Baptists fight ISIS atrocities in Iraq

by Carrie Blackaby, |

MOSUL, Iraq (Christian Examiner) – Thousands of displaced people in Northern Iraq are struggling to survive the winter after being forcibly displaced by the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists.

Some displaced Iraqis have found shelter in abandoned schools and apartment complexes, while others remain outdoors under overpasses or in tents pitched over the dirt or slabs of cement.

In order to reach relative safety, many Iraqis fled on foot and travelled days on end, leaving their houses and all their possessions behind.

Stripped of their homes, livelihoods and belongings, the displaced people are in desperate need of aid.

Abraham Shepherd directs relief efforts in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response and offers emergency aid, including food, medicine, hygiene items, and blankets, to thousands of families in need.

"ISIS has compounded the Crisis in Syria," Shepherd told Christian Examiner. "These people have lost everything."

Shepherd shared the story of a middle-aged Iraqi woman named Faithful.

ISIS threatened her family because they are Christians, Shepherd said.

Faithful's husband and sons fled the city, but she and her two daughters stayed behind. One day while she was gone, masked men broke into her house and doused her then 23-year-old daughter with gasoline and set her on fire.

Faithful returned to find her house on ablaze, and her daughter severely burned. Her daughter died one month later.

Faithful and her family are just one of the many families to which BGR has extended aid.

Shepherd also told of a deaf-mute man who carried his elderly father on his back for three days in the blazing summer sun as he travelled by foot to safety.

BGR aided a newlywed couple who were awakened on their wedding night by artillery shells from ISIS. They were forced to leave everything they owned behind, and now share one room with 50 other refugees.

While these people have endured brutal physical trauma, they carry even deeper scars.

"Beyond the basics, [the displaced people] have an even great emotional need," Shepherd told Christian Examiner.

The demographic of displaced people is diverse. Many had successful lives and businesses in the cities before ISIS forced them to leave. Among those Shepherd works with are nurses, teachers, and business professionals.

But now they have little hope of supporting themselves or rebuilding their lives without aid.

"They cry, 'We are not animals," Shepherd said. "'We are humans who had a civilized way of living.'"

These people want the world to know they are not faceless statistics in a foreign crisis, but hard-working husbands and mothers and sons who have lost everything.

Shepherd said he believes it is the duty of all Christians to help other brothers and sisters in need, no matter who they are or where they live.

Shepherd's work aims, not only to help those in crisis, but also to raise awareness, especially in churches, of the atrocities taking place around the globe.

"As members of Christ's body suffer, the Bible says we should all suffer," said Shepherd. "Let's behave as one body in Christ. It is our responsibility."