IGE’s Cradle Fund in Jordan – May 2015
Dr. Seiple spent time with Canon Andrew White and his team in Marka, Jordan, where he started a school through www.cradlefund.org. With a price on his head in Baghdad by the terrorists, and suffering from MS, Abuna (father) Andrew had to leave Iraq, thinking he was supposed to continue his ministry in/from Turkey. Last fall he came to Jordan and happened to meet Mario (to Andrew’s left), and his mom, Ban, on Andrew’s right. They are from the Nineveh Plain and fled ISIS last August. Mario asked Andrew: “I can’t get my father back but can you get my school back?” Andrew heard the call.
The school started with 135 kids in February and is now at 250, ages 5-14, all fled from the Nineveh Plain. They meet at St. Mary’s Church, which already had a school…so their school day starts at 3pm. The school’s teachers are also refugees from Nineveh, while fathers help with keeping the school clean and chaperoning on the 8 buses that bring the kids to school. The difference a safe place makes where one learns while being loved cannot be overstated (especially in the context of their peers in Kurdistan who don’t have such an opportunity). This school is not only rescue and restore, it is practical and prophetic.
Father Khalil is the priest of St. Mary’s Church where Canon White’s school meets. He is a Godly man with the right perspective amidst such spiritual and geographic dislocation and complexity: “People ask me what my vision for the future is; I say: we thank the Lord for being among us…I do not allow anyone to refer to those who fled Nineveh as “refugees:” we are all Christians…Now is the moment to say “Yes, Lord, I am here to serve and do whatever I can.” We are here to serve what the Spirit of the Lord tells us.” May it be so for all those who call Jesus Lord and Savior…
Particularly special is the opportunity Dr. Seiple had to experience the school with Andrew’s son, Josiah, who just completed his first year at Cambridge and is about to spend two months in Taiwan.
Cradle Fund Partner, Assyrian Aid Society’s Ashur Sargon Eskrya is in Amman and he introduced Dr. Seiple to the below folks, all fled from the Nineveh Plain. They represent the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, and Chaldean Catholics but they said to Chris that they are simply Christian. They also represent approximately 10,000 Iraqi Christians in Amman who feel totally and utterly forgotten: by the US and the West, by Jordan, and even by their own churches. They have little money left but must rent apartments. They cannot work as refugees or they will be fined. Their homes have been destroyed and they have no hope of returning to the Nineveh Plain. They have little to no chance of immigration. They told Chris that he was the first person to ask about their condition. “We are Christian but Christian majority countries do not care about us. When Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein, the whole world cared and passed 16 UN Security Council resolutions. The silence of the West is to participate in the crimes of ISIS. Do they have an agenda to ensure that there are no Christians/indigenous people in Iraq? How can the West not stop ISIS?” They are, from left to right: Ashur, Wilson H. Mamoka, Abuna Yousif Benyamen, Basi Ayshoa Katoomee, Khalida Marotha, and Sobira Slewa Masgos. With their permission and their hope that someone would tell their story in the media.
Dr. Seiple met again with Abuna Andrew, visiting the medical clinic. The Greek Orthodox Church provides free space and Andrew supports the clinic, while busing Iraqi Christians to it for various treatment. An impressive place, it is a full-spectrum suite of services in 650 sq meters, offering health care for free to these most marginalized folks. Dr. Marwan, the Director (to Dr. Seiple’s right) and Dr. Andrew (we often forget) are anesthesiologists. A blessing to be among these fine folk, meeting people at their point of greatest need. BTW, on the far right is Mabel, who grew up in Andrew’s church in Baghdadshe runs the liaison and logistics between the clinic and her fellow refugees, on behalf of refugee Andrew. To her left is Richard and Christie Sherrod. Theirs is a humbling story of calling, of showing up and shutting up and coming alongside what God is already doing (they administer the school). And to Chris’ left is Terry, a retired British “copper” who is just fantastic.
Dr.Seiple spent the afternoon with the superb folks at IOCC: International Orthodox Christian Charities, a cradlefund.org partner. The country director is Dimitri (Serbian) and the programs director is Felomain (Palestinian-Jordanian). Chris asked Felomain what he should say to Americans. Here is her wise reply: “Tell them that we Christians exist. We are the bridge between east and west. Keep us here and support us…the West is helping the Christians vanish (by not defeating ISIS, or encouraging emigration). I am worried: if ISIS can take Ramadi, why can’t it come here?”
Amman is an ancient place but teeming with people. It is in the nooks and crannies that Iraqi Christians who have fled ISIS are trying to find places to simply live. It is not easy as their money runs out, rent goes up to take advantage of their condition, and they are not allowed to work, and can be fined $3000 if they try. (Jordan has 30% unemployment, so refugees taking jobs away from Jordanians is a sensitive issue.)
In the context of the previous post, IGE’s cradlefund.org has worked through IOCC to get Iraqi Christians (and Muslims) simple food stuffs, blankets and rugs. Amidst the nooks and cramped crannies of East Amman, we visited Yeghsapet Minas Arzowian, an Armenian Christian from Aleppo (northern Syria). Her family owned a restaurant and she was a teacher before the civil war. It became too much to bear, especially daily ISIS sniper fire. (150 of her family and neighbors were killed.) So she put on the full black head-covering and dress of an Islamic woman and got on a bus with her three daughters. The bus was stopped several times during the 9 hour ride as ISIS took some women for themselves, or just took the kids. Miraculously she made it and had been in Jordan for seven months now. “I have a stronger faith now. Whatever Jesus says/plans, I will follow.” She would love to return to Syria but finds that unrealistic. Her desire now is resettlement to America. She wanted Chris to use her name, but only pictures of the room she shares with her daughters.
