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- American FRRME | Remembrance Event
Displays of Hope, Help, and Healing from the August 6th Remembrance Event at the Olive Tree Center by Keely Jahns August 25, 2022 HOPE, HEALTH & HEALING On August 6th, 2022, the American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation (American FRRME) hosted a remembrance event with the Iraqi Christian community at the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan, to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the 2014 ISIS insurgency in Iraq. They gathered to sing, pray, and remember the day that changed their lives forever. Their expressions of joy and perseverance were in direct contrast to the terrorists that attempted to destroy their hope eight years before. Join us as we revisit some of the highlights of this night, with special selections from some of the music and poetry that was shared at the event. The youth at OTC gathered to sing this moving song from the Iraqi homeland: Bless My Country an Iraqi Hymn No matter what the situation is, you will be able to open the seas, no matter how dark the earth is, the sky is full of light. As Nehemiah came to you with tears and called for you, We are all coming to scream, O Jesus stretch out your hands. Bless my country, bless my country, O hearer of prayer in the hearts of all human beings. Bless my country, bless my country, turn to the cry of our hearts and send us rain. Your Holy Spirit gathers bones from every valley, Long live, speak, bow down to you, confess your name, O redeemer. On the cross I cast my sins away, the sins of my fathers and my children, O merciful heart, forgive and listen to the groans of my country. Bless my country, bless my country, turn to the cry of our hearts and send us rain. Your Holy Spirit gathers bones from every valley, Long live, speak, bow down to you, confess your name, O redeemer. On the cross I cast my sins away, the sins of my fathers and my children, O merciful heart, forgive and listen to the groans of my country. Bless my country, bless my country, O hearer of prayer in the hearts of all human beings. Bless my country, bless my country, turn to the cry of our hearts and send us rain. Fada and Karmen from the Hope Group read a joint poem about their experiences leaving their home as refugees. Poem by Fada and Karmen – “My Emigration from my Country” When I emigrated from my country, a day that history will always remember. When I left my town with teardrops in my eyes, I looked up to the sky with a broken heart. I asked God at that moment, is this a dream or the reality? What is happening to us? How shall I leave my country, my memories, and the place I grew up? The birds above the trees sing and say: “Why is this country so quiet?” Elders, women, youth, and kids wondering why is this happening? On those nights, eyes couldn’t fall asleep and the enemy lives in my town, the town that was built by my brother, father, and Grandfather. Only God can heal the pain of our deep wounds, giving us patience, faith, and love to endure the pain of leaving our beloved country. Oh, my country, my country…The day I emigrated. The youth gathered to perform a contemporary worship song in English. 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) a contemporary worship song by Matt Redman, performed by the children at the Olive Tree Center Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your holy Name. The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning; It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your holy Name. You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger, Your Name is great and Your heart is kind; For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your holy Name. And on that day when my strength is failing, The end draws near and my time has come; Still my soul sings Your praise unending, Ten thousand years and then forevermore. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your holy Name. Joy in the Face of Adversity Philippians 4:4 – 5 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.“ The refugees at OTC presented their stories, their songs, and their art with joy and resilience that is a true testament to hope that never fades. Their creativity and perseverance is in opposition to those who once tried to take it away. American FRRME’s Mission of Hope, Help, and Healing American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) is a U.S.-based Christian charity that aims to bring hope, help and healing in the Middle East, assisting Iraqi Christian refugees and other religious minorities. American FRRME works to support the ongoing needs of Iraqis – primarily Christian Iraqis – who fled Iraq and Kurdistan during the ISIS insurgency in 2014. The organization supports those displaced within Iraq many of whom remain living in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in Baghdad and northern Iraq, as well as supporting those who fled to neighboring Jordan. Working in partnership with churches in Iraq and Jordan, American FRRME is on the ground, providing food, clothing, education and more. In 2019 we established the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan. The center provides a safe and accessible place for Iraqi refugees to gather together and celebrate their culture together. Crucially, the center provides education and therapeutic activities including English classes, sewing, art and music, along with a mosaic and wood workshop and fresh produce garden.
