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Open Doors Reaches Out To Iraqi Refugees

ICC Note

“During this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we need to reach out to those who are suffering as many of the IDPs are in Iraq ,”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 Iraq (ANS) — It is winter time in northern Iraq . The weather is freezing….often below zero. Food is scarce. There are few blankets. Adequate housing is hard to find.

Many of the people in need in the Kurdish region are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Iraqi Christians are continuing to flee from the violence in their country. Many Christians are leaving their homes because they are afraid of persecution from Muslim extremists who want them permanently removed. Many have fled to northern Iraq – a relatively safe haven – while others have gone to Syria or Jordan .

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last month the number of IDPs now stands at 2.3 million. OCHA reported an additional 60,000 people per month are now being displaced in Iraq – a rate of 2,000 a day.

A movement considered to be the “second wave” includes IDPs who were unable to move earlier, but now must move because of the violent situation. They have left everything behind and are living on their cash in hand. The poorest people have been moving steadily to the Kurdish-controlled region in the north. The influx of refugees has increased unemployment and dramatically heightened the cost of living.

One IDP mother who fled to northern Iraq said: “We left everything behind (in Baghdad ). We tried to sell a few items but time was short. It wasn’t possible to bring too much because if you are stopped at the checkpoints and the soldiers see you are moving, this can be a problem because sometimes they might not let you come into the city without a special permit from the government. We had a large house in Baghdad but left with only the clothes we were wearing and what could be put into a few bags in our car.”

Working closely with three local Christian organizations in a spirit of multi-denominational partnership, Open Doors put into action a project to meet the immediate needs of the IDPs. As of early November, 1,070 families had been helped with basic necessities by Open Doors. Preparations are complete to help many more families in the coming months.

Christian IDPs are getting relief supplies, housing help and spiritual counseling. Open Doors is supporting them in the basics of every day life: food, shelter, heating, clothes and medical care. In Syria and Jordan , Open Doors is helping with similar relief for the neediest families among the refugees.

“During this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we need to reach out to those who are suffering as many of the IDPs are in Iraq ,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller. “Pray that our Open Doors co-workers can continue to provide relief supplies to the most needy. Pray for spiritual healing. Pray that the violence will decrease and they can return home.”

To send a note of hope and encouragement to embattled Christians in Iraq , go to http://members.opendoorsusa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Note_of_Encouragement.

An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our USA Web site at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org).