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  • American FRRME | Starvation Bigger Threat

    To Many Refugees, Starvation Is a Bigger Threat Than COVID-19 By Alice Seeley Published On June 17, 2020 Refugees are already at risk for starvation, but due to COVID-19, they are at an even higher risk. In normal circumstances, starving is a constant worry for refugees. Refugee camps rarely have enough resources. Now, COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have worsened the already horrible living conditions in these camps, putting thousands of refugees around the world at risk of starvation. ​ In some camps, such as Jordan’s Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps, lockdowns have prevented people from working at jobs outside the camps. This means refugees are entirely dependent on charities for food and basic necessities. This stretches already scarce resources even thinner. ​ In addition, border closures have forced many refugees back to dangerous conditions during the pandemic. For instance, Malaysia turned back a boat of refugees seeking safety. Bangladesh eventually allowed it to land, but after it had drifted at sea for two months and at least 30 people had died of starvation. ​ Studies have shown refugees are more afraid of starving to death than of getting COVID-19. ​ The American Foundation for Relief & Reconciliation in the Middle East has provided food and other necessities to religious refugees at this desperate time, due to your generous donations. Please donate to help us continue providing care to these refugees. ​ 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 https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/frrmeamerica?code=WebsiteGeneral

  • American FRRME | Field Notes from Helena

    Field Notes from Helena By Alice Seeley Published On April 16, 2021 OLIVE TREE CENTER UPDATES The Olive Tree Center remains open with art, piano, guitar, salon, gardening, and English language (beginner, intermediate grammar & conversation) classes. Mahmoud, a Jordanian Muslim artist, started classes and is very popular; He teaches adults and children, and class attendance by Iraqi men has particularly increased. Piano & guitar classes led by two Jordanian young men continue to positively impact children and adults alike. It is the very first time many of the refugees have been able to access the music class. The Olive Tree Center continues to serve as a hub for relief operations (clothing, vitamin, & food coupon distributions). Once the pandemic ends, American FRRME will host an “open house” Iraqi cultural event. This will be open to the community and invite members from Embassies, the international community, local businesses, and more. Attendees will enjoy a “taste of Iraqi culture.” This will advance our efforts to ease community tension and divides, as well as facilitate strong and positive community relationships. Garden Project The garden at the Olive Tree Center continues to flourish and provide fresh produce to refugee families with Azad as the lead gardener. Azad and other Iraqi refugee men constructed a garden shed in order to keep maintenance/workshop tools and gardening supplies safely away from children. This project provides sustenance to the community as well as a way to empower Iraqi men to garden together and serve the community. The “Youth gardening initiative” has taken off and Azad is not only gardening but imparting his gardening skills and knowledge to youth in the community starting with his son, Andi. This provides an outlet for some of the teens outside during COVID. Mask Making Project The Mask Making & Sewing Project led by refugee sisters, Leka and Ashwak, in Madaba, continues to thrive and provide vital support to the refugee communities. As the project expands, two other refugee women have taken active roles in leadership roles. All have AFRRME provided sewing machines and are very excited to participate in the project! Two of the women have physical ailments and have been unable to get to the Center so having access to the AFRRME sewing machines in their homes has provided much joy throughout the limitations and difficulties of COVID. This project has led to the creation of aprons, masks, potholders, baby clothes, and pillowcases, among other items. The provision of more sewing machines to the refugee women gives them a way to not only make essential items for themselves and their community but will ultimately help them secure a means to make money. PARTNERSHIP UPDATES ​ Nazarene Church, Pastor Zaki Through the Nazarene Church partnership, American FRRME continues to support the Youth Empowerment & Trauma healing Center along with refugee food package assistance. Though there have been adjustments to the center, the refugee community still has access to classes (English language, IT, woodworking, sewing/knitting) with strict adherence to small class sizes. Due to COVID and all of the restrictions, Pastor Zaki’s ministry has had to temporarily stop the work in Mafraq (outreach to Syrian Muslim refugees living outside of Zataari camp). He hopes to resume these efforts in the future. Pastor Zaki continues to minister to the sick, elderly, poor Jordanians, along with the Iraqi refugee community. He is very active and engaged and has continued online church services & support services throughout the pandemic even without the church physically being able to hold services. Syrian Orthodox Church, Father Benjamin Relief efforts continue to support over 500 Iraqi refugee families through food packages, medical assistance, rent, and immigration support, as well as regular home visits conducted to assess welfare and needs. The refugees we support have been hit very hard by the pandemic. They are living in the worst conditions in very cramped and difficult accommodations. American FRRME continues to reach this community through a combination of relief provided at the Syrian Orthodox Church and home visits to those unable to get to the church. Assemblies of God Church, Madaba, Pastor Yoo We continue to support the refugee community in Madaba and the 120 families who attend the Full Gospel Church with food coupons, transportation to church, youth group support, mask making, garden projects, support groups, and “empowerment” projects. American FRRME continues to support the very active ministry of the Full Gospel Church through home visits to the community, rent support, medical support, and education assistance along with the wide range of programs offered at the Olive Tree Center. Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis, Father Bolis American FRRME continues to support the partnership at the Greek Catholic Church through the food coupon program and further development opportunities. 250 refugee families receive food coupons to local grocery stores. There is an exciting opportunity to open a second “Garden of Hope” in Fuheis on land owned by the Church. The land is currently unoccupied and is an ideal plot of land for the refugee community to engage in. The establishment of a greenhouse could ensure the scale and impact of this garden and could fuel the refugee community with fresh fruit, produce, and olive oil (there are existing olive trees). American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update: Jordan is currently experiencing a surge in numbers and is at the peak of the second wave. Friday lockdowns, curfew, and Internet restrictions continue. Travel is still extremely difficult. A year into the pandemic, American FRRME’s mission remains a crucial facilitator of empowerment, growth, community outreach, and development opportunities. Our team continues to provide much-needed relief services to those we support. It is very much appreciated by the refugee communities American FRRME supports. Field Notes from Helena By Alice Seeley Published On January 28, 2021 Olive Tree Center as a relief center during COVID-19 ​ The Olive Tree Center (OTC) continues to serve as a safe and compliant base for relief operations. While its doors were closed as a Center, the OTC never stopped serving the refugee community. With strict adherence to social distancing and mask and gloves and in full compliance with the government rules and regulations, food coupon and package distributions, family support, mask making and gardening have flourished at the Center. Limiting the actual body count and maintaining proper safety measures has enabled us to still get essential support to the refugees in Madaba and to make use of the center while providing services. ​ Churches were legally allowed to open on Sunday, June 7th, with strict adherence to government rules. The masks American FRRME provides are vital to enabling refugees to get to church. ​ American FRRME COVID RELIEF STRATEGY UPDATE ​ American FRRME successfully implemented the COVID relief plan despite the many government restrictions of movement, lockdowns, and curfew implementation. Borders between towns reopened and internal travel with cars is now allowed. Helena Scott is able to travel directly to all American FRRME partnerships and refugee communities. Wellness Checks were performed by American FRRME to the most at-risk refugees throughout all the communities American FRRME supports, as soon as travel was allowed and restrictions lifted. American FRRME has remained fully compliant with government rules and regulations, wearing a mask and gloves whenever directly distributing relief. ​ Partnership Updates ​ Nazarene Church – Pastor Zaki ​ American FRRME continues throughout COVID to provide food packages and supplies to the refugees who attend the Nazarene Church, along with much-needed food packages and hygiene kits to some Syrian refugees in Mafraq. ​ Syrian Orthodox Church – Father Benjamin ​ Relief efforts continued in June to reach the 583 families American FRRME supports via the Syrian Orthodox Church. Father Benjamin has not been able to be mobile due to recent surgery, so Helena Scott has been conducting home visits directly to families most in need. ​ Assemblies of God Church In Madaba – Pastor Yoo ​ FRRME-A/FRRME support of the refugee community in Madaba and the 120 families who attend the Full Gospel Church was unwavering, food coupons provided as well as OTC offerings. ​ Greek Catholic Church In Fuheis – Father Bolis ​ American FRRME continues to support the refugee families in Fuheis via the Greek Catholic Church. Now that the border is open and travel is allowed, providing relief and support has been much easier. ​ Proposed Initiatives ​ Expansion of “garden of hope” to Full Gospel Church. The Garden of Hope initiative at the OTC has really taken off. It has provided much-needed hope and growth, and will eventually provide food for the refugee community in Madaba. The Full Gospel Church has excess land where we could facilitate the expansion of these efforts. If American FRRME can fund the garden project at the Full Gospel Church we can expand the gardening efforts. ​ As American FRRME continues to make the shift from providing relief to creating more sustainable solutions, this gardening initiative perfectly reflects that shift–providing hope, help, and healing through gardening. ​ As soon as the OTC officially opens we can live stream traditional Iraqi cooking classes by refugees, to obtain donations from donors, host cooking classes, and give the diplomat and ex-pat community a “taste of Iraq” through delicious cooking. ​ Proposed “Open House” at OTC to launch reopening post-Corona ​ To be safely planned and coordinated once the OTC can safely and legally reopen. ​ Youth Project ​ Additional funding for a youth project would be much appreciated. Children have been stuck in tiny apartments with their entire families. The need to do something special for the youth is very present. ​ As Jordan continues the reopening process, pools and waterparks may safely reopen at some point this summer. The airport is still closed, but travel within Jordan is much more accessible. As an organization, we are remaining vigilant and adhering to all safety measures during distributions. Society as a whole is struggling as people are still out of work. The need for support remains great and all communities are appreciative of what we are able to provide. ​ Mental Health services are needed now more than ever, and as the OTC awaits reopening, American FRRME has the chance to continue to make a significant impact. Field Notes from Helena By Alice Seeley Published On November 20, 2020 American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update: ​ American FRRME has continued to implement all government-imposed criteria necessary to safely reopen The Olive Tree Center. This includes hand sanitizer being mounted on walls, regular cleaning, mask-wearing, regulation of class and center attendance, and social distancing implemented in all classes. ​ Olive Tree Center COVID-19 Update: ​ Due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Jordan, lockdowns and Internet restrictions have continued. Complete lockdown started on Tuesday, November 10th, and will remain in place until determined by the government. American FRRME is doing all we can to provide hope and mental health initiatives during this challenging time. The Olive Tree Center’s ability to remain open has been instrumental and has provided much-needed support and hope. Depression across the country is on the rise, and safely enabling refugees to get out of their very small accommodation and give them activities and classes to engage in has been invaluable. ​ Olive Tree Center Updates: ​ English language (conversation & grammar) beginner, intermediate and advanced, music and art classes continued throughout October. Helena Scott resumed conversational English classes post quarantine. Students are very happy with the new “ESL” (English as a second language) curriculum. Guitar classes for children have expanded in order to keep class sizes small to comply to COVID-19 restrictions. Piano classes have started and have become very popular. Mahmoud Omar, a local artist, agreed to start weekly adult art classes. The community is very excited about the possibility of photography classes. The OTC hosted cosmetology workshops for small and safe class sizes for the Iraqi women, led by Ibtisam, an Iraqi refugee with years of salon/beauty care experience. The refugee women asked for this class as they are eager to learn skills they can use for new jobs (most had their education disrupted) and they are interested in certificates for various trades. The workshop took place every Saturday throughout the month and will continue. There is a high demand for computer skills classes. Refugees are very interested in learning basic computer skills such as typing, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, etc. This will equip them for a variety of jobs. Helena Scott received donations from the US embassy this past month and distributed them at the Olive Tree Center. Olive Tree Center Workshops: ​ American FRRME currently supports a woodworking workshop at the Nazarene Church in Amman. The refugee men work on handicrafts such as crosses, trays, bowls, small vases, and other wood items. Exercise classes have been established on the roof of the Olive Tree Center. Yoga teacher volunteers are ready to start once the lockdown is lifted. American FRRME has a health initiative and provides fruit and healthy snacks at the Olive Tree Center. Naseem, the son of artist Mahmoud, is a personal trainer and has volunteered to provide fitness classes for the youth. ​ Garden Project: ​ The garden continues to flourish and provides fresh produce to refugee families on a rotating basis every Friday. New autumn crops were planted and the garden is now producing garlic, green peppers, lettuce, sweet potatoes. The garden also has a large pomegranate tree, which is bearing fruit. Azad continues to lead this project and has been teaching his son and other refugee men his “green thumb” techniques. This project is instrumental in incorporating the refugee men into community life, providing much needed and appreciated skills and a sense of pride in their work and contribution to the community. Partnership Updates: ​ Nazarene Church, Pastor Zaki Via the Nazarene Church partnership, American FRRME continues to support the Youth Empowerment and Trauma Healing Center which reopened in September. Adjustments to the operations of the Center have been made to ensure the safety of the church and refugee communities during COVID-19. Cooking classes now take place at homes with small numbers in attendance. Other classes continue (English language, IT, woodworking, sewing/knitting) with strict adherence to small class size attendance. Syrian Orthodox Church, Father Benjamin Relief efforts continue to reach the Iraqi refugee families American FRRME supports via the Orthodox Church. This support is provided in the form of food packages, medical assistance when possible, immigration support, and welfare home visits while closely mitigating risk exposure to COVID19. Father Benjamin presided over the funeral of Abu San (a refugee who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.) As a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Abu San, and his entire family were active members of the church community in Madaba and participants at the OTC. American FRRME had previously provided critical medical support to Abu San, but unfortunately, he passed away. Assemblies of God Church, Madaba, Pastor Yoo American FRRME continues to support the refugee community in Madaba with food coupons, transportation to church, youth group support, mask making, garden projects, support groups, and “empowerment” projects. Unfortunately, in October, the refugee community in Madaba had two deaths, both from kidney failure. American FRRME provided family support to both families to help during these difficult times and extended the organization’s condolences and prayers. The families appreciate all American FRRME did to help them attain fair and accurate medical treatment despite the many obstacles. Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis, Father Bolis All other support to the Greek Catholic Church was cut off. American FRRME is currently the only charity supporting the Greek Catholic church in Fuheis. ​ Mask Making Project: COVID-19 surged in Jordan this fall, and October saw a further increase in positive cases, as well as government restrictions. The ongoing mask-making project is much needed and appreciated. Masks are required by law to enter into any building, without which heavy fines are issued. The masks also enable the refugees to attend church, do their grocery shopping, and attend classes and so far have protected against the spread of the corona into the community in Madaba. In Hashem al Shamali, a poor area of Amman, the need for masks and education remains high. OTC “American Thanksgiving”: If lockdown allows, there is the possibility of hosting a small American Thanksgiving for the refugees to give them a taste of American culture. Field Notes from Helena By Alice Seeley Published On October 16, 2020 American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update: ​ American FRRME has continued to implement all government-imposed criteria necessary to safely reopen Olive Tree Center. This includes hand sanitizer being mounted on walls, regular cleaning, mask-wearing, regulation of class and center attendance, and social distancing implemented in all classes. Olive Tree Center as a Relief Hub During COVID-19 and Update: ​ Local churches remain open and the masks being produced at the Olive Tree Center are vital in order to enable refugees to go to church safely and in compliance with the government mandate. Support groups at the Olive Tree Center continue online but, have started making the shift back to in-person small groups, as restrictions in Jordan ease. Clothing distributions and support are still ongoing at the Olive Tree Center. English language (conversation & grammar) beginner, intermediate and advanced, music and art classes resumed and provide a much-needed respite from COVID-19 restricted daily life. Guitar classes for children commenced while being closely monitored and are held in small class sizes. Cooking and sewing classes are still ongoing at the Center also with reduced size classes and highly regulated COVID-19 prevention tactics in place. Workshops at Olive Tree Center: Upon the reopening of the Olive Tree Center on September 1st, the Olive Tree Center has continued to expand its offerings of workshops to benefit the mental health of the refugee community. There are future plans in place for the establishment of exercise classes on the roof of the Olive Tree Center that will enable the women to exercise in an environment that they feel comfortable in. Volunteer yoga instructors are ready to start in October after the two-week lockdown is lifted. In the beginning, this will be a reduced class size, for women only, then we will be offering a men’s only class. Garden Project: ​ The ‘Garden of Hope’ continues to provide fresh vegetables to supplement the refugees’ weekly food supply. Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, chard, zucchini, and various herbs are the current staples provided weekly to rotating refugee families in the community. The garden continues to serve as a mental health initiative, providing a sense of accomplishment, exercise, and community spirit to all involved, particularly as a means to support the male refugees. Also, September marked the end of the growing season for certain vegetables, and newer seasonal crops are to be planted this October in their place. Expansion of ‘Garden of Hope’ at Other Partnership Churches: When the OTC officially reopened on September 1st, we were able to live stream traditional Iraqi cooking classes by refugees and host cooking classes to obtain donations. This gave the diplomat and ex-pat communities a “taste of Iraq” through delicious cooking and a means to donate. ​ Youth Activities: ​ Trauma healing workshops and increased counseling services in the current environment of COVID-19 continue to provide much needed responsive and adaptive support, which has not only fueled the refugee communities physically but is providing mental health support, along with empowerment initiatives. Azad, the head gardener, and Riveen, the lead on the fundraising appeal, along with Leka leading the mask making efforts, are just three of many examples of American FRRME providing “hope, help, and healing”. The need for this support remains great and all communities continue to be appreciative and have become more involved and excited as the efforts continue to grow and make a significant impact across the refugee communities. ​ Partnership Updates: ​ Nazarene Church; Pastor Zaki ​ American FRRME continues to provide food packages and supplies to the refugees who attend the Nazarene Church. We also send dire food packages and hygiene kits to Syrian refugees in Mafraq and to Jordanians in need. Syrian Orthodox Church; Father Benjamin Relief efforts continue to reach 583 families in the Syrian Orthodox Church, through the support of American FRRME. ​ Assemblies of God Church, Madaba; Pastor Yoo ​ In Madaba, 120 families attend the Full Gospel Church. These families are recipients of the support of American FRRME through food coupons, transportation to church services, garden projects, support groups, and empowerment projects. ​ Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis; Father Bolis ​ The Greek Catholic Church, in Fuheis, with aid from American FRRME, continues to support refugee families. There are currently 250 refugee families who receive food coupons from local grocery stores. This has been vital during Covid-19 when most people have been unable to work their “under the table” jobs that had previously helped them to buy food. Proposed Initiatives: ​ The Proposed Establishment of the General David E. Greer Scholarship Fund. In loving memory of General Greer’s commitment to service and education, a tribute to his legacy would be an annual scholarship that would enable dedicated, hardworking Iraqi refugee students to attend school. This scholarship would enable students who do not have the opportunity to study, access to education. This was very important to General Greer’s vision of helping the refugees that American FRRME supports to empower themselves and improve their lives through learning. After a discussion with American FRRME Executive Director, Susan Greer, an idea was proposed to provide trustees with “American FRRME” masks made by refugees for all board members at the annual December meeting in Washington, DC. Leka continues to lead the mask making initiative in Madaba. This operation has grown and now community members also take other items with sewing/stitching needs to Leka to mend. Having access to a sewing machine has enabled her to further support the community and her family as well as spearhead efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Possible creation of woodworking classes being held at the Olive Tree Center for continued involvement and the empowerment of refugee men. Updates From Helena Scott at The Olive Tree Center By Alice Seeley Published On September 3, 2020 Summer 2020 ​ Online support & learning/development platforms American FRRME continues to provide resume assistance, revision, and immigration assistance to refugees via email and phone. ​ Garden Project ​ This “garden of hope” was created at the Olive Tree Center by refugees, for refugees. Throughout June this Garden was maintained, further cultivated, and really prospered: cucumbers, corn, beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, and tomatoes are now abundant. This garden provides the community with a sense of purpose, exercise, and a sense of contributing to the community. Azad, the leader of the initiative, has really grown in his role as head gardener. He installed wire fencing to protect the garden from animals eating the vegetables. Mask Making Project & Creation of “Olive Oil” Fund https://youtu.be/EDWvoCVtIXM Iraqi refugee Leka started this mask-making initiative. This project has produced over 500 masks for the refugee community in efforts to prevent COVID-19. Masks are mandatory for all to attend church services and anything public which is why this project is a very significant help to the community. American FRRME has provided material to Leka to produce extra masks to be provided to the Amman diplomat community which has a big need for masks. This enables diplomats to support the refugee community with a donation. Olive Tree Center as a relief center during COVID-19 ​ The Olive Tree Center (OTC) continues to serve as a safe and compliant base for relief operations. While its doors were closed as a Center, the OTC never stopped serving the refugee community. With strict adherence to social distancing and mask and gloves and in full compliance with the government rules and regulations, food coupon and package distributions, family support, mask making and gardening have flourished at the Center. Limiting the actual body count and maintaining proper safety measures has enabled us to still get essential support to the refugees in Madaba and to make use of the center while providing services. ​ Churches were legally allowed to open on Sunday, June 7th, with strict adherence to government rules. The masks American FRRME provides are vital to enabling refugees to get to church. ​ American FRRME COVID RELIEF STRATEGY UPDATE ​ American FRRME successfully implemented the COVID relief plan despite the many government restrictions of movement, lockdowns, and curfew implementation. Borders between towns reopened and internal travel with cars is now allowed. Helena Scott is able to travel directly to all American FRRME partnerships and refugee communities. Wellness Checks were performed by American FRRME to the most at-risk refugees throughout all the communities American FRRME supports, as soon as travel was allowed and restrictions lifted. American FRRME has remained fully compliant with government rules and regulations, wearing a mask and gloves whenever directly distributing relief. ​ Partnership Updates ​ Nazarene Church – Pastor Zaki ​ American FRRME continues throughout COVID to provide food packages and supplies to the refugees who attend the Nazarene Church, along with much-needed food packages and hygiene kits to some Syrian refugees in Mafraq. ​ Syrian Orthodox Church – Father Benjamin ​ Relief efforts continued in June to reach the 583 families American FRRME supports via the Syrian Orthodox Church. Father Benjamin has not been able to be mobile due to recent surgery, so Helena Scott has been conducting home visits directly to families most in need. ​ Assemblies of God Church In Madaba – Pastor Yoo ​ FRRME-A/FRRME support of the refugee community in Madaba and the 120 families who attend the Full Gospel Church was unwavering, food coupons provided as well as OTC offerings. ​ Greek Catholic Church In Fuheis – Father Bolis ​ American FRRME continues to support the refugee families in Fuheis via the Greek Catholic Church. Now that the border is open and travel is allowed, providing relief and support has been much easier. ​ Proposed Initiatives ​ Expansion of “garden of hope” to Full Gospel Church. The Garden of Hope initiative at the OTC has really taken off. It has provided much-needed hope and growth, and will eventually provide food for the refugee community in Madaba. The Full Gospel Church has excess land where we could facilitate the expansion of these efforts. If American FRRME can fund the garden project at the Full Gospel Church we can expand the gardening efforts. ​ As American FRRME continues to make the shift from providing relief to creating more sustainable solutions, this gardening initiative perfectly reflects that shift–providing hope, help, and healing through gardening. ​ As soon as the OTC officially opens we can live stream traditional Iraqi cooking classes by refugees, to obtain donations from donors, host cooking classes, and give the diplomat and ex-pat community a “taste of Iraq” through delicious cooking. ​ Proposed “Open House” at OTC to launch reopening post-Corona ​ To be safely planned and coordinated once the OTC can safely and legally reopen. ​ Youth Project ​ Additional funding for a youth project would be much appreciated. Children have been stuck in tiny apartments with their entire families. The need to do something special for the youth is very present. ​ As Jordan continues the reopening process, pools and waterparks may safely reopen at some point this summer. The airport is still closed, but travel within Jordan is much more accessible. As an organization, we are remaining vigilant and adhering to all safety measures during distributions. Society as a whole is struggling as people are still out of work. The need for support remains great and all communities are appreciative of what we are able to provide. ​ Mental Health services are needed now more than ever, and as the OTC awaits reopening, American FRRME has the chance to continue to make a significant impact. Field Notes from Helena By Alice Seeley Published On March 3, 2020 American FRRME- COVID-19 Relief Strategy Update: ​ There has been an increase in COVID-19 cases due to a new strain of the virus being detected in Jordan. The quarantine period is no longer required for international travel as long as a negative PCR test is attained. Friday lockdowns were lifted, but a nighttime curfew remains in place. Gatherings of more than 20 are still banned and masks are still required in public places. Despite the restrictions and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, American FRRME continues to operate safely. JORDAN RELIEF WORK OVERVIEW ​ January was an extremely busy yet productive month for American FRRME’s relief efforts. Not only did American FRRME continue all relief distributions and welfare checks across the refugee communities, but also significantly enhanced the community engagement of the refugees themselves in the work. The content gathering for the Olive Tree Appeal utilized the refugees and gave them a platform to contribute further to the wider refugee community. A grant application was submitted to the U.S. embassy in Amman. The grant is focused on expanding and enhancing the existing offerings and impact of the Olive Tree Center to include woodworking and a mosaic workspace. OLIVE TREE CENTER UPDATES ​ The Olive Tree Center received a new piano donated by a donor which was received with great appreciation and enthusiasm! Daniel, the piano teacher is thrilled to have a real piano to teach students, and now even more students are able to learn and participate in piano lessons. The previously online “Hope Group” transitioned into a community outreach and support group. This group serves as the main volunteer support group at the Olive Tree Center and within the community. These young women engage with the Madaba communities by demonstrating Christian compassion through small acts of kindness to community members, poor Jordanians, Syrian Muslim refugees, Syrian Christian refugees, the elderly, sick, and handicapped. Helena Scott resumed teaching English conversation classes at the Olive Tree Center. Art classes taught by painter Mahmoud have started. He is a Muslim Jordanian artist, and he has been very involved in supporting the Olive Tree Center, and the Olive Tree Center appeal. He is the first Muslim teacher at the Olive Tree Center and reflects the social cohesion and integration efforts; he is now a favorite teacher amongst the Iraqi Christians Madaba and has been extremely well-received. Garden Project The garden at the Olive Tree Center continues to flourish and provide fresh produce to refugee families in Madaba. Winter has been tough, yet the garden continues to yield vegetables, most recently peppers. Part of the garden is now a flower garden! The flowers are being planted by Abu Levan, a 67-year-old Iraqi refugee man. He is an experienced farmer and gardener and is excited to cultivate a flower garden! Mask Making & Sewing Project The mask-making project continues to thrive and expand! American FRRME supplied Helena Scott with a vast array of fabric while in the U.S. This project expanded with the new fabric provided by American FRRME into the sewing of items in addition to the masks for the community. This fabric was used to sew baby blankets for newborn refugee babies, potholders, children’s masks, and aprons, among other items. With additional fabric, the women hope to sew pajamas for the refugee children as an Easter gift. PARTNERSHIP UPDATES Nazarene Church, Pastor Zaki American FRRME continues to support the Nazarene Church via the Youth Empowerment and Trauma healing Center. This center reopened and provides a wood workshop, English classes, sewing, cooking, and IT classes to the refugee community alone. The center currently only serves 100 families as numbers had to be restricted during COVID-19. The center is still providing art classes for the children and “therapeutic activities,” but currently does not have a counselor. Helena Scott is working to build a network of psychologists to support the Center at the Nazarene church, the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, and future Olive Tree Centers. Qualified counselors remain difficult to find in the country – there is an idea to establish online counseling opportunities with qualified counselors or social workers (Arabic speaking): stay tuned! Syrian Orthodox Church, Father Benjamin Relief efforts continue to support the Iraqi refugees in this community via food packages, medical assistance, rent, and immigration support. As well as regular home visits conducted, check-in on welfare, and need assessments, while closely mitigating exposure to COVID-19. Due to the spike in cases and Father Benjamin’s health risk, Helena Scott performed most of the home visits /welfare checks this month. The refugees American FRRME supports via the Syrian Orthodox Church remain some of the most at-risk/challenged. Positive news: “Sander” the man who was kidnapped and placed in the hole in the ground, immigrated to Australia with his 7 kids! Assemblies of God Church, Madaba, Pastor Yoo American FRRME continues to support the refugee community in Madaba with food coupons, transportation to church, youth group support, mask making, garden projects, support groups, and “empowerment” projects Pastor Yoo and Gloria provide much-needed support to the youth groups, and American FRRME supports these initiatives whenever possible, this month it was through the provision of buses and refreshments so that the youth could attend youth events at the church. When it is safe to do so we would like to support a youth field trip or activity, COVID-19 has been particularly hard on the youth. American FRRME supported the safe arrival of two refugee babies into the world. The families did not have funding to pay for the hospital fees without American FRRME support. They arrived safely and the mothers remain COVID-19 free. Greek Catholic Church, Fuheis, Father Bolis American FRRME continues to support the partnership at the Greek Catholic Church via the food coupon program and further development opportunities Thank you once again and may God bless you and your family. Faithfully, ​ ​ ​ Helena Scott, Jordan Country Director

