The Colonnade: Hope Hearkening?

The Colonnade: Hope Hearkening?

Posted on by Chris Seiple

Dr. Seiple blogged daily during his travels across North Africa/Middle East. For previous blog posts, visit our blog archive here.

Dohuk, Iraq, 15 December 2014—It is sometimes rare to appreciate the blessing when you are in the middle of it; and it is perhaps harder to do so amidst great tragedy. But today was one of those days. Thank you, God.

I spent the day with Ashur S. Eskrya in Dohuk. Ashur is the president of the Assyrian Aid Society in Iraq. A civil engineer, he is as schooled on the history of the region and the Assyrian Church—with all its chronological permutations—as he is on relief and development. When Jesus said be as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” I think He had Ashur in mind.

Ashur’s heart is as big as this land. He cares as desperately for his people and the Church as he does for all the peoples of this land. We distributed a great deal of food to many Christian families from the Nineveh Plain who fled the terrorists. But some of our most touching moments today came with non-Christians.

We met with Dauod and his Yezidi family, who were so grateful that the Assyrian Aid Society had taken them in. We met in the “home” of Sadik—a Turkmen math teacher without government salary who chooses to commute to a Yezidi village and teach his students—as his family served us food that we had just distributed in his makeshift corner of the sports center basement.

And we sat with Mohammed, who believes that force alone is insufficient. “Only education,” he told us, destroys the mindset that enables the terrorists.

Indeed, how do we learn to live with our deepest differences, without killing each other? I think it’s as simple—and difficult—as taking the time to wrestle with one’s own holy scriptures, deciding what it says about how to engage the “other.”

As for Ashur, it’s clear: he believes that all bear the image of God, no matter what they believe. It is not despite his faith, but because of his faith, that he serves people of different beliefs, including those who believe as he does. It is an example for all of us.

It is also a reason for hope, because through his example, we met these other examples of hope. It seems that hope can be contagious. And the Assyrian Aid Society is one place you can catch it.

Please find below some pictures that I took today, giving hope a name and a place...please pray for these folks.

The drive to Dohuk...a beautiful landscape, and the only overland trucking route from Turkey since Mosul fell...

In the village of Koregavana, up in the mountain valleys north of Dohuk...this little village of 60 families has taken in 40 families from the Nineveh Plain village of Tel Skuf...

In the village of Koregavana, I met Raiyan, a most he fled with nothing from Tel Skof but his family...although ISIS later left Tel Skof, the village is in a "no man's land" and it is unsafe to return with family...nevertheless, Raiyan did return to do one thing: restore the cross. "ISIS came to destroy the cross but we put it back." Above is my picture of his cell phone picture doing just that...the gates of hell will not prevail against it...

Raiyan and his whole family, including brother and mother and assorted kids...when they showed up at this mountain village of Koregavana, they just knocked on doors and asked, basically, if there was room at the inn...the village folks said you are welcome here and turned their community center into a home for Raiyan's family and two others...37 families followed...I kept the picture dark as that's what it is like living there, high in the mountains as the sun goes down...

A food distribution with Assyrian Aid Society at the Chaldean Center, home to 66 families...most folks here are from Tel Skof on the Nineveh Plain, all with the same story: they heard about what ISIS was doing to the Yezidis on Mt. Sinjar and fled before ISIS got to them...

Another food distribution in Dohuk at the sports center...explaining IGE's partnership with Mark Burnett & Roma Downey as The Cradle Fund...

The most humbling and hopeful moment of my time here...after Assyrian Aid Society president Anshur and I distributed food at the Dohuk sports center, we went to the basement where we met Sadik Baweza, who invited us into his "home" for lunch...Sadik is a Turkmen and a primary school math teacher who has not been paid by the Iraqi govt for several months...he lived in Mosul but taught at a Yezidi village, which happens to be 50km from the sports center, and still accessible...after fleeing Mosul to Dohuk, and despite no salary, this Turkmen teacher makes the round trip to teach Yezidis because he is honor bound and loyal to them...a story he is telling me, of course, as he and his wife serve me lunch with the food we just distributed...I told him that there is hope still for Iraq with people like him...

With Mohammed, who fled Mosul on 9 June, with his wife , three sons and two daughters (the same gender distribution as our kids): "we fled because ISIS are terrorists. They don't accept others. Jihad is not killing innocent people. ISIS will not be destroyed alone by force but by education."

With a Yezidi family that was on Mt. Sinjar for eleven days before Assyrian Aid took them in...20 women among their cousins were taken by ISIS...they have had some contact with them, but none in the last two weeks.

To lose the presence of Christians in the birthplace/Cradle of Christianity is to accelerate instability in the Middle East. With the region on the brink, those who have fled persecution—including Christians, other religious minorities, and the majority Muslims—need a strategy that works to rescue, restore, and return them to a home where they can practice their faith free from fear. This approach is not only the right thing to do, it is in everyone’s interest to do so for the sake of a peaceful Middle East. To start, we are working to get immediate humanitarian aid to all those suffering. Please consider giving [For more informaiton, please see our FAQ document.]

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