- American FRRME | Save the Date
Save the Date: August 6, 2021 By Alice Seeley Published On July 2, 2021
- American FRRME | Remembering Pope's Call
Remembering the Pope’s Call For Peace By Keely Jahns Published On May 26, 2022 In March 2021, Pope Francis made a notable visit to Iraq, during which he was moved to the “deepest part of his soul,” by the plight of Christians across the Nineveh Plain and the Greater Middle East. According to Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, it was “possibly the most significant trip of the pontificate.” In light of the recent outbreak of fighting on the Nineveh Plain, which has already displaced thousands of Yazidi families , we reflect on the words of the Holy Father about the need for interfaith, as well as intercultural tolerance and peace.The Yazidi are a non-abrahamic minority which practices a distinct culture and religion in a land under majority Muslim governance. They, along with Christians, Shabak, and other religious minorities, have suffered greatly at the hands of extremist movements that have swept across the Plain. This violence is reminiscent of the waves of violence that killed, disappeared, and displaced hundreds of thousands in Northern Iraq and Kuridstan in 2014. It is a sobering reminder that although many have returned to resume their lives, adversity continues. The Holy Father’s words served to provide hope that one day, if we are truly to look to the teachings of our faiths, and follow our consciences, peace might be attainable. “This is true religiosity; to worship God and love our neighbor,” he addressed the crowds during his 2021 Iraq tour, “back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions” to pray together for peace as children of Abraham, the prophet common to Muslims, Christians and Jews.” Pope Francis spoke against the backdrop of a magnificent ziggurat in the ancient city of Ur. His Holiness traveled to the ruins, considered to be the birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. He delivered his message on physical common ground shared by all three faiths, in a land which has faced wave after wave of sectarian bloodshed. In an address, the Pope urged Iraq’s Muslim and Christian religious leaders to put aside their differences, work through past conflict, and work together for peace and unity for all. “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.” Blasphemy, particularly against Islam, is a dangerous accusation across the Middle East. Although Iraq has no law specifically punishing Christians or Yazidis for practicing their faith, many nations across the Middle East have imposed extreme punishments for perceived blasphemy, with harsh consequences for accusations of proselytizing or converting from Islam. And although there are no laws “on the books,” that has not stopped groups and governments from engaging in violence against those perceived as different. The pope said there could never be peace as long as people across the Middle East viewed people of different faiths as the “other.” “Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity,” he said. Francis told faith leaders that it was fitting that they come together in Ur, “back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions” to pray together for peace as children of Abraham, the prophet common to Muslims, Christians and Jews.” Although Abraham is considered the father of Christians, Muslims and Jews, there was not a Jewish representative available to attend the event. Judaism in Iraq, once a sizable minority of about 150,000, is now a micro-minority, with the community that exists in single digits. By March 2021, the number of Jews living in Iraq had dwindled down to five people. Life is difficult for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and in neighboring nations, with numbers dwindling every year. In 2019, in an impassioned address in London , the Reverend Bashar Warda said Iraq’s Christians now faced extinction after 1,400 years of persecution. Since the US-led invasion toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, he said, the Christian community had dwindled by 83%, from around 1.5 million to just 250,000. Similarly, in 2014, Yazidi leader Vian Dakhil warned: “Our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth.” According to the UN, around 5,000 Yazidi men were murdered and up to 7,000 Yazidi women and children were kidnapped. Thousands are still missing. Both the UN and the European Parliament have described these events, as well as the persecution of neighboring Christians and other minorities indigenous to the Nineveh Plain, as genocide. “We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings. Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred! Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country. All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered,” the Pope continued. “In particular, I would like to mention the Yazidi community, which has mourned the deaths of many men and witnessed thousands of women, girls and children kidnapped, sold as slaves, subjected to physical violence and forced conversions. “Today, let us pray for those who have endured these sufferings, for those who are still dispersed and abducted, that they may soon return home. And let us pray that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion will everywhere be recognized and respected; these are fundamental rights, because they make us free to contemplate the heaven for which we were created.” He went on to describe the journey of the prophet Abraham, and the lessons of unity and tolerance that his story can teach us. He ended his address with a call to tolerance: “It was precisely through hospitality, a distinctive feature of these lands, that Abraham was visited by God and given the gift of a son, when it seemed that all hope was past (cf. Gen 18:1-10). Brothers and sisters of different religions, here we find ourselves at home, and from here, together, we wish to commit ourselves to fulfilling God’s dream that the human family may become hospitable and welcoming to all his children; that looking up to the same heaven, it will journey in peace on the same earth.” We, like the Holy Father, wish for peace in Iraq and Kuridstan, and for the refugees of all conflicts to be able to return home and peacefully reestablish their lives. We know the aching of refugees for their homeland far too well. As an organization, we have worked with several minority communities across Iraq to help build brighter futures, including Yazidis. American FRRME is deeply committed to interfaith unity, and is always ready and willing to help Iraqi refugees. Our mission is to initiate and foster long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing violence across the Middle East. The people of this region have suffered greatly during the bloodshed of the last century. Please PRAY for the victims of violence in the Nineveh Plain. Pray for peace in the Middle East. Pray for the Yazidis, Shabak, and the Christian minority communities of the region, that they are able to heal and rebuild their lives in a brighter and more peaceful future. We dream of a world where everyone may practice their culture and religion in peace, and truly wish to see that happen in Iraq. Pray for the widows, the orphans, and those who are losing their homes and their livelihoods. May the Lord restore peace and have his hand of protection over those fleeing violence, and may His children work to build a tolerant and unified future that allows all groups to live together in harmony.
- American FRRME | Number of Refugees Doubled
The Number of Refugees Has Doubled in the Past Decade By Alice Seeley Published On June 20, 2020 Nearly 80 million people worldwide qualify as refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced. This number rose by 9 million from a year earlier. It is close to double the 41 million recorded in 2010, despite Covid-19 restrictions slowing down movement. Of the 79.5 million displaced people globally, 26 million are refugees, 4.2 million are asylum seekers, and 45.7 million are IDPs. This amounts to one percent of the world’s total population. Around half of the 79.5 million are children. They are very often not given access to education and are often exposed to violence and exploitation at a young age. The Middle East has been the center of this humanitarian crisis and remains so. Seven in 10 of those displaced came from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Venezuela, and Myanmar. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees— 3.9 million people, mostly from Syria, where the civil war has entered its tenth year. 73 percent of refugees seek asylum in a neighboring country, thus involving countries in the Middle East as sources of refugees and asylums. The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East provides humanitarian assistance, health care, and education to those who have fled persecution and genocide, including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, and others throughout the Middle East. This is made possible through your generous donations. American FRRME is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East. To make a donation to American FRRME, please visit NETWORK FOR GOOD .
- American FRRME | Meet Falah
Meet Falah Zaki By Alice Seeley Published On August 18, 2021 Falah Zaki, a famous carpenter in Iraq, left with his family when ISIS invaded. He learned his trade at 12-years-old and led a team that built a series of beautiful churches in Qaraqosh and the surrounding areas, as well as other landmark projects. Now at the age of 50, he is a refugee in Jordan with his wife, two teenage daughters, and three younger sons. Falah is not allowed to work for a living in Jordan, and this has been extremely hard on him. However, he has been able to put his talents to good use by volunteering at The Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan. He helped build the woodwork shop at the Madaba center and is the lead instructor of woodworking classes. By sharing his skills and knowledge with other men he has greatly impacted the Iraqi refugee community. Helena, our Jordan Country Director says, “The Olive Tree Center helps the Iraqi men regain a sense of purpose and dignity in their lives. It really rejuvenates them as they are able to practice and share their skills again. The Center gives them a place to step away from the despair they have felt. It has been wonderful for me to witness.” The picture above was taken by his wife right before they fled Qaraqosh. This picture of his work has made it all the way from Iraq to Jordan through various living conditions! It truly shows how proud the family is of his work and how difficult it was to have it ripped away from him! Through your donations, American FRRME is able to help refugees like Falah regain a sense of purpose!