  • American FRRME | Challenges Facing Iraqi Christians

    ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Artifacts from Ancient Assyria. Photo Credit: Abariltur ​ ​ According to the Assyrian American Cultural Organization of Arizona , Since the seventh century Islamic invasion, the ancient Christians of this land have suffered. Despite severe persecution, Iraq's resilient Christians preserved their significant presence in the country for centuries. Yet, political and military changes that followed the 2003 US-led invasion have profoundly affected Christians negatively, and this resulted in a population collapse of the Christian community. The 2000s P eriod Iraq’s Christian population numbered approximately 1.5 million prior to the U.S.-led invasion. Today, Iraq's Christian population is estimated to be less than 250,000. ​ Hannibal Travis, a law professor at Florida International University, detailed in a recent article how the US invasion of Iraq and its aftermath has affected Iraq's minorities, particularly Christians: A surge in jihadist violence was among the devastating consequences of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The vacuum resulting from the invasion was filled by Islamic terrorists and jihadist groups who targeted Christians and other minorities in the country. These groups associated Christians with the US, even though there has been a Christian presence in Iraq for 2000 years. ​ For example, on 3 November 2010, in the middle of a mass, al-Qaeda linked jihadists stormed Baghdad’s landmark Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church. Three priests and fifty worshippers were taken hostage. ​ “Fifty-two police officers and civilians died, and more than 60 people were injured, in the assault carried out by Iraqi police – backed by US forces – to liberate the hostages,” reported France24 in an article entitled "Terrorized Iraqi Christians face stark choice: flee or die." “The church is ruined, there’s nothing left standing, nothing is in place,” Pascale Warda, spokesperson for the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in Baghdad, told France24 shortly after the incident. “It’s the apocalypse,” she said. ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ In another 2020 report, API gives further examples as to how the Iraqi government discriminates against Assyrians: ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Another problem Iraqi Christians face is the illegal seizures of their lands and properties by both Arabs and Kurds. The Assyrian - Aid Society Iraq prepared a report for "the Universal Periodic Review of the State of Iraq" in 2019 regarding this issue. ​ ​ ​ Northern Iraq. Photo Credit: Flickr ​ According to the report, ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Published May 2023 This report was done in conjunction with partner organizations and journalists. Each article represents the independent views of the author. When discussing the challenges Iraq’s Christian community faces, it is important to recall the dynamics which drive human rights abuses. All of Iraq has suffered under totalitarianism and from human rights abuses being engrained throughout society. Everyone in Iraq has been severely impacted by the events of the past twenty years, and many from all backgrounds have migrated from the country as a result. However, in any context where such issues thrive, it is always the most marginalized and vulnerable who suffer these challenges the most. This includes gender minorities, those with disabilities, the elderly, ethnic minorities, as well as religious minorities such as Christians. ​ Many Christians reported how part of the reason why they were being targeted was because of misinformation within the wider society that Christianity was an outcome of the Western intervention in Iraq. The truth, however, is that Christianity had existed in Iraq since the first century. Christians began leaving Baghdad and many who could not leave the country instead migrated to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains. “The evidence collected thus far has strengthened preliminary findings that ISIL commissioned acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Christian community in Iraq, including, but not limited to, forcible transfer, persecution, pillage, sexual violence and slavery, and other inhumane acts such as forced conversions and intentional destruction of cultural heritage.” “presence of armed groups harassing religious groups and promoting and enabling demographic changes, lack of available resources for stabilization and rehabilitation efforts for internally displaced Christians and other minority groups, and general safety concerns.” Stand With Iraqi Christians (SWIC) is an Episcopal-led ministry which provides recovery, resilience, and capacity building for Iraq’s Christian community. Most of SWIC’s projects focus on economic empowerment, primarily through large-scale agricultural projects and the creation of small businesses such as a bakery or car mechanic. SWIC also engages the educational sector through St. George’s Church in Baghdad. Iraq is where many Biblical sites are located. This includes the city of Ur, which is the birthplace of Abraham. Many Biblical scholars say that the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2–3 and Ezekiel 28 and 31), and the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9) were located in Iraq. The account of Daniel in the lions' den (chapter 6 of the Book of Daniel) also took place there. Iraq is where Babylon, now in meager ruins, once was located. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon ranks as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. “On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyri a, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, 'Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.'” “The Assyrians contributed a great deal to helping usher the basis of civilizations by inventing writing and literature, erecting the first organized library by King Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, developing paved roads, and creating the 360-degree circle, of which laid down the foundation of telling time. Establishing law and judicial systems with the Code of Hammurabi helped facilitate many things such as instituting medicine, and pharmacology, and most importantly, easing the spread of a universal language in the known world .” “The political balance created under the US-led occupation of Iraq often worked against the interests of Iraq’s smallest minorities, such as the Assyrians, Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen and Yezidis. State institutions in Iraq proper and its Kurdistan region were corrupted from their proclaimed functions and were used to bolster support for majority parties. In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released a report on Iraq’s non-Muslim religious minorities, detailing the discrimination against Iraq’s Christian populations— particularly in central and southern Iraq—as well as targeted persecution against Iraq’s Christian, Mandean and Yezidi communities, as early as 2004.” “Iraqi Christians still live under a persistent threat of violence. Many of them have fled the country since the beginning of the US invasion in 2003, as priests have been killed and there have been several attacks on churches.” “Th roughout Iraq’s history, Assyrians, as well as other minorities in Iraq, have been consistently labeled 'traitors' by majority groups. Iraqi troops and Kurdish irregulars massacred thousands of Assyrians in 1933 near the northern town of Simele on the grounds that they threatened the newly independent state’s cohesion and its 'Arab' identity. The oppression of Assyrians continued under the Ba'ath’s 'Arabization' campaigns. Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Assyrians were targeted for being 'Western sympathizers' in addition to religious persecution. The Iraqi Government demonstrated its inability to protect them.” "The Preamble of the Iraqi Constitution recognizes crimes committed against Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen in the country, but makes no mention of the historical suffering of Assyrians and Yazidis within Iraq’s borders. The exclusion of crimes committed against Assyrians and Yazidis absolves the perpetrators, trivializes the suffering of these peoples, contributes to the erasure of their modern history, and debases and diminishes their importance in Iraqi society. The current Constitution recognizes only Arabic and Kurdish as the country’s official languages. While the Constitution makes provisions for the protection of linguistic rights for the Assyrian and Turkomen languages, it limits the possible use of local minority languages to educational institutions or, as outlined in Article 4, 'in the administrative units in which they constitute density of population.'” The report concerns the illegal land grabbing in the indigenous villages and towns of Iraq’s Christians. The research includes territories and villages located in northern Iraq, which are currently under the administration of the KRG, especially the provinces of Dohuk and Erbil (although these abuses also continue in Nineveh). Some of these cases took place in 1933 after the Simele massacres suffered by Christians in August 1933 during the Iraqi Kingdom era. Then the events of the Kurdish revolution in the sixties and seventies were followed by systematic displacements carried out by the Ba'athist regime with the aim of Arabizing these areas. The land seizures have continued and there are dozens of unsolved cases of this illegal activity. “Since the seventies, especially in the period of the takeover of the Ba'ath Party, it practiced the policy of Arabization and demographic change to Iraqis and Assyrians. The Ba'ath party destroyed dozens of Christian Assyrian towns and villages and displaced their populations. The Ba'ath party also carried out programmed demographic changes, especially in the Nineveh Plain. This included extensive housing for non-Assyrians in the Assyrian territories, as well as the confiscation of fields belonging to the Assyrians. These cases continued after the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1991. KRG governmental buildings were constructed on Assyrian lands illegally seized. Neither the Iraqi government nor the Kurdistan Regional Government have addressed this important issue, and many Assyrians are still being forcibly expropriated. There have been cases of land seizures of entire Assyrian villages including efforts to prevent owners from returning to their homes. This dates back even to the sixties and seventies. Most of these violations were carried out by the neighboring Kurdish tribes. Many residents of towns or villages in the Kurdistan Regional Administration of Iraq request to address these cases, but unfortunately the vast majority of them are not dealt with. Several Assyrian Christian villages and towns were exploited illegally by PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] militants for many years, preventing the Assyrian Christians from returning to their homesteads. There are fears among the Assyrians that a demographic change is taking place due to these systematic land seizure cases.” Uzay Bulut is a journalist born in Turkey and a research fellow of the Philos Project. The Philos Project is an organization that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement in the Near East by creating leaders, building community, and taking action in the spirit of the Hebraic Tradition. Philos has a vision for a pluralistic Near East based on freedom and the rule of law, where nations, tribes, and religious communities can live beside each other as neighbors. Philos affirms the right of all Christians to live and flourish as indigenous citizens of the Near East. Executive Summary The past twenty years have been a transformative time for Iraq’s Christian community, who have watched their population decline due to violence, marginalization, and other types of persecution from extremist groups such as Dae’sh, also known as ISIS. Despite these challenges, many Iraqi Christians have a strong love towards their country. Although several have emigrated, it was done with heavy hearts and those who remain behind are often torn between the hard choice of staying or leaving. This report looks at the overarching factors which influence this decision, with the contributing partners each expressing their own expertise and experience in supporting Iraq’s Christian community. Stand With Iraqi Christians presents an article exploring the humanitarian situation faced by those who decide to stay in the country, and the challenges which they must navigate. Uzay Bulut, a journalist with the Philos Project presents an article showcasing the potential which Christians have to contribute to Iraq, given their history of building entire civilizations. Journalist Jackie Abramian then looks at the challenges Iraqi Christian women face, an important dynamic given ISIS’ profound use of gender-based violence in its declared genocide against Iraq’s religious minorities. The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East asks an important question: even though ISIS is defeated, why didn’t those Christian refugees stuck in limbo return back to Iraq? Finally, the Iraqi Christian Relief Council looks at how the Iraqi Christian diaspora, those who left their homeland long ago, are actively reinvesting their resources to help those Christians who remain behind. It serves as an inspiration for many to join in partnership in providing support. While the opinions expressed in each article belong to solely to its author, several important trends emerge. Multiple authors point towards the same series of events, such as the 2010 massacre at a church in Baghdad, as being key markers in the displacement history of Iraq’s Christians. Several authors highlight the critical need for livelihood and other types of recovery projects as essential for strengthening the resilience of those Christians who either by choice or circumstance, will remain in Iraq. Another emergent theme is that whether the authors’ experience is in various parts of Iraq or in dealing with Iraqi Christian refugees living elsewhere in the region, the same barriers are listed when it comes to returning home. These issues can range from security concerns, social cohesion issues, severe trauma, among others. Iraq is a complex emergency. The opinions about how it came to be that way, and how to solve it, vary. But no matter this diversity of opinions about the past, the theme about the future remains constant and clear. Iraq’s Christian community needs help. The ask for help is often very specific. And there needs to be a growing unity in how we respond. Iraq Fast Facts The third stage occurred from 2014-2017 when al-Qaeda’s successor, the Islamic State (ISIS, also known as Da’esh or ISIL), conquered the Nineveh Plains and declared a genocide against all religious minorities, including Christians. The United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh (UNITAD) said in a November 2022 investigative report that As a result of this genocide, Iraq’s Christians again fled the country in yet another wave of migration. Today, church leaders provide a generous (if not hopeful) estimate that only 250,000 Christians remain living in Iraq. Most of these Christians have returned to the Nineveh Plains following their displacement, but not all. Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region (KRG) reportedly estimates that 47,000 (18%) Christians remain displaced in the KRG and refuse to return to the Nineveh Plains. The US State Department’s 2021 Religious Freedom report noted that concerns of the displaced include the Violations of this international legal framework should trigger certain humanitarian responses, but in the case of Christians, a gap was created. The initial humanitarian response because of the ISIS genocide was more engaged with minorities, better coordinated, and stronger compared to the responses of previous displacements. Humanitarian actors provided many Christians relief opportunities in the immediate days following their displacement. This included makeshift caravan housing and other types of accommodation. It included food packages, sanitation activities, and other types of relief projects. These activities were critical and lifesaving. These safety concerns are often directed towards the competing militias who were unified enough to defeat ISIS, but after the fact, have exploited Iraq’s complex emergency situation as means of competing for various territorial control. While Iraq’s local governance may be lacking the necessary protection measures, an international framework does exist which provides legal vocabulary for the experiences Christians face. This vocabulary calls these experiences persecution, restrictions on religious freedom, and a type of human rights violation. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines persecution in its handbook as “a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group is always persecution.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further states in Article 18 that each individual has the freedom to both adopt and manifest their faith. These principles are further expanded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The violation of freedom of religion (Article 18) intersects with the right of no discrimination (Article 2), the right to assemble (Article 20), the right of culture and art (Article 27), among others. But as time went on, these activities decreased, especially after the military declared ISIS defeated in 2017. This announcement should have marked a transition in humanitarian need from relief to recovery and stabilization. However, the humanitarian framework has not fully caught up to the recovery and stabilization needs of Iraq’s Christians. Of the $496 million of international aid estimated to have been designated towards Iraq last year, only approximately $32 million was designated towards recovery related activities. However, a further analysis of those funds show that the humanitarian operational presence in Iraq is not necessarily targeted in geographies where Christians currently reside. In other words, whereas Christians received relief in the immediate days of displacement, they are neglected in terms of supporting their recovery and resilience. Without this type of aid, Iraq’s Christians are left vulnerable to the harsh realities of Iraq. Given that the formal aid infrastructure has refocused elsewhere, it is often left to diaspora and other Christians living outside Iraq to privately support and encourage those who remain inside the country. If history has shown anything, it is that Iraqi Christians are survivors. Despite all of the hardships experienced within the past twenty years, they love their home and do not want to leave easily. Most who leave Iraq only do so as a last resort when they feel that all other options have been exhausted. The international community must and should do more to provide recovery options for Iraq’s Christians. Christians of Iraq are Builders of Civilizations Uzay Bulut, PHILOS Project Ancient Iraq The ancient land now known as Iraq is often described as the birthplace of the Bible, the “cradle of civilization”, where Christianity was brought to light in the first century through Thomas the Apostle and Mar Addai (Addai of Edessa), as well as his pupils Aggai and Mari. In ancient times, northern Iraq was called Assyria. Nineveh, the city in which Jonah had preached repentance, was the last capital of the Assyrian Empire. Aramaic, the language the Assyrian people, was also the language of Jesus. “Babylon has a profound biblical link because Nebuchadnezzar, as King of Babylon, had invaded and conquered Jerusalem,” Sister Carol Perry, a Bible scholar, said . Jerusalem’s temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled to Babylon. Psalm 137 says “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.” ​ It was in Babylon that the Jewish exiles wrote this Psalm and other books of the Bible. Sister Perry further explains : “They thought that they had better write this down before it's lost, and so the Hebrew Bible began to be written there.” ​ Assyria also played a significant role in Biblical history. It is mentioned in the Bible right at the beginning (Genesis 2:14) where it is observed that the Tigris River flowed “east of Ashur”, an Assyrian city. Genesis 10:8-12 says Nimrod went to the land of Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen. For more references to Assyria in the Bible, please check these links . ​ Assyria is the subject of many Biblical prophecies . Isaiah, for example, says that God will gather His people a second time from the nations, including from Assyria. Isaiah 19:23-25 states: T he 2010s Period In the summer of 2014, Iraqi Christians faced yet another major assault. The Islamic State (ISIS) invaded and seized control of Iraq’s Nineveh Province, including the provincial capital of Mosul. The terrorist group committed genocide against ethnic and religious minorities. Christians in Mosul, for instance, were forced to flee en masse when ISIS threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a heavy tax. They were told to “convert, pay the jizya tax, or die.” Christians in Iraq continue to face existential threats at the hands of Islamic extremists as well as discrimination at the hands of local governments. Their oppressors include Islamist terror groups, their own Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the government of Turkey, which often carries out airstrikes in Iraq, among other targets. The Assyrian Policy Institute (API) reported in 2020 that, Christians Experience Protracted Crisis Stand With Iraqi Christians (SWIC) As the home to ancient Mesopotamia, the history of Iraq has long been intimately tied with the history of Christianity. Nonetheless, the modern era has witnessed these narratives becoming separate pathways, with Iraq’s Christian community living within a protracted crisis that has reduced their presence within the country by over 80%. Most of this migration has occurred within the past twenty years. A governance vacuum opened after the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, resulting in waves of sectarian violence and discrimination which in turn became normative features of Iraq’s society as various groups competed for influence. Today, Iraq is considered a complex emergency , a situation where a multifaceted humanitarian crisis exists because of a significant breakdown of authority. The humanitarian response in Iraq has improved throughout the past decade, with relief resources appearing more quickly after each wave of violence. However, humanitarian resources often diminish soon after in terms of the provision of recovery and resilience building assistance. This reality has placed Iraq’s Christian community in a unique protracted crisis. The violent years forced Christians to displace in order to save their lives. The quieter years force Christians to migrate in order to have a life. Iraq is a complex humanitarian crisis. Photo Credit: Flickr Livelihood project for a Christian family. Photo Credit: SWIC As a result of all these severe human rights abuses committed by various groups, many persecuted Christians from Iraq have become asylum seekers or refugees since they were forced to leave their home countries. Around 25,000 Iraqi and Syrian Christian asylum seekers currently live in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Assyrians and other Christians in the Middle East are oppressed and suffering today. Many have been forcibly displaced. Those who remain in Iraq are persecuted by several groups and governments. But their ancient ancestors were among those who built the most advanced civilizations. And those who currently live in the diaspora in Western nations are thriving. They contribute to their adopted homelands in a dynamic and productive way. Had Assyrians and other Christians been supported in their efforts to self-rule and autonomy in Iraq, imagine the great cultural, scientific, and spiritual achievements they would have reached and imagine how magnificently they would have transformed the Middle East. The West should prioritize protecting the Christians of Iraq, who have faced persecution for so many centuries. Nadia Khoshaba Kiriakos Giriana is a 52 year-old native of Baghdad, Iraq. A nurse by training and a divorced mother of three girls (ages 30, 28, and 21) and two boys (ages 29 and 20), she left her homeland with her children in 2016, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq shattered her “heavenly” life, paving the expansion of ISIS who in 2014 declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. “Before the U.S. invasion, life was heavenly in Iraq. We lived free and happy–there was affluence and security–with no shortages,” Giriana remembers how she was free to practice her Christian faith. “We celebrated all the Christian feasts without any fears.” ​ But on 19 March 2003, all that changed when the U.S. invaded Iraq on false claims that Saddam Hussein was storing weapons of mass destruction. For Giriana, it was the “saddest day” of her life. ​ “The day the U.S. invaded Iraq, I remember the fear we felt seeing the terrorism, the murders that happened–it was horrific,” says Giriana from her new home in Lebanon. “Our safe and comfortable life changed overnight to one of fear and destruction. It was the start of racism and sectarianism.” Iraqi Women Refugees’ Lives Before and After the U.S. Invasion By Jackie Abramian, Journalist With over 100,000 Iraqi Christians forced to flee their homes and properties following the ISIS invasion of Qaraqosh and the surrounding towns in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq, Christian leaders, NGOs and media reports confirm less than 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq today. Prior to the U.S. invasion, there were nearly 1.5 million Christians dating back to the first centuries of the religion, including Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian, and Armenian churches. While the U.S. invasion was paraded to save women’s rights, the results set back women’s rights and gender justice–making women targets of various fundamentalist militias. Previously, women’s rights were guaranteed and robust under Saddam’s regime– women had the right to vote, attend school, run for political office, own property, seek divorce and even gain custody of their children. Saddam Hussein’s overthrow paved the way for socially conservative leaders, leading to increased domestic abuse and prostitution–it’s no wonder that a 2014 domestic violence law remains blocked to this day by Iraqi lawmakers who claim that it “ erodes Iraq’s social fabric . ” A 2022 Wilson Center report states how 1.3 million Iraqis (out of 40 million) are at risk of genderbased violence, 75 percent of which are women and girls. “Before the U.S. invasion, our lives weren’t in danger. We weren't living under constant threats. We freely practiced our Christian faith and celebrated our feasts - the only restriction was that Church bells were forbidden–we didn’t feel fully part of the country,” says the 50-year-old Baghdad native, Niran Nuri Aziz who now also lives in Lebanon with her two sons in their late twenties. ​ The U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom resulted in the death toll of 5,000 U.S. troops. Some 300,000 U.S. women f ought in the Iraq war as part of America’s regime change mission to end Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship–the same regime it had fully empowered, supported and armed over the years. As bombs rained down on Iraqi civilians, over 306,000 Iraqis died as a direct and indirect consequence of the U.S. invasion. ​ For Aziz, the U.S. invasion brought “horror and suffering” alongside the inability to speak out as a Christian which ended her “safe” life. “Life turned into sheer fear of being killed, or kidnapped, or dying in an explosion. When ISIS arrived, we were terrified. With our lives in danger, we had no safety, and no one was there to protect the Christians,” Aziz recalls.j The U.S. invasion not only failed to establish the promised “democracy”, but successfully destabilized the entire region, leaving Iraq’s economy and security in total disarray. It propelled sectarian resentment, and two insurgencies–paving the way for al-Qaeda’s expansion into Iraq, which later morphed into ISIS. ​ “ISIS persecuted us for our Christian faith. Our lives and our children’s lives were at risk. Most at risk were my daughters. I was petrified that they were in danger of being raped,” says Giriana As body bags returned home, more U.S. soldiers were deployed on sham missions to find and destroy “weapons of mass destruction”–instead the troops found only empty warehouses. “ISIS persecuted us for our Christian faith. Our lives and our children’s lives were at risk. Most at risk were my daughters. I was petrified that they were in danger of being raped,” says Giriana. ISIS accused Aziz of working for the U.S. since she was a Red Cross employee. ​ Then they threatened to kill her and her whole family. Iraq has suffered multiple waves of violence during the past 