Iraqi Christian Relief Update – Archdeacon in the Gulf Visit

Archdeacon Schwartz (left) and Fr. Jerjez (right) with a displaced family.

The following update is from The Venerable Canon Bill Schwartz, OBE, the Archdeacon in the Gulf of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, after a visit to Baghdad. Many thanks to Archdeacon Schwartz for sharing this!

Fr. Faiz [Jerjez] took us to a newly constructed camp for displace people who had made their way to Baghdad and had been sleeping in churches, schools and abandoned buildings since last summer. The camp is well constructed by the inter-church group (headed by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Sako) and the ARDF money was used along with other funding to construct this camp. It has 140 caravans (about 21 square meters each: two rooms with a toilet. There is plumbing for a kitchen in one of the rooms.) The “mayor” of the camp estimates 130 families / 630 people live in the camp.

There is work needed before winter rains come. The inter-church committee provides food. Medical care seems adequately organized. The government has hooked up electricity from the grid and provides some diesel for the generator that is used when the grid is down — but there was strong emphasis that the provision of diesel is inadequate for the supply needed to cover the amount of time that the grid is down. They are asking for winter clothing for the children in particular but I would emphasize that clothing is available. There is a need for funding to purchase the clothing. The “mayor” was frank about the need for supervision in  providing money or goods to individuals that could be turned around and sold, saying that some would be pleased to use relief resources for alcohol, cigarettes, and other vices. That’s one of the reasons we insist that the funds are managed through the church, clergy, and lay teams who work at the camp. They know the people and can monitor how the people use the funds donated to them. We identified a couple of projects that could be managed directly by St. George’s so that the funds are accountable. We’ll be investigating those potentials over the coming weeks.

In my perception the long-term problem is unemployment. The refugees can get everything they need if they have money, but they don’t have jobs. Many have marketable skills but no capital for start-up, having lost everything when they fled from the Da’esh fighters. We would like to start up a preschool in the camp which would both provide jobs for some of the refugees to work there, and free up some of the mothers who could find employment if only they could find good care for their children when they would be away at work. The idea is that only children of working mothers would be accepted into the school. I would like to work with the interchurch committee to fund and supervise more projects like this. I found that some of the church leaders I spoke with were very receptive to the idea. There is another idea of converting a derelict building on the periphery of the camp into a small supermarket which would provide jobs and a great benefit among those in the camp who don’t have transportation to visit the shops in town….

There are many church groups and NGO’s working with the larger camps for displaced people in Erbil and Dohuk and places in the Kurdish area. That’s partly because it is easier and it is perceived by Westerners to be safer to work there. To my knowledge there are no NGOs working with this camp in Baghdad. It is entirely supported through the inter-church work (and subsidies from the government). Much can be done, andFr. Faiz Jerjez, our Anglican priest there, is a very good person to work with.


Camp for displaced people.

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