- American FRRME | Christian Villages Emptied
Christian Villages Emptied Once Again By Keely Jahns Published On December 6, 2021 Iraqi Christians are under siege once again. Christian villages across Kurdistan are bracing for bombardment. On November 6th, 2021, Turkish bombs fell over the town of Father Samir Youssef, an Iraqi priest who has seen wave after wave of violence hit his region. According to Samir, this is the first time in about a year that Christians in the surrounding towns have faced bombardment from Turkish forces. However, it isn’t the first time that Iraqi Christians had to flee their homes. In 2014, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians had to flee their homes in the nearby Nineveh Plain in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their backs, fearing for the safety of their friends and loved ones as they fled the onslaught of ISIS. Today, many remain scattered across the Middle East, in places like the Kingdom of Jordan, where they receive hope, help, and healing through initiatives by the American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) like the Olive Tree Center and its many programs. Programs include music and art therapy, tutoring, and even a new community gardening project in Fuheis. Many have also been able to return to Northern Iraq, where America FRRME has sponsored several apprenticeship programs and agricultural start-ups. A chicken farm and bakery in Qaraqosh are two examples of the programs that are helping to reestablish the lives of refugees as they return to Iraq. It is the aim of American FRRME’s efforts to help those returning to find stable work, learn new trades, and to provide hope for the future. However, this new threat of violence, as well as increasing cases of COVID-19, are making it difficult for Iraqi Christians and other minority groups to rebuild their hometowns. As of the 21st of November, many villages were emptied once again, just as they were seven years ago. According to Father Samir, today, “the fear is tangible.” Continuing on he noted the impact of Turkish attacks saying they “stopped tourism after a phase of recovery and made it difficult to cultivate fields or keep factories open, for fear of being hit.” Through American FRRME initiatives in Iraq, there is hope that despite threats of violence, we can help to rebuild this region. The Christians in Iraq need help now more than ever. Please join us in prayer for the Iraqi people, and consider supporting American FRRME’s initiatives to help these beautiful people rebuild their lives.
- American FRRME | Egypt Releases Coptic Christians
Egypt Releases Nine Coptic Christians Jailed for Attempting to Rebuild Church By Keely Jahns Published On April 28, 2022 On April 24th, 2022, after outcry from human rights organizations, the Egyptian State released nine Coptic Christians who were detained for attempting to rebuild their community church. They had been detained for nearly three months. Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up roughly 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 103 million people. The community has long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation. The nine residents of Ezbet Faragallah village in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, were part of a protest of about 70 people who on January 22nd had demanded the restoration of their church, which had burned down five years earlier. The act is widely believed to have been arson. Most in the village, including the clergy, believe it was burnt down by extremists; but an Egyptian law restricting Christian worship kept them from putting down a single brick to rebuild it. The church was burnt down in 2016, and clergy petitioned the government for the right to restore it, but received no response from authorities, even when it was fully demolished by the local government in July 2021. This delay is in direct contradiction of the restriction itself, which maintains that there should be a period of no longer than four months between the submission of such a request and an official response. Clergy and adherents are forbidden from building new churches, rebuilding damaged churches, or even making repairs to their churches without special approval from the Egyptian government. Mosques require no such approval. Why such a double standard exists can be traced back to Article Two of Egypt’s Constitution: “Islam is the religion of the State … The principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.” Sharia law follows the Muslim faith and belief in Allah and does not specifically address non-Muslim places of worship; strictly interpreted, the law forbids the building or renovating of churches in Egypt. Although the law is not uniformly enforced across Egypt, the aversion toward Christians in Egypt lives on. According to Amnesty International, the Egyptian authorities point to Law No. 80/2016, on Building and Repairing Churches, as an advancement of the rights of Christians in Egypt; however, in practice, the law is often used to prevent Christians from worshiping by restricting their right to build or repair churches, including those damaged in sectarian attacks. The nine villagers belonging to the The Church of Saint Joseph and Abu Sefein protested and were charged with “participating in an assembly that endangers public peace, and committing