20-years Photo Credit: Flickr 2003 – 2023 The Challenges Facing Iraqi Christians Finding a Way Forward “I left Iraq in 2015 with my children. My husband was too sick to join us and stayed behind with his family,” Aziz recounts her husband later passing away. Having heard that Lebanon was “a good country” from where she could seek asylum to another country, Giriana settled in Lebanon with her children after fleeing Iraq. Aziz’s friend in Lebanon had encouraged her to move there and to find a job, settling down with her kids. “When we arrived, I found a job as a concierge in a building and worked there for five years, but the accommodations were small and life was very hard,” Aziz explains. With the help of a priest, Aziz found another concierge job and settled into a larger accommodation. But living with two sons in one room is challenging, and Lebanon’s financial strains have only made life more dismal. “The first two years in Lebanon were good, but then the waiting started to wear us down. Feeling of injustice and loss worsened as the situation continued to get worse in Lebanon, especially after the economic crisis. And we are now disrespected by the Lebanese citizens who consider us a burden to them and their country,” Giriana says Lebanon’s socio-economic meltdown turned her life to “hell.” The crisis in Lebanon spiked poverty rates to 82% in 2021 and pushed the unemployment rate to nearly 30% . Most households face shortages of food, healthcare, education, and other basic services. While both Giriana and Aziz are now free to practice their Christian faith in Lebanon, they both yearn for their life in the pre-U.S. invasion years of Iraq. Since their children couldn’t attend school when they arrived in Lebanon, they had to find jobs upon arrival. “Life is not good” in Lebanon for Giriana, who works as a night shift nurse at a senior citizen’s home. Her salary is “far less” than her apartment rent. And her children are having difficulty finding permanent jobs. “It makes me so sad that my children couldn’t attend school. My older son works as a concierge now where we live, and my younger son is an assistant in a barber shop,” explains Aziz. “Being Christian is not a problem in Lebanon and it doesn't affect our lives. But life in Lebanon is harder,” Giriana explains how 20 years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq still shows no tangible improvements. “Iraq today is even worse–especially for the Christians.” Tamar Demirjian, a special needs teacher and the administrator at A Demand For Action (ADFA) in Lebanon which funds a free healthcare center in Beirut, works closely with refugees. ADFA started as a Sweden-based movement advocating for the rights of and bringing hands-on relief to Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs—genocide survivors and oppressed minorities of the Middle East– but soon became an international human rights, aid, and advocacy organization. Demirjian has worked with both Aziz and Giriana and acknowledges the hardships faced by most refugees in Lebanon. “When a people who have the will to live, face the harshness of life even in the country of refuge, their will starts to diminish.” “Today there’s injustice and no human rights in Iraq. Only corruption–and persecution of Christians. Twenty years after the U.S. invasion, there are no improvements in Iraq. The situation is worse. And the few Christians remaining live in fear–rejected and persecuted. There’s no peace of mind. I see no future for Iraq,” says Aziz. “If the situation and the governance remain as it is today, Iraq will become worse. Iraq’s current rulers now only steal. The situation for the persecuted Christians keeps worsening,” Giriana says. For Aziz, returning to her homeland is impossible and not in her plans. “I will never return to Iraq, even if it becomes a heaven and the best country in the world. I have endless fears inside of me and can never go back,” says Aziz. [Special thanks to Tamar Demirjian for her assistance with translating the interviews.] Jackie Abramian is a social enterprise advisor and board member, committed to amplifying social justice issues and the work of women peacebuilders, change makers and social entrepreneurs, empowering girls, and women’s equity worldwide, ensuring they have a seat, or two, at the table and are on “the menu” during all negotiations. She’s a member of International Coalition for Democratic Renewal (ICDR) Working Group on Women, Democracy, Human Rights and Security (WDHRS), a corporate communications strategist, and the founder of Global Cadence. Her columns and blogs have appeared in March8 , EuroNewsweek , Impact Entrepreneur , Ms. Magazine , The Progressive , Forbes , Grid Daily News , Thrive Global a nd HuffPost among others. The UNDP s hows that while Iraq has had periods of improvement regarding gender inequality, the country has overall trended downwards. ​ Why Iraqi Christians in Jordan have Little Enthusiasm to Return Home American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East At the Olive Tree Center in Jordan, Iraqi Christian refugees fill the halls of this brick-and-mortar Center that teems with activities and programs seven days a week. The Center, run by the American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) has been in operation since 2019. The Center serves the large Iraqi refugee community that arrived in Madaba, Jordan following the 2014 ISIS invasion when most were forced to flee their villages and towns in Iraq. To this day, the majority of Iraq’s Christian community have yet to return home. The Olive Tree Center is an Iraqi refugee focused community center run by local volunteers, staff and refugees who were empowered to develop the Center and its sustainable programs to support this Diaspora as they prepare themselves for the next chapter of their lives. The Center stands as a haven of resilience and renewal where refugees can receive healing, growth, educational and vocational development. Since their arrival in Jordan, these families have integrated themselves into the Madaba community, a small rural city rich in Christian history, holy shrines and adjacent to the baptism site of Jesus and only a stone’s throw away from Mount Nebo where Moses saw the promised land. The city of Madaba has been a safe refuge for these persecuted Christians and, on the surface, their integration into society has been moderately peaceful; yet the lives of these refugees remain difficult and their future uncertain. Many hold out the hope to emigrate outside of Jordan with few expressing the desire to return to Iraq. Iraqi refugees during a community event Photo Credit: AFRRME The Iraqi refugees at the Olive Tree Center have shared countless stories of unimaginable trauma faced following their forced departure from their homeland. Almost a decade later, these refugees continue to suffer from trauma including anxiety, depression and mental health issues. Since Iraqi refugees do not receive government assistance and are not legally allowed to work in Jordan, many have resorted to working under the table, while others rely on hand-outs and speckled assistance from a handful of NGOs. Several of the refugees are highly skilled and educated, and many operated their own businesses in Iraq. Due to their inability to work legally in Jordan, we hear regular accounts of hopelessness, depression and a loss of self-worth. For most Iraqi refugees, stress levels have increased exponentially due to financial insecurity; the inability to work legally and provide for one’s family; loss of educational opportunities for youth; incapacity to use previously acquired education; and an overall feeling of frustration, despondency and loss of control. The need for services among Iraqis refugees outweighs the resources available. In Jordan, stigma still exists towards persons with mental health conditions. Because of this stigma, few Iraqi refugees seek help. The refugees lack safe spaces to share their past traumatic events and they struggle to feel comfortable seeking help, while their capacities to cope continue to be stretched. American FRRME’s mission has been to help these refugees regain their sense of purpose; provide a welcoming environment that empowers them and their families; and provide opportunities to create new beginnings for those whose livelihoods have been devastated. During this time, we have learned the importance of listening and learning from this vulnerable community. Many of these refugees tell us of their dream to emigrate to U.S., Australia or Canada and most have waited five or more years for this complicated process to come to fruition. Following the lifting of COVID restrictions, the Australian and Canadian governments have opened up, and we have seen dozens of Iraqi refugees. Photo Credit: AFRRME refugee families pack their belongings, claim asylum and make the permanent move abroad. While we’ve seen an exodus of Iraqis out of Jordan, more Christians continue to stream daily into Jordan from Iraq. Gardens can be a source of hope & healing for refugees. Photo Credit: AFRRME One question that continues to resurface in our conversations with the refugees is, if the situation is not ideal in Jordan given the lack of employment opportunities and legal status protection, then why not return and resettle in Iraq? In countless conversations with Iraqis from Mosul to Baghdad, we consistently hear that their main reluctance to emigrate back is, in part, tied to insecurity and the likelihood of facing continued persecution and intolerance in their homeland. This is perpetuated mostly by militant Islamic groups and non-Christian leaders, not including the discrimination they would also face from government authorities and local leaders. Iraq also remains plagued by conflict and sectarian violence. Christians in Iraq experience constant prejudice, harassment and often violence without any safeguards or protection from the state. We have been told by refugees that this intolerable situation would force them to hide their faith in public to avoid discrimination and harassment. ​ According to the 2023 World Watch List , (an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution), Iraq is ranked 18th in the world of countries where being a Christian costs the most. It costs your livelihood, your safety, your purity and very often, your life. Moreover, Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled considerably due to conflict and terrorism. More than 80% have fled the country since 2003. An estimated 164,000 remain in Iraq – just 0.4% of the country’s 43 million population. Many refugees whom American FRRME serve routinely express their concerns over the lack of employment opportunities, the unstable economy and other internal security issues. The majority of the refugee families in Madaba have children who have spent more years of their life living in Jordan than in their homeland. They are reluctant to upend their children’s lives for an uncertain future and would prefer to remain in Jordan, although it is not ideal, with the hope of one day emigrating elsewhere. Although they continue to face challenges living as refugees in Jordan, the current environment back home is not one which many are willing to take a gamble on and risk an even more uncertain future after all that they have already faced. Until the situation improves, and security and peace return to Iraq, we will likely continue to see Iraqi Christians arriving in Jordan while others begin their long-awaited journey to Australia and Canada – places where Iraqi Christians have built new, desirable communities for a chance at a brighter, more stable future. The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) seeks to partner with and support the Christian communities currently residing in the Nineveh Plain, and elsewhere in Iraq, to spur small business redevelopment initiatives and create livelihood prospects for those willing to return. By helping Iraqi Christians rebuild their lives through sustainable and achievable programs in Iraq, perhaps the tide will turn and will encourage those to either remain or return to the land of their birth and help families and communities to become more resilient and self-sufficient. American FRRME continues our vital life-changing programs in Jordan and Iraq, and with the help of our partners, we will continue to bring the plight of Iraqi Christians to the forefront. American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) was founded in 2009 to promote reconciliation, provide relief efforts, advance human rights, promote sustainable educational and vocational programs to those who have fled persecution and genocide throughout the Middle East. American FRRME has provided humanitarian assistance, medical and health car e to those who have fled persecution and genocide, including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and othersand supports the operations and outreach efforts of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq. American FRRME works to help rebuild lives and restore hope through advocacy and longterm investment in the region. Significance of Iraqi Christian Diaspora to the Homeland Iraqi Christian Relief Council (ICRC) One People’s History Mesopotamia, a region famously known as the Cradle of Ci vilization , is considered the second Holy Land in which many Biblical activities occurred. A sacred place called Bet-Nahrain ("between rivers" in Aramaic) is more than just a geographic location to its sons and daughters; it is a region stained by the blood of its inhabitants. It is a region which for the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) forever lives in the hearts and minds of those who were forced to leave it behind. Cities and villages which were once inhabited by Assyrians belonging to different religious denominations are now home to others: Arabs, Kurds, and Shabbaks. Posing the question “why were they forced to leave” is important to this article. Despite some periods of calm and stability, the Assyrians of Mesopotamia began facing severe discrimination and martyrdom initially at the hands of the Persian Zoroastrians, followed by the Arab conquest under Islam. The last half of the 19th century ushered in the systematic Kurdish persecution of Assyrians and Armenians in northwestern Iran and Iraq. This period of history also w itnessed Christian missionary activities from America, England and France which first opened the door to the migration of Mesopotamian Christians to the Western world. With the Ottoman Genocide in the early 1900s towards the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, the migration to the West intensified. Ethnic Assyrians who were categorized with different Christian denominational names (Church of the East [erroneously called Nestorian], Chaldean, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, and Protestant) found themselves in exile, living in Galuta (Diaspora). They attempted to organize themselves to support their brethren in their homelands (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon). Since the establishment of the Republic of Iraq, the minorities, especially the Assyrian Christians, began facing immense challenges and risks, forcing them to seek safety and stability elsewhere. Tearful and broken hearted, many abandoned their ancestorial cities and villages, watching their lands fall into the hands of others. The US-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 opened the door for extremism which was directed at the religious and ethnic minority groups who refused to submit to the Islamic doctrine. Christians once again were faced with church bombings, murder of their clergy, rape, theft and kidnappings by the members of al-Qaeda. In 2006, similar heinous acts were carried out more intensely by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a terror faction which was later morphed into a more bloodthirsty group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The 2014 invasion of Mosul and the bloody assault on the Nineveh Plain, the home of a majority of Christians in Iraq, forced yet another mass migration. According to the European Union Agency for Asylum, from a 1,500,000 population, fewer than 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq. Country Guidance: Iraq, June 2022 . ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Many Diaspora Christians want to learn about their homeland. Diaspora and Its Significance Diaspora is a term which describes a dispersion of ethnic and national groups across international borders, living outside their home country but maintaining a strong cultural, social, and economic bond to their lands. The Assyrian diaspora community, while living in the Western world, has contributed greatly to host countries through art, aca demia, science, entrepreneurial and business successes. With countless inspiring success stories among the Middle Eastern Christians who call the West home, one cannot overstate the importance of the successful communities engaging with their people in their ancestral homeland. The diaspora can play a vital role in creating opportunities which would result in job creation, increased living standards, create better health and education systems and potentially encourage repatriation. The diaspora community must be reminded of the power it possesses whether it is in political advocacy (lobbying politicians to create policies to benefit the home country), economic development and support (creating and empowering healthy communities in the home country), empowerment through education, and self-preservation through cultural activities. Although all of the above-mentioned factors are important, including cultural preservation, this article will focus on the role of diaspora in economic support and development in the homeland. Further on, the article will examine the challenges the diaspora faces and will offer some suggestions on how to potentially overcome these challenges. It is important to mention that we cannot only focus on the Iraqi Christian diaspora because Assyrians from other countries also feel a strong connection for the ancestral land, Iraq. ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Diaspora’s Current Involvement According to an analysis conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “Migrants from emerging and developing countries sent home $430 billion last year—three times more money than their home countries receive in financial assistance from other countries or international financial institutions and a substantial portion of their GDP.” This is especially true in the case of Iraqi and other Middle Eastern Christians. Commonly, in the form of remittance, most of the diaspora supports their family members in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey . This is done in order to support relatives through emergency situations; however, this is not a sustainable and should not be a long-term solution. Although, there is an effort being led by a few diaspora Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals who promote job creation in Iraq, the community lacks a sophisticated organizational development to make this a success. The diaspora’s larger goal should be to implement methods to move away from an emergencybased assistance, shielding the process from denominational, ethnic and political divisions and adopting a more strategic plan to work with in-country partners to implement sustainable and long-term projects. Urgency of the Matter Although ChaldoAssyrians continue to live and prosper in Western countries, through assimilation, their rich heritage and language is in danger of disappearance. Equally important is the fact that their achieved success, acquired skills and knowledge are not being harnessed or transferred effectively to Iraq to ensure the community’s success in the homeland. In the meantime, the men and women living in Iraq have been pleading with the diaspora for a more strategic and sustainable partnership and assistance. Another factor which adds to the urgency of a strategic diaspora-homeland partnership is the issue of time and space. As years pass and individuals are removed from Iraq, emotional ties weaken and that connectiveness may disappear. This reduces the diaspora engagement with the homeland. Although emergency assistance from the diaspora directed to their fellow countrymen is important, it is more crucial to use Diaspora Direct Investment (DDI) which would lead healthy communities to be reconfigured in Iraq. The probability of these types of investments depends on a few challenges which must be resolved in order for successful entrepreneurs and diaspora NGOs to work more confidently. The next section focuses on challenges which may impede this diaspora involvement in Iraq. Challenges in Engaging the Diaspora Earlier in this article, we discussed the importance of emotional ties the diaspora feels with the original country. Despite the desire expressed by a few successful diaspora members, they have communicated the following as challenges which hinder their willingness to invest. ​ ​ ​ ​ Suggested Diaspora Mobilization Strategy Although Iraqi Christians living in the West continue to yearn for their homeland, there needs to be an organized campaign to illustrate the importance of diaspora involvement specifically in the rebuilding of Iraq in order for people to live dignified lives. The following are a few suggestions for consideration: -Diaspora activists alongside the political figures in Iraq need to work together with the United States, European Union, as well as the Iraqi Cent ral Government and the Kurdish Regional Government to seek ways of securing the minority areas. -Create a system of communication between the homeland and the diaspora. This can be in the form of a network between the two communities. An example of this is the GlobalScot network which offers a global space for Scottish professionals to connect and to exchange ideas and offer support to one another. -Involve the diaspora partners with the people in the home country in the decision-making process in order for the diaspora to feel more confident with the investment process. This will enable all parties involved to increase the sense of ownership of the project and elevate their trust level in one another. -Create an independent diaspora council or a directorate which acts as a bridge connecting the East with the West. Closely working with government entities in Baghdad, Erbil and the diaspora, this council/directorate can act as a one-stop-shop for creating and coordinating the following: ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ This council/directorate would have a database of trusted attorneys, bankers, tax advisors, private and public sector counselors (including suppliers and distributors), members of the chambers of commerce, and NGO consortium who would be made available to the diaspora investors to meet with and seek guidance and ultimately implement short and long-term projects. It is important to note that available support should not be one-sided as the business community in the West is also in need of support which can only come from Iraq. -Tackle corruption through accurate and honest reporting, oversight, and a strong system of checks and balances. -Work with the governments to ease the start-up regulations, keep the cost low and the investment process simple. -Work closely with the embassies and consulates to communicate the purpose of the initiatives. -Create a culture of giving back and paying it forward to impact a wider area in order to benefit all of Iraq. -Approach local municipalities to inquire about their willingness to partner in a form of sister cities. -Approach chambers of commerce to inquire about programs available to re-build an Iraqi town. Conclusion The diaspora has awakened to the fate of their fellow Middle East Christians as a result of the ISIS brutality. A segment of the diaspora, however small, is working on behalf of the community in the homeland to reach out and alert the greater ChaldoAssyrian community worldwide as it has also realized the impact of assimilation, and is willing to create programs to face and defeat the extinction process. The diaspora must come together, find ways to maintain its collective integrity and identity as one people. ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Iraqi students seek out educational opportunities. Photo Credit: ICRC In addressing the Muslim world, especially the Iraqi Muslims, the Assyrians were indigenous to Iraq who have lived and served alongside them as doctors, teachers, and farmers. As children of one human race and as children of Iraq, the invitation is extended to the diaspora begin cooperation in rebuilding the lives of the most vulnerable citizens of a county which once was a beautiful tapestry of diversity. The nostalgia which is carried in the hearts of people from the Middle East, especially the Iraqi communities worldwide, automatically forms a bond which is unshakable. How beautiful would it be for a multifaith and multiethnic diaspora to come together to assist the vulnerable communities in their ancestral lands. ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ “As an indigenous and marginalized community, neglected and discriminated by the local and federal governments, the path to a sustainable future in the Homeland can only be achieved through support from the Diaspora. Our community abroad should realize they are indeed the de-facto government for those in the Homeland and that the needs for infrastructure, critical institutions, education and economic development and investment is an onus on us. Given the single most pressing issue for emigration is the lack of economic and job opportunities, it is without doubt critical for the sustenance of an Assyrian future for the Diaspora to invest financially in the Homeland.” Dr. Joseph Danavi – Board Member, Gishru Today, Assyrians are living throughout the four corners of the world and despite being divided along ethnic lines (some Chaldeans call for the creation of a new ethnic identity), they call BetNahrain their sacred home. This emotional tie is due to personal memories and/or adopted cultural and social characteristics and behaviors passed on by their relatives and expressed by the collective ethnic community. This bond is crucial in engaging the diaspora with their brethren left behind in Iraq. Because the Assyrians are not living in a common land, they are connected spatially with ties to their history, heritage, language, and their sentiment for the ancestral lands. At the same time, as they are organized in the diaspora and in what seems to be in a temporal mode: their eye is still on the homeland, with the hope that someday, they will be restored to Nineveh. This view is idealistic and romantic; however, one must remember that this dream will never come to pass if those living in Iraq continue to be disempowered. This will lead to further migration until there is very little or no Assyrians left in their own land. “Every time I return to the homeland, I see our people continue to face lack of jobs and this is because they belong to a minority group. This motivates me to return with ideas that will give the younger generation a chance for a brighter future. It’s important to invest in the homeland not only to help our people stay and earn their own income. But it gives them a chance of being independent and not depend on anyone else. It gives our youth an opportunity to put their educational degrees to work. I recently returned from Iraq and as I reflected, one thing became clear and it is in order for Assyrians to survive for years to come, we must invest in creating job opportunities and not depend on anyone else to do it for us.” Shamiran Echi Chicago Chapter President-Assyrian Aid Society of America -Lack of Security -Reported corruption surrounding the local government as well as some in-country NGOs -Existing disorganization and lack of strategic planning on the ground -Political fragmentation -Identity and church division which leads to segregation and national divide -Lack of transparency -Questionable Return on Investment (ROI) -Homeland engagement programs -Business meetings and conferences -Field study and research -Tourism -Cultural events Partnership within Iraq is crucial and without a systematic and strategic plan, the people who chose to continue living in peril will not be able to survive much longer. ​ In this article we focused strictly on the Iraqi Christian diaspora. It would be amiss if we did not take a moment to emphasize the importance of the Western Christian as well as Middle East Muslims’ (especially the Iraqi Muslims) in assisting the ancient Assyrian community in Iraq. In 1 Corinthians 12:2427, we are told by St. Paul, “God has so composed the body... that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” Based on this description and the universal law of “Love Thy Neighbor,” how appropriate would it be for Western Christians to help their Eastern brethren to regain their confidence in themselves and lead dignified lives? Iraqi Christian Relief Council (ICRC) was founded in 2007 and exists is to educate the people around the globe about Iraqi Christian persecution, ask for prayers, and raise funds to support their basic humanitarian needs and partake in rebuilding their lives.

