Scenes of suffering ACN delegation visits displaced communities offering help and hope

0815Iraq_Church_St_ JosepH _ Refugees in Ankawa_ ErbilBy John Pontifex
THE plight of thousands of displaced people suffering in soaring temperatures has been highlighted by a delegation from a charity for persecuted Christians now in northern Iraq.
The team of three from Aid to the Church in Need, including the Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman and Projects Director Regina Lynch have been visiting internal refugees desperate for sanctuary both in the Kurdish regional capital, Erbil, and towns and villages further north.
Travelling barely 12.5 miles (20km) away from territory held by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS), the delegation have reported meeting people including those living under canvas in temperatures up to 43C – with up to seven to a tent.
The visit came after ACN agreed a further emergency aid package of nearly £80,000 (EURO €100,000) earlier this week, on top of a grant for the same amount paid out in June after thousands fled following the Islamic State’s capture of Mosul.
In a diary account of a visit to the Kurdish village of Mangesh, Maria Lozano, ACN International’s Deputy Communications Director, described the desperate anxiety of people who fled the jihadists, leaving everything behind.
Maria Lozano reported the ACN team’s visit to Baghere, another Kurdish village, where priests had just discovered 47 refugee families, “among them one-month-old twins coming into this world as refugees”.
She wrote: “All these people told the same story of how they had left Mosul with nothing, often fleeing in panic once they realised that the Government troops had gone.”
In her report, she describes how the displaced are divided about whether to flee the country.
She wrote: “Some of the refugees spoke about wanting to leave Iraq, believing that they have no future there.
“[They said they were] disappointed by the attitude of their former Muslim neighbours who robbed their houses once they had left.”
The ACN delegation found that others were determined to stay in the country provided an international peace-keeping force is in place.
Maria Lozano described meeting a 15-year-old girl, Ronda. She wrote: “Ronda looked surprised when we asked her if she wanted to leave.
“ ‘I want to stay in Iraq,’ she said. ‘I love it.’ ”
The team met a woman with three disabled children. Maria Lozano wrote: “She was crying and saying she wanted to go back to her village but was afraid to return.”
The ACN delegation’s four-day visit to Iraq is intended as a sign of solidarity with the displaced people and as a fact-finding mission to assess prospects for further help, both humanitarian and pastoral.
Their visit has been hosted by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, who has accompanied them on the journey.
The Archbishop was one of thousands who fled Mosul after Islamic State forces overran the city.
Reports say that up to 45 churches in Mosul have been destroyed, converted into mosques or turned into Islamic State command centres.


0815Iraq_One of the families who left Qararosh at the 6 August_ACN Delegation in Iraq August 2014_642px

0815Iraq_Park of the Church of St Josef in Ankawa A lot of families who left Qararosh at the 6th August came here