a terrorist act with the aim of disturbing public security,” according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). According to EIPR, authorities have conditionally approved less than 40 percent of requests to build or repair churches since the law came into effect, with only 20 percent granted final approval. In a statement last month , the rights watchdog Amnesty International called for the residents’ release, saying the authorities had “for years ignored calls to rebuild the church, leaving around 800 Coptic Christians without a place to worship in their village.” They were released this past Sunday when Coptic Christians, as well as Orthodox Christians around the world, celebrated Easter – a true victory on Christianity’s holiest day. The restrictions against Christians in Egypt are unfortunately not unique. Islamic Shariah, and anti-Christian sentiment are common across the Middle East. In many predominantly Muslim countries, your religion is a part of your birth certificate and is determined by the religion of your parents. This leads to discrimination on a social level, which is in most circumstances, perfectly legal. And, although anyone may change their paperwork in order to officially denote a conversion to Islam, in most Middle Eastern countries, converting from Islam to Christianity, or any minority religion, is not legally recognized. Those who wish to publicly convert from Islam to Christianity often face legal action under strict blasphemy laws, which include imprisonment, forced conversions back to Islam, and even death. According to Pew, 90% of countries in North Africa and the Middle East had some form of blasphemy laws. These punishments are sometimes carried out by the courts, but are also often carried out by mob violence. In some nations, such as Pakistan, where a seminarian was recently stabbed to death in a “witch hunt,” based on a child’s dream , a mere accusation of proselytizing can lead to violence. The Egyptian Criminal Code explicitly outlaws blasphemy. Nestled among prohibitions on advocating “extremist thoughts,” “instigating sedition,” or “prejudicing national security.” Article 98 also outlaws “disdaining and contempting any of the heavenly religions or the sects belonging thereto.” Although the strong anti-apostasy measures of neighboring nations are not technically in place in Egypt, the Egyptian Criminal Court’s anti-blasphemy precedent has been used to go after so-called “apostates” in the past. And although the Egyptian government recognizes other Abrahamic religions, in practice, government and society is centered around the practice of Islam to the point of exclusion for other faiths. As the Middle East becomes increasingly more hostile to Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, American FRRME stands committed to programs that provide hope, help, and healing to those escaping sectarian violence. Our programs in Iraq are intended to help those who have lost everything to extremism with the hope to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. Our programs in Madaba offer vital assistance, as well as therapy programs and education to refugees and their children. American FRRME is committed to long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing violence across the Middle East.
- American FRRME | Refugee Crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan
The Refugee Crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan By Alice Seeley Published On June 22, 2020 Church set on fire by ISIS Since 2011, over 2 million refugees have fled their homes and have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Now, 28 percent –almost one third– of Iraqi Kurdistan’s overall population is made up of refugees. Kurdistan is a region in Northern Iraq. Unlike many other places where refugees flee, Kurdistan is landlocked and cannot be reached by boat. And despite its lack of official nation status, Kurdistan has provided housing, food, and other essential services to the many refugees seeking help there. The Kurds themselves are no strangers to persecution. In fact, they are one of the most persecuted minorities of our time. Since World War I, the Kurdish people have been victims of constant attacks by the Turkish government. According to reports, between 1925 and 1939, 1.5 million Kurds were deported or killed. On March 16, 1988, Iraqi warplanes attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq with mustard gas and sarin. 5,000 people- mainly women and children – died within minutes of the attack. Another 7,000 to 10,000 suffered long-term health problems due to this attack. Most of today’s refugees in Kurdistan have fled from Syria and other parts of Iraq due to the rise of ISIS. Nearly 4 million Iraqis fled their homes starting in 2014 because of the terror group, becoming IDPs. The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East has been working diligently with IDPs in and around Iraqi Kurdistan. American FRRME seeks to assist wherever people have been persecuted for their beliefs within this region of the Middle East on the ground, providing food, clothing, shelter, education, and even assistance with entrepreneurial enterprises through our Nineveh SEED projects. FRRME America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East. To make a donation to American FRRME, please visit NETWORK FOR GOOD.