  • American FRRME | In Memory of Brig. Gen. David Greer

    In Memory of Brig. Gen. David Greer Executive Director/FRRME America/ 2012 – 2020 By Alice Seeley Published On August 5, 2020

  • American FRRME | Sign Up

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  • American FRRME | Living Conditions of Refugees

    Living Conditions Of Refugees in Jordan By Alice Seeley Published On May 28, 2020 Currently, the Syrian conflict is the largest source of internally displaced people in the world. There are nearly 5.5 million Syrian refugees in the Middle-East. As of 2019, Jordan, which borders Syria, had registered 662,010 of these refugees. Jordan is home to the second-largest refugee camp in the world, known as Zaatari. Less than 10 miles from the Syrian border, it opened in 2012 and has since become known as Jordan’s 4th largest “city.” Today, roughly 80,000 Syrian refugees live there in rows of tents. ​ There are few populations more vulnerable to the health risks of inferior living conditions than refugees. Refugee camps are often overcrowded and of poor quality. Although some refugees find work, many –especially children and the elderly—are entirely dependent on aid. Most refugee camps do not have sufficient food to feed their populations. Malnutrition makes refugees weak and more at risk for a variety of diseases and illnesses. ​ Poor living conditions are not limited to the camps. Some refugees—mainly Syrian– live outside of camps in unofficial self-settlements. These settlements, less well known than the camps, are often overlooked when it comes to aid. ​ Sixteen percent of the Syrian refugee population in Jordan report chronic health problems. These health problems often result from these poor living conditions. The dampness and mold of the camps is the source of many health problems, such as aches, pains, digestive disorders, malaria, and respiratory tract infections. Malaria is also a major threat to those living in primitive conditions, often without window screens or solid doors. ​ The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East provides humanitarian assistance to refugees who have fled persecution and genocide. It also provides health care on a case-by-case basis among IDPs and refugee populations in Jordan. Please consider donating today to help FRRME provide these life-saving services. ​ 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 | Reflections on Refugee Crisis

    Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine: Reflections on the Global Refugee Crisis By Keely Jahns Published On March 31, 2022 As of March 30, 2022, 4 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine. Millions are internally displaced amidst gruesome fighting, and millions have fled the country into neighboring nations such as Lithuania, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Poland. ​ The International Organization of Migration (UK) estimates that more than half of the people who are internally displaced are women, and many are deemed particularly vulnerable because they are pregnant, have a disability or are a victim of violence. As well as the 4 million people who have left their homes, about 12 million are thought to be stranded or unable to leave areas affected by the fighting. ​ Some living in areas with ongoing fighting have been victims of enforced disappearances, such as what we saw occur in Mariupol at a civilian bomb shelter overtaken on Day 25 of the invasion. The Russian insurgents have consistently targeted civilians, particularly women and children, as they have bombed both a maternity hospital and a children’s hospital. As of March 25th, 136 children had been killed in Ukraine by Russian forces. ​ War is always a tragedy, but particularly now, as we see a disproportionate amount of civilians being targeted, particularly civilians that belong to the most vulnerable populations. This is a type of aggression that many of the refugees we serve have faced at the hands of dictators and terrorists. It has created a new wave of refugees to add to a global refugee crisis. ​ In the last decade, the number of people fleeing their homes around the world has doubled. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over 84 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes in the last decade. Among them are over 26.6 million refugees, the highest population on record. 68% of the world’s refugees come from just 5 countries. ​ This does not account for the number of refugees coming out of Ukraine as of March 2022. In just three weeks, the crisis in Ukraine made the country into the second-largest country of origin for the global refugee population. The UNHCR conservatively estimates that 10% of Ukraine’s population will become refugees due to Russian aggression. ​ This is an ache we feel very strongly at American FRRME. The populations we serve have also escaped the horrors of war, and in most cases, extreme sectarian violence. Like the refugees from Ukraine, these resilient people have had to uproot their lives and flee their homes after losing their loved ones, friends, and livelihoods. ​ The situation echoes what we saw unfold in Syria in 2011, in which millions were displaced from their homes in the wake of war crimes and unspeakable violence. As of March 15th, 2022, the civil war in Syria has entered its 11th year. Over 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, and remain in a state of limbo in many countries across the Middle East and Europe, unable to return to Syria, and in many cases unable to receive citizenship in their host countries. The Christians of Iraq and Kurdistan were similarly uprooted from their homes by the ISIS insurgency nearly eight years ago. Most have not returned, as the climates in their regions of origin are still rife with religious bigotry and the threat of extremism. There are children now approaching adulthood whose childhood memories are those of instability and bloodshed. ​ Refugees who settle in neighboring nations across the Middle East are often not allowed to attain citizenship or visas, or to work. In the case of children born into refugee camps, most are considered stateless, not allowed to receive citizenship in their parents’ host country, and not able to receive citizenship in their family’s country of origin. Healthcare, food security, and education are sorely lacking in many refugee communities across the world, particularly in the Middle East. ​ Many refugees who have fled conflicts in Iraq and Syria have fled to places like Madaba, Jordan, where we operate the Olive Tree Center. At the OTC, we operate programs aimed at providing hope, help, and healing to those who have been impacted by the tragedies of war and violence. As the global refugee crisis intensifies, more programs are needed like the Olive Tree Center, Nineveh SEED, and the outreach programs through St. George’s School and Clinic and Baghdad. ​ We have recently announced the creation of the General David E. Greer Scholarship, a legacy scholarship named in honor of our late executive director, honoring his dream of providing education to refugees in need. Although children in the United States are granted a free public education, this does not exist for refugees in Jordan. And since they are not allowed to work in Jordan, a private education is unattainable to most refugee families. The scholarship provides educational opportunities to students in Madaba, whose aspirations would be otherwise out of reach. ​ According to a 2019 report by the UN Refugee Agency, out of 7.2 million refugee children around the world, only 3.7 million have the opportunity to attend school. Globally, 91% of children attend elementary (primary) school, whereas only 63% of refugee children have this opportunity. ​ Whether or not a student finishes the 8th grade is a deciding factor in their ability to finish their K-12 education. So, we’ve decided to implement a program that will provide school supplies, uniforms, tuition, transportation and supportive services like tutoring to get kids into and keep them in school. ​ At the Olive Tree Center, we also provide occupational learning for older youth and adults. We have a cosmetology class, as well as a carpentry studio; both teaching valuable skills that will take our students far in life, wherever they choose to go in the world. We also provide therapeutic programs to aid in trauma-healing. ​ Our support group, called the Hope Group, serves as a space for refugees to lean on one another, as well as practice their English skills. Our music and art therapy programs are allowing our learners to express themselves creatively, exercise their minds, and learn hand-eye coordination. ​ In the wake of the refugee crisis around the world, more programs are needed like the ones administered by American FRRME. Unfortunately, refugees are among the world’s most under-served populations. ​ Life is not easy for refugees in Jordan and other parts of the Middle East. As adversity grows, programs are needed to protect the most vulnerable of these refugees. 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. ​ Our hearts go out to the victims of brutality in Ukraine, who, like our friends at the Olive Tree Center, have lost everything. We hope and pray that the conflict will come to an end, and that the Ukrainian people will have an opportunity to heal from their trauma and return to their homes and communities, as is the wish of refugees around the world.

