(Posted on FB July 27)
Qamishli is a town in Syria where Elmarie and I have friends, so today’s ISIS/Daesh bombing there (approx 50 killed) isn’t just a name on a map for us. I’m re-posting an article I wrote a while back about the Presbyterian Church there–so that you can get a sense of the kind of people that live there.
Our friend F is a pastor in Northern Syria, where extremists are strong. His city has been under siege for about 3 1/2 years. Although the Kurdish militia keeps the extremists from invading, life has been tough for F and his congregation.
The electrical grid was severely damaged a few years ago, so most of their electricity comes from fuel generators. Because the only thing available is cheaply made degraded fuel, air pollution has become an issue. Respiratory problems are rampant, with children and the elderly getting hit the hardest. Food is also in short supply because supply trucks are regularly hijacked by extremists. For this reason, families eat as little as possible because they never know when the next supply will arrive.
It is perhaps the most difficult at night. This is when extremist soldiers make their presence known outside the city. They set up loudspeakers. They blare insults. Threats. They shout detailed descriptions of what they will do— to the women and the children—when they invade. For F and his congregation, the dream is to survive.
Last Fall, F learned that a group of Yazidi people formed a camp in proximity to his city. Yazidis are a racial and ethnic group who live in Iraq’s Nineveh Province. They practice an ancient folk religion that borrows from many different religions, including Islam. Because of this, Muslim extremists (who are all about purity) have a particular hatred for the Yazidis. Of all the religious minorities targeted by the extremists when they took over the Nineveh Plain, the Yazidi people were brutalized the worst. We know of an extended family who lost 60 members—30 of their men were executed on the spot, while 30 women were sold into slavery (15 have since escaped). For some Yazidis, fleeing to Syria actually looked like a better shot at a future than in Iraq (That’s messed up, isn’t it?)
When F and some elders saw the bleak conditions of the Yazidi camp, their hearts dropped. They realized that the Yazidis were in even rougher shape than they were.
So, they made some calls. F knew that relief money was coming from a U.S. partner. When asked where the greatest needs were, he said “The Yazidis have no water.” That relief money could have easily been poured into their own community and still be a drop in their bucket of need—but F’s church made sure that part of the relief money went to drilling a water well for the Yazidi camp.
F and his people are under great pressure
But they choose to not be victims.