IOCC also took Chris to meet the 14 members of the Yousef and Jan families, who lived in the same apartment, sleeping on the floor to accommodate everyone. They are from Mosul and Syrian Orthodox (under Archbishop Nicodemus, see next post). ISIS shot dead one of their brothers, in front of his ten year old son. ISIS also destroyed their church, breaking the cross and hanging their black banners inside. They fled Mosul to Qarakosh after ISIS spray-painted the letter “N” on their homes (Nazarene) and wrote “property of Islamic State.” Then they fled Qarakosh in the middle of the night, August 6th, as ISIS came. They also appreciated their food, blankets and rugs, but now they don’t have any money for rent or medicine. But their faith is stronger too. One said: “Jesus Christ is our light and salvation. Everything on this planet is material and will fade away. Jesus Christ is the light and will never fail…thank you for coming across the planet to check on us.”
Only the Author of life writes such scripts…Chris had met Archbishop Nicodemus (red beard) at King Abdullah II’s palace last October. Meanwhile he kept hearing about Abuna Emmanuel, the Syrian Orthodox priest who was doing the most for these approximately 8000 Iraqi Christians scattered across Amman. It turns out that while I was hearing these stories from the bottom-up, Abuna Emmanuel had asked his Archbishop to come down from Erbil to ask HRH (his royal highness), Prince Ghazi for help (Ghazi, whom I also met in October, runs religious and tribal affairs on Jordan on behalf of the King). Ghazi met with them both this morning and said that while Jordan can help, they should meet with Chris. So they met at Prince Ghazi’s home this evening. They are desperate for their flock who cannot pay rent, work, get food/medicine, or emigrate. While we seek the advice of our partners and friends, Abuna Emmanuel will provide a prioritized list of needs, as well as a video by next week. We urge you to consider giving to meet this immediate need. Meanwhile, Abuna Emmanuel was a roommate to Canon Andrew White in the late 80s in Jerusalem, where they both studied theology; AND Abuna was the math teacher to Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of Assyrian Aid Society in Iraq! Ashur, it turns out, also went to elementary school with Archbishop Nicodemus. Chris mentioned all this to his Eastern brothers, saying that it was pretty clear that the Holy Spirit was guiding our paths together in His work. They said “amen.”
Alongside Cradle Partners, Ashur Sargon Eskrya (Assyrian Aid Society) and Daoud Arnaout (Heart for Lebanon), Dr. Seiple attends The World Economic Forum on Middle East and North Africa with 1000 delegates from 60 countries present. HM (his majesty) gave a solid speech, focusing on the positive opportunities amidst so many challenges. “We need to be our own leaders” in the context of a comprehensive global approach based on “moral leadership.” President Al-Sisi was seated next to Queen Rania, while President Barazani was addressed as equivalent to head of state (with Iraqi VP present, who was not addressed).
Libya’s former PM Jibril (far right) discussing youth and leadership in the Middle East: “We need to develop critical thinking. We don’t have any universities built around knowledge management…look at Singapore, which became independent in 1965. Singapore is some rocks in the sea and they don’t have their own drinking water, but their leader had a vision. Most of the Arab countries were also independent in 1965.”
“Good to be alive at the Dead Sea, surrounded by Romans 1:20 beauty”…but Dr. Seiple can’t stop comparing this protected and wide-open paradise to the unprotected and cramped poverty of those who have fled persecution to Kurdistan and Amman…there are some tremendous people here and business must be a part of a solution that will be driven from the ground-up, giving permission to our politicians to be leaders from the top-down…
Minister of Planning Sindi, Kurdistan: Internally displaced people (Iraqis fleeing ISIS within Iraq) are 28% increase to our population. UN reps for refugees (Mr. Guttierez) and education (former UK PM Mr. Brown) call for review of structures of development, and a overall political strategy, given the enormity of the region-wide humanitarian crisis. Brown: “we can provide humanitarian solutions but the crisis is bigger than that.”
Dr. Seiple with Dr. Ebtesam Alketbi, President of the Emirates Policy Center. She is the first female director of a Gulf think tank! Her Ph.D. is in political science and she focuses on violent extremism. Her next Abu Dhabi seminar is entitled “Killing for God.” “It’s a sexy title,” she told him, “and we have to get people talking about this.”
Dr. Seiple serves as a discussion leader for the “Devising Solutions to Violent Extremism – Next Steps” panel at the WEF.
The World Economic Forum takes on “violent extremism,” “addressing” not “countering” it. Eide: violent extremism is a global phenomenon as Norway knows; my own son swam away from the Christian terrorist who killed 70+ kids on that island. Allawi: we need a clear strategy where military is not solution. Iraq must engage on genuine course of reconciliation. Bakhit: the biggest threat is terrorism as heroism, providing purpose and story. Light shines from the wounds (paraphrasing Rumi, referring to the razor blade scar across his face done to him by an attacker for doing positive hero cartoons). Govts can’t do counter-narrative. Why did it take WEF to convene Jordanian govt and civil society leaders? Jaafar: the extremists haven’t hijacked the religion, they’ve relabeled it. The cost of doing nothing is a quantum scaling of the problem in years to come. Why do we encourage extremist marketing by calling them what they call themselves? We need a workshop to follow up on WEF conversations. Sewall: US is now looking at push factors from a multi-sector perspective. Local circumstance is key to understanding both drivers and triggers, requiring public-private integration. Regional CVE summits and national action plans now being started worldwide to come together at next UNGA. Governance and corruption are cross-cutting issues. Jahjaga: the world begins at home and the legitimacy of our governments must be strengthened by innovation in infrastructure, crime, corruption, health care and education, while being accountable to its citizens. Such things preempt the alienation of potential terrorists. Al-Mutlaq: we need the international community as we include the other, keeping terrorism at bay.
Great to have Cradle Fund Partners in Jordan together at the WEF.