- American FRRME | Thank You!
Thank You! By Alice Seeley Published On July 15, 2021 At American FRRME, we bring hope, help, and healing to those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by acts of violence. To continue restoring lives we need your support! In the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq at the Harsham refugee camp, hundreds of young boys happily play soccer, made possible through your donations! With nothing to do, they were at risk of radicalization from extremists. This is why we created the soccer project funding the soccer field, the Coach’s salary, and soccer equipment. The boys are extremely grateful! One boy said, “We are very happy for this support and for the kits. I love it. Thank you!” As little as $20 a month gives a young boy the chance to play soccer. Please consider donating today! Through your prayers and your generosity, we can provide hope, help, and healing to Christian refugees in Nineveh Plain. American FRRME is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East. Harsam Soccer Good News From The Harsham Soccer Project By Alice Seeley Published On October 13, 2020 Three years ago American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East started funding the Harsham Soccer Project to restore the soccer field in the Harsham Internally Displaced People’s Camp in northern Iraq. The soccer field was completed in 2019 and since then at least 250 children play on it every month! Unfortunately, the soccer field has been closed for much of 2020 due to COVID-19. Now the field is back open, the boys are playing soccer again and their coach, Dastan is back at work. This lockdown was a difficult time for the young boys and their families. 13 years old, Firaz Nasr from Sinjar described his quarantine as “very hard for us because we had to spend the whole of our time in our tent. We were not allowed to come to the pitch (field) and play football.” With the restrictions loosening up, Firaz is much happier: “We are allowed to come out and play football. I love it!” Jasim Fathi, also 13 years old from Mosul describes his experience as: “It was not good at all. We stayed in our tent for a long time… I really wanted to go out of the tent to play football with my friends.” Now that the soccer field is open again, Jasim says: “Now, life is back again; as you can see us on the pitch. Dastan is here and all of my friends are around. We are very happy.” 8-year-old Fahd Emad from Sinjar expressed the same struggles as the other boys: “I couldn’t play football. The pitch was closed, there were no matches. No friends were around.” Now Fahd says: “Now everything is good. I can come out from our tent and play football with my friends… We are doing great!” “The children have a lot of energy which needs to be released in a positive way,” says dedicated Coach Dastan, “Keeping busy with sport[s] and making friends is such a benefit for them. When they come here in the afternoon they play and play and play, then they get tired and go home and sleep. The pitch (field) is open five days a week and is always full.” Thanks to your generous donations and Coach Dastan’s hard work, the soccer project has had several success stories! For example, soccer student Mohannad Hosam is now a member of the Aljazeera football club in the United Arab! This is an incredible achievement! “I care for these children and want to continue helping them,” Dastan says. “They are the next generation.” This is only possible due to your generous donations! American FRRME is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East.
