: The size of the crisis is something that is an unexpected challenge as even the U.N. is having difficulty keeping pace with the ongoing crisis. The amount of people that are in need of basics survival needs is overwhelming. Keeping in mind that in May there were around 230,000 Syrian Refugees in the Kurdistan Region still in need of aid. Now there are over 1 million refugees Syrian and Iraqi in the Kurdistan Region. Right after the Mosul situation there was a serious gas shortage as IS cut off the normal gas routes as they controlled the plant in Beiji. Many people were forced to spend the night in gas lines that at times were over a mile long. This slowed the efforts of our team at times.
There are also thoughts about security as we offer care to refugees. There can easily be IS sympathizers among those who are offering care. So now aid workers have to be even more aware on site.
Q: You're partnering with churches to mobilize and train responders worldwide with over 2500 responders trained now. What is the biggest challenge in getting people involved?
Sean Malone: Yes, our responder base is growing and I think the greatest challenge now is to find those who are willing to go to dangerous destinations. The opportunity is great to affect many with the love of God, but the choice must be made to follow the example of Jesus and be willing to lose our lives for the sake of others.
Q; What are you hearing from the responders on the ground in Iraq, how can people pray and support them?
Sean Malone: Our responders on the ground continue to share that the need is great but so is the opportunity. On a daily basis they are able to care for the physical and emotional needs of refugees which opens the door to care for their even greater spiritual needs. There has been opportunities to share about the love of Jesus, hand out Bibles and even show the Jesus film. We have now had a great door of opportunity opened to us as we have access to caring medically for Kurdish soldiers on the front lines. We have also been able to help teach them basic live saving skills that will help them care for themselves and others on the field, and give them medical kits and basic supplies or "moral bags" so they know they are not forgotten.
Prayer requests are: For continued team unity and cohesiveness as responders rotate in and out. That we would be sensitive to God's leading in where our teams go and what projects we focus on. That the love of Jesus flow from our teams and that we would have more opportunities to speak of Him. For continued provision of resources that they would be tools to show the love of God. That god would continue to use our teams to bring healing and hope. For continued protection of our teams.
If anyone would like to give towards the deployment they can go to www.criout.com and select Kurdistan Deployment in the scroll box.
Funds go to purchasing supplies for refugees and for caring for Kurdish soldiers on the front lines.
If anyone would like to deploy with is here in Iraq and they are not already a CRI responder they can go to www.criout.com and see about upcoming training opportunities.
Q: Can you share any testimonies of how God is at work in the midst of this?
Sean Malone: The biggest testimony is that due to the ISIS crisis many people groups and communities that were closed to the gospel before are now wide open. As there are many Yazidi, Shabak, Muslim, and "Christian" refugees that are desperate for help and so open to those who give it. I believe the harvest is ripe as Jesus said and the need is for laborers to come and love with His love. We have seen walls come down between the Catholic and Evangelical Churches as they have been working together to bring aid. These groups previously had a large wall of division. Our team has had many people say that as soon as they saw us they felt peace and knew they wanted to invite us in. They said we were different than other aid organizations because they felt loved by us. As we have prayed we have seen pain leave many and one boy who was not able to walk was able to run. We have seen many discouraged and heavy hearts made lighter. In the midst of darkness we see the light of Jesus bringing peace, healing and hope. The need continues to be great and will be for a while, but so is the opportunity. -END-
About Sean Malone:
Sean Malone is Director of Crisis Response International based out of Nashville, TN. Crisis Response International (CRI) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that resources, trains and mobilizes volunteers, churches and other organizations to respond to disasters and compassion initiatives around the world.
While involved in the motion pictures industry in New York, Sean found a front row seat at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Using movie production equipment, he was able to provide lighting for the search and rescue operations. This is where the seeds for being involved in crisis response work were planted. Shortly after, he and his wife Laura trained with YWAM, and then moved to New Orleans just days before hurricane Katrina made landfall. In 2007 they officially launched Crisis Response International, and since then have trained thousands of Responders to reach the Harvest in the midst of crisis.