Since IGE started its Middle East programs a year ago (The Cradle Fund), our staff have been to the region 7 times, 6 of them to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, meeting 3 times with the Kurdish Foreign Minister, Falah Mustafa Bakir. There is no substitute for presence, for relationship. As our team—President & CEO, John Gallagher, President Emeritus, Chris Seiple, and Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum Council on the Role of Faith, Liu Peng –discussed how we would partner in the coming year, Minister Falah Mustafa shared his guiding vision: “We are grateful for our partnership with America. Because we acted together, 69 people are now alive, rescued from ISIS. They had each written their wills because they were to be executed the very next morning. Now they are alive. In this spirit of optimism we nevertheless recognize that “tolerance” is an ambitious word in this part of the world. But we must work toward an environment where people are not afraid because their neighbor prays differently than them. Regardless of my background, I have to respect the other. We need to build trust. We need to have forgiveness.” As IGE President summarized: “There is a pathway to reconciliation and forgiveness through—not despite—one’s faith. This message needs to be heard in policy circles whose ‘solution’ is otherwise fragile and unsustainable.”

It is always good to visit with our friends at the Ministry of Religious Affairs! Mariwan (far left) Director of Strategic Communications is Sufi. Khalid (to Seiple’s left), Director of Christian Affairs, is Chaldean Catholic. Of particular note is Sherzad Mamsani, the recently appointed (and inaugural) Director of Kurdish Jewish Affairs, who is Jewish (two in from left). There are about 400 Jewish families in Kurdistan, and the regional government has invited those who fled in 1948 to return to their lands. Mariwan told the story of an abandoned Jewish house in his hometown that no one has occupied since everyone expects them back. On the far right is Matt Nowery, country director for Samaritan’s Purse. He is extraordinary and doing much to serve the Yezidi community. A good team with much to do.

Great to meet again with Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus of ISIS-occupied Mosul, 30 miles away. TCF is privileged to support his flock in Amman, Jordan, all of whom have no opportunity to work, given their status as refugees.

The faithful, the trustworthy, our heroes: Team IGE with Sisters Diana and Maria, our dear Cradle Fund partners. The Christian community has lost hope. The rains have come early, which means a bitter winter. Access to education remains limited. Because many Christians have fled, it appears that funding is going to other groups. Those who flee, think: I’m already dead, so why not risk death to go to Europe? Smugglers charge $3000 dollars to get people thru Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos (the closest entry point to Europe). Please pray for these sisters who are the hands of Christ among the most forgotten. Pray for their stamina, and sanity, as they obediently continue to love their neighbor. They and those they serve will soon need warm clothes, blankets, etc. In particular, 900 families in Ozal City (an abandoned development in Erbil) need rent assistance or they will be kicked out at Christmas.