- American FRRME | Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday: Traditions in Iraq and Around the World By Keely Jahns Published On April 14, 2022 This Sunday, April the 17th, millions of Christians around the globe will be celebrating Easter and commemorating the resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Among them are most Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, and a majority of people in Europe and the Americas. Even among the unaffiliated, Easter is still a celebration of new life and springtime, and a reason to attend a religious service or gather with family. Easter is the most sacred holiday for the Body of Christ, although it is slightly less significant in the sphere of Western culture than Christmas. You will find it to be less commercialized (although many still use it as an opportunity to give sweet treats to little ones in the form of Easter baskets and egg hunts), without so many movies, decorations, or toys. While the kids enjoy its more whimsical traditions, and candy companies in the United States still make a sizable dime, Easter is a smaller holiday within popular culture. Yet, it is the most important celebration in all of Christianity. This brings the focus away from that of a commercialized holiday, and to one that is centered on togetherness and sacredness. It is a dually solemn and joyous celebration of faith, as we remember both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Easter is celebrated by Christians as a joyous holiday because it represents the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the revelation of God’s salvific plan for all of humankind. In commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus, Easter also celebrates the defeat of death and the hope of salvation. Belief in the bodily — literal, not metaphorical — resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock on which every other Christian belief rests. It’s how we know that Jesus was not merely a preacher, or a good teacher, but actually the Son of God. He was pierced for our transgressions, and he rose from the grave three days later. For Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, many mainline Protestants, as well as other, smaller liturgical groups; the preparation for Easter begins 40 days in advance (albeit on a different date for Orthodox church goers) with Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is one of fasting and penance in preparation for Resurrection Sunday. Even those who do not observe the Lenten fasts often attend special services throughout the Lenten season to commemorate dates of religious significance, like Palm Sunday and Good Friday. But, the common thread for Christians everywhere, is that Easter Sunday means church attendance. Regardless of denomination, many churches will also be holding potlucks, as well as Easter egg hunts for the children in their congregations. Resurrection Sunday services in the West vary from denomination to denomination. Catholics will celebrate a special mass. Many liturgical denominations will include sacraments, such as baptisms, confirmations, and communion during Easter services. Evangelical and non-denominational churches may include less orthodox expressions of worship and praise, such as dance performances, skits, artwork, and special music to commemorate the day. Many churches conduct services with both traditional and contemporary elements. It is worth mentioning that while most of Western Europe, North and South America will commemorate the Resurrection this Sunday, many of our brothers and sisters in Iraq will be celebrating Orthodox Easter, which takes place a week later. Their traditions, shaped by the earliest Christians, stand firm against years of adversity. For many in Mosul and other areas of Northern Iraq, olive branches are distributed to farmers on Palm Sunday, who plant them on their land and pray for bountiful harvests. Women often dye eggs in red and yellow as a sign of joy and love. The eggs are dyed using traditional materials, such as onion skin and lentils. Also on this day, Christians will eat a special kind of bread called “Tkharca Daochgan,” a yellow-dyed bread made from bulgur and wheat flour. During the morning before church, this bread is distributed in the community, particularly among the poor and needy. After church, Christians will return home for a meat dish called “pacha.” In some regions of Iraq, both Christians and Muslims work together to prepare sweets for the holiday. The week before Easter, they often work alongside one another to prepare desserts for the Feast of Alklejeh. Among these sweets is kleicha, an Assyrian pastry considered to be the national cookie of Iraq. Kleicha is a sweet, round or half-moon shaped cookie that often resembles a small cinnamon roll. Its spiral center consists of layers of sweet foods like dates and spices like cardamom, wedged between the layers of sweet dough. Other variations may be stuffed and oblong and may be topped with walnuts or sesame seeds. Kleicha can be made in a variety of ways and is as unique as the person baking it. For Iraqi Christians, the Thursday before Easter is also an important observance, as many will go to church and contemplate the Last Supper. On Good Friday, many Iraqi Christians will attend mass and services to reflect on the crucifixion of Christ. Many may also attend passion plays, reenactments of the crucifixion, which are popular with Christians around the world during Holy Week. On Sunday morning, Iraqi Christians, some on the 17th and others on the 24th, will gather to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with all Christians around the world with messages, sacraments, and songs. Regardless of orthodoxy or expression, all of Christendom will be celebrating Christ’s resurrection as a victory. We look forward to seeing the wonderful Easter traditions that will be part of our Easter celebrations at the Olive Tree Center among our refugees in Madaba, Jordan. American FRRME supports all efforts to create a better future for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East. As we learn more about the traditions of Christians in Iraq and across the globe, it is our sincere wish that Christians find unity in our celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter. Happy Easter from American FRRME!