  • American FRRME | About

    Our Impact From Baghdad to the Plain of Nineveh, from Kurdistan to Mt. Sinjar—wherever the Iraqi people have been persecuted for their Christian faith and experienced suffering, American FRRME is providing comfort and aid for these marginalized refugees and other religious minorities. Our Story The American Foundation for Relief & Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) was founded in 2009 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to promote reconciliation, provide relief efforts, advance human rights and seek an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East. Although autonomous, American FRRME has been associated with Mosaic Middle East for implementing projects. American FRRME 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 and supports the operations and outreach efforts of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq. We are also working to rebuild lives and restore hope through advocacy and long-term investment in the region. Iraqi refugees in Jordan enjoy a rooftop meal with American FRRME staff and board members. Mission To model Christ’s love for all by providing relief, comfort and aid to displaced Iraqi Christians in Iraq and Jordan, by encouraging and facilitating their return home, and by supporting the compassion ministries of Saint George’s Church in Baghdad. Vision A Middle East that flourishes in an atmosphere of reconciliation and mutual respect between all faith groups. SIGN UP Board of Trustees Col. "Max" Wood Chairman Robert Slaughter Vice Chairman Robert McCullers Treasurer Mark Magoni Trustee Sydney Leach Trustee Connie Wilson Trustee May Hardiman Emeritus Trustee John Busterud Emeritus Trustee Kevin Douglas Emeritus Trustee Capt. Scott Rye Emeritus Trustee Richard Swett Emeritus Trustee Paul H. Tyson Emeritus Trustee Mick Kicklighter Emeritus Trustee Nate Breeding Executive Director

  • American FRRME | Meet Nadira

    Meet Nadira By Alice Seeley Published On October 26, 2021 Meet Nadira, one of the many refugees who are eternally grateful to St. George’s Medical Clinic. Her story is one of trauma, survival, and hope. ​ Originally from Baghdad, Nadira’s husband was killed in a suicide bombing in 2005. His body was so severely burnt Nadira was barely able to identify him. ​ In 2014, Nadira traveled to Mosul for her daughter’s wedding. During the wedding service, the priest announced that ISIS was on their way to the Church and the congregation should flee. Fortunately, Nadira and the rest of the congregation escaped safely. However, months later, on Christmas Eve, Nadira’s son was shopping in Baghdad when he was attacked and shot in the leg and the stomach. The attackers escaped and were not charged. ​ Amid these stories of tragedy, Nadira recounts the day her grandchild was born. Her daughter was extremely overdue and urgently needed a C-Section but could not afford it. Nadira turned to St. George’s for help. “I came to St. George’s and Father Faiz arranged for the surgery to be done quickly. The doctors said that if the operation had been left any longer my daughter and her baby would have died,” said Nadira. Thanks to your generous support Nadira’s family and many others have the access to the medical care they need!

  • 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 | David Greer Scholarship

    David E. Greer Scholarship: A Legacy to Enrich Lives By Keely Jahns Published On March 24, 2022 The General David E. Greer Scholarship Fund has been established in memory of the organization’s former Executive Director, Brigadier General David Greer who lost his life in a tragic accident in 2020. ​ “David had a deep affection for the people of Iraq”, says his wife and current serving Executive Director of American FRRME, Susan Greer. “Long after his retirement from the armed forces, David continued to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.” ​ A life-long student, much of General Greer’s efforts were centered around providing education to vulnerable children. During his time with American FRRME, he advocated for funding for the education of Iraqi refugee children in Jordan and helped establish a school in Kurdistan for Yazidi girls. ​ “There is a critical lack of access to education for refugees around the world,” says Susan, “and this is no different in Jordan where we are working with thousands of refugees who fled Iraq when ISIS swept through.” ​ According to a 2019 report by the UN Refugee Agency, out of 7.2 million refugee children around the world, only 3.7 million have the opportunity to attend school. Globally, 91% of children attend elementary (primary) school, whereas only 63% of refugee children have this opportunity. ​ Susan continues, “The lack of school is felt keenly by the refugees we help. They come from a culture that prizes education, and disruption to their education as a result of war, displacement, trauma, persecution and poverty is having a devastating impact on their lives and their futures.” Refugees are not permitted to work in Jordan, so with little or no income, private education is out of reach for the majority of these Iraqi families. ​ Many children see little hope for their future. They see their parents forced to remain at home in poverty rather than earning a living. They understand all too well the implications of not getting an education, and, without an education, their dream of a better future is fading fast. The General David E. Greer Scholarship Fund and the education programs at our Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan are crucial to the future of the next generation of Iraqis. ​ As these young people get older, the barriers that prevent them from accessing learning become harder to overcome and it is common for youth to drop out of primary and secondary school for reasons of cost or a need to support their families. Continuing past the 8th grade is one of the deciding factors in whether a child finishes their education at all. ​ “One of David’s greatest goals,” says Susan, “was to help children in our programs to finish the eighth grade.” ​ The children and young people supported by our Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan are part of many programs aimed at providing hope, help, and healing for the intense trauma that many Iraqis experienced as they fled their homes at a young age. ​ “Healing after trauma is a complex process, and one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle is providing young people with educational opportunities that will allow them to advance in life,” says Susan. “Through the General David E. Greer Scholarship Fund, we hope to keep these vulnerable students in school and provide an opportunity for a successful future.” ​ American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) is a US-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’s work is focused on the Iraqi people, those displaced in Iraq as a result of war and ISIS, impoverished Iraqis in Baghdad, those that remained or returned to their destroyed town on the Nineveh Plain in Kurdistan, and those that fled Iraq and live as refugees in Jordan. ​ Working in partnership with churches in Iraq and Jordan, American FRRME is on the ground, providing food, clothing, shelter, 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. ​ Brigadier General David Greer dedicated his life to helping those in need. He was a decorated member of the Army National Guard who proudly accepted the task of rebuilding lives in Iraq, even well into his retirement from the armed forces. It was there that he saw the need of the people, particularly persecuted Christians, and helped to establish programs that would improve their lives. ​ While in Baghdad, he established a Boy Scout Troop, and assisted St. George’s Anglican Church in obtaining reconstruction grants through the US State Department. He helped the church construct a Kindergarten with clean, safe restrooms – something that is not always guaranteed in schools across the Middle East and the developing world. ​ A life-long student, much of General Greer’s efforts were centered around providing education to vulnerable children. As a member of philanthropic organizations, he supported scholarships, a large number of them through his alma mater, the University of Tennessee. As Executive Director of American FRRME, he advocated for and obtained funding education for the refugee children in Jordan, as well as helped establish a school in Kurdistan for Yazidi girls. ​ General Greer sadly passed away in 2020 and the General David E Greer Scholarship Fund has been established in his memory.

  • American FRRME | Clean Water

    Inter-Organizational Cooperation Aims to Bring Clean Water to Sinjar by Keely Jahns September 1, 2022 Like the Christian communities of Northern Iraq, when the ISIS insurgents swept across the Nineveh Plain in 2014, over 400,000 Yazidis were also displaced. This year, fighting has displaced thousands more. From the initial wave, much like how our Christian brothers and sisters in Jordan and other neighboring countries, have not found the region suitable for a return; around 250,000 Yazadis who sought refuge in neighboring regions found they had nothing to return to as well. The businesses, homes, and basic services like water and electricity were severely disrupted in their hometowns. In many places, the infrastructure in place prior to the invasion was either too delicate to withstand attack or it was deliberately sabotaged by the insurgents. Upon returning, what water was left, if any at all, was not clean enough to drink. Several NGOs have made it their mission to return the water to Sinjar. Inter-organizational cooperation to implement programs for Yazidis is signaling a focus on Northern Iraq, not previously seen, and will potentially help to reroot the lives of hundreds of thousands who wish to return to their homeland. News like this brings us abundant hope for our mission of hope, help and healing for the people of Iraq. In 2021, the United Nations Office for Project Services and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) announced their plans to dig wells and resume clean water distribution to the people of Sinjar . Similarly, the The Building Peaceful Futures Project, a cooperation of the Australian Government and Save the Children , began initiating plans to dig wells for the Yazidi communities in Sinjar. One of these projects, implemented by Save the Children, was sorely needed for the Yazidi communities that have begun returning to the region. In the meantime, the organization and others like it, are working to rebuild the infrastructure to resume water filtration to homes, businesses and schools by distributing clean water in bottles and larger tanks with purification units. This has enabled families to return to Sinjar and to enroll their children in school again, without fear that they will have no water to drink or that they will become sick from the water that is available to them during the school day. “I love Sinjar so much because it is my homeland, my home, the place where I was born,” says 13-year-old Rana* (name changed for security reasons) from Iraq, in a recent interview with Save the Children. Rana is a Yazidi from Sinjar who was six years old when ISIS took her town. Her family had to flee into the mountains for safety. They stayed there for seven nights with little food and water. After more than three years of living in a displacement camp, Rana’s family was ready to move back home. They join many Yazidis who are determined to rebuild their homes, despite the violence that continues to destabilize parts of northern Iraq. Rana remembers the moment she returned to school. “When the schools opened, there were not many teachers…the old water tanks were perforated and the water was dirty so we just washed our hands with it.” The organization distributed water tanks and sterilization units to the school, and set up water distribution networks all over Sinjar. This is making an enormous difference in the lives of the communities that call Sinjar home. This mission, and others like it, is an important piece in the puzzle of helping life resume for those who have been displaced by sectarian violence. International and inter-organizational cooperation like this will be absolutely critical moving forward for our organization, and any other organization that shares the same geopolitical spaces that we do. If we are to rebuild Northern Iraq for its most vulnerable communities, particularly in areas with broken infrastructure and continuing challenges posed by political and sectarian violence, we must work together to provide basic needs and a restart to all who are returning. Previously, our work in Northern Iraq has helped Christians and Yazidis rebuild businesses and resume their lives. We also work to provide hope, help and healing to the diaspora of Iraqi Christians who have refugee status in Jordan. Our mission continues with a laser focus on bettering the lives of the Iraqi people within Iraq. In Baghdad, St. George’s Church and Clinic continues to provide essential dental care to the people of the city. Amongst the refugee community residing in Jordan, the General Greer Scholarship will help provide children with the tools they need to succeed in school and brighten their futures wherever they go; whether that is a future in Northern Iraq, or anywhere else in the world. This work by Save the Children, the Australian Government, the United Nations and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) is an encouraging development in the mission to restore the lives of refugees and displaced persons. As we grow and expand our own programs, inter-organizational cooperation like this is essential. 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, in 2019 we established the Olive Tree Center in Madaba, Jordan. The center currently 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.

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