- American FRRME | Boxing
“Boxing Sister,” Program Helps Internally Displaced Women Kickbox Their Way to Healing By Keely Jahns Published On July 28, 2022 Adapted from a story by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees . A boxing project implemented by an NGO Innovation Award winner is empowering displaced Yazidi women and girls in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The “Boxing Sister” program helps displaced women and girls to “kick their grief and pain away”. When Nathifa Wadie Qasim was a young girl in Sinjar, in Iraq’s Nineveh Governate, her school had a punching bag that was used by male students for boxing practice. Nathifa punched it almost every day. “I remember I was the only female among my friends who had the courage to get close to that bag and land some hard punches at it,” she recalled. “It helped me to take my stress out.” At home, Nathifa was the primary caregiver for her sick mother and younger siblings while her father was out working the family’s fields. Her mother died just days before ISIS militants attacked Sinjar in August 2014. The militants targeted Sinjar’s majority Yazidi population, subjecting them to a reign of terror that the UN has called a genocide. Thousands of Yazidi men were executed while women and girls were abducted and often sold into sexual slavery. Nathifa’s family was able to escape, ending up in Rwanga, a camp for 12,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP), mostly Yazidis, in Kurdistan. Eight years later, her family is still there, only to have been abandoned by their father, leaving 28 year old Nathifa as the sole provider for her family. That’s when Nathifa began working for Lotus Flower, an organization that supports women and girls in Iraq. So many of the women and girls in the camps were survivors of unspeakable violence, many survivors of kidnapping and sex trafficking. Lotus Flower was looking for a solution that would help bring these young women hope and growth. Nathifa’s first thought was the punching bag she had worked at so many years ago. “The majority of the women and girls in the camp were ISIS survivors,” Nathifa said, “who had trauma as a result of what they had been through in captivity,” she says. “I thought, if those women and girls were physically strong, they might have had a better chance of escaping from ISIS or defending themselves.” The head of Lotus Flower, and fellow survivor, Taban Shoresh, was looking for an outlet to give girls and women facing similar situations, so that they could express themselves, get physically fit, and work toward healing their traumas. Together, Taban and Nathifa worked together to implement a program that would allow IDP women and girls the chance to start kickboxing. “I met a lot of Yazidi women and girls who were impacted by ISIS,” said Taban. “I could see the anger and the emotions trapped inside them. I thought, what will help rebuild their confidence and bring back that power that was taken away. What sport is there? And it was boxing that just came out.” In 2018, Taban brought Cathy Brown, a former professional boxer and cognitive behavioral therapist, to Rwanga to train Nathifa and other young women how to box and become trainers themselves. The “Boxing Sisters” program was born and since then, Nathifa has trained over a hundred girls and women in the sport and self-defense art of boxing. Early resistance from the community to the idea of girls learning to box fell away once the benefits became clear. “They used to say that boxing was not for girls, but they witnessed that the participants got stronger and there is nothing wrong with it,” says Nathifa. The Boxing Sisters program is just one of many projects run by Lotus Flower aimed at empowering Iraqi women and girls affected by conflict to rebuild their lives. They include adult literacy classes, support for women-led small businesses, art therapy and training for women to become mediators and peace defenders. Back at Rwanga camp, Nathifa says boxing has helped the girls in her classes “kick their grief and pain away.” “Now, I feel proud of them. They have become what they and I wanted them to become – strong both physically and psychologically.” Life for IDPs in Iraq is extremely difficult. We support all efforts, in both our organization, and others like it, to start programs that will help facilitate hope, help and healing in the lives of IDPs and Iraqi refugees living abroad. The plight of IDPs and Iraqi refugees is a burden we feel strongly at American FRRME. Our organization is one of a handful that are specifically helping Christian and Yazidi refugees and IDPs in places like Iraq, and helping the Assyrian and Kurdish diaspora living as refugees in other countries, like Jordan. We want the world to know about the plight of Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and Shabak, and to mobilize Americans and partners around the world to make an impact in the lives of those touched by over a century of sectarian violence. As the Middle East becomes increasingly more hostile to ethnic and religious minorities, American FRRME stands committed to programs that provide hope, help and healing to those escaping sectarian violence. Our programs in Iraq are intended to help those who have lost everything to extremism with the hope to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. Our programs at the Olive Tree Center in Jordan offer vital assistance, as well as therapy programs and education to refugees and their children. American FRRME is committed to long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and IDPs. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing persecution across the Middle East.