Gleaning For The World has been working in the refugee camps for more than five years. 

Through the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, we have built strategic partnerships across the region with people truly making a difference in the refugees’ lives.

This information comes directly from the refugee camps in the Middle East. 

What is the refugee crisis like now?

In the past few days, we held another Iraqi newcomers refugee meal for approximately 200 people.

As in previous months and years…as in the last war, there were many women dressed in black – indicating the loss of a husband, brother etc. in the past year.

The stories of struggle and escape are unique to each individual, but after many years the pain looks and sounds wearily similar. However, what makes NOW different is – camps have taken in so many refugees in the past 3 years, the country’s infrastructure is now at a critical breaking point (Water, electricity, housing, education etc). Thank God for people willing to serve those caught in great need – and for organizations like Gleaning For The World – whose help continues to be invaluable.

How has it changed during the fight over Mosul?

We have been told that we may see as many as 20,000 new Iraqi refugees in the coming months.

Most will be Christians who unable to stay in the UN camps due to safety concerns.

Iraqis are not allowed to work due to the country’s already high unemployment rate of 30% among its own citizens. Therefore, these new Iraqi refugees will be completely dependent for their daily sustenance – on the generosity of Christian and other charitable organizations.

What are the greatest needs for refugees?

Money that can be targeted daily, weekly, monthly for immediate refugee needs.

Food, water, medicine, hygiene, housing, clothing, etc. Two months ago, we provided as many cook stoves as possible for refugees.

Six weeks ago, there was a severe medicine shortage in Aleppo, Syria. We were able to deliver $22,000 worth of medicine. Last month, the same area went 21 days without water, more resources were needed.

How do you see the refugee crisis changing over the next year?

If all hostilities in Iraq and Syria ceased at this very moment, there would be very little change in the material needs of these refugees.

Iraqis can’t or won’t return to their country due to safety concerns over sectarian violence – especially Christians.

In addition, many homes and neighborhoods will simply remain dangerous to enter due to damage. Chances are, it will be an international commitment of several years for communities to re-form.

What have refugees gone through to get to safety?

ISIS is killing the men and making life miserable for the women left behind.

Those who are kidnapped are held in Christian churches that have been converted to jails – where rape, torture and a horrible death await.

The only route of escape for survivors is the hard road of a refugee. Today, the stories of two women spanning the generations of Iraqi Christians who have fled.

Lena is a 24 year old widow with two children ages 4 and 2. With hundreds of thousands of people trapped in her home city of Mosul, and her father suffering from kidney failure – Lena chose to abandon their home in a dangerous neighborhood. She and her children now live with relatives who have also escaped. After assisting her father’s departure for Germany and medical treatment, Lena scrambled to support her little ones. Our work with her has been a godsend.

Mahla recently turned 70 years old. Also an Iraqi Christian widow, Mahla has four sons. In her village just outside Mosul, militants were banging on her door. She was given two days to pay ISIS a tax – or paint a large N on her home indicating that ISIS was now the property owner. Mahla had no choice but to run with two sons, leaving her older two sons with family. Arriving here, Mahla faces the same dilemma as thousands of other Iraqi Christian refugees – complete dependence on the generosity of others. Yes, she and her sons are grateful to be safe, but they are not allowed to work. On meeting our partners,  Mahla exclaimed, “I know the Lord sent you to me. Bless you for your help. Praise God and thank you to your donors.”

Are there any moments that touched you from your work with the refugees?

We held a meal for an anticipated 350 IRAQI CHRISTIAN REFUGEES.

When we arrived around 4 to setup, there were already 200 people waiting outside this small school gym.

That night we served approximately 500 people…older men with lost looks on their faces, women dressed in black, widows who had lost husbands, brothers…their homes. And children – a lot of kids. Kids babysitting kids. Each person there was served a hot meal, a plate with a piece of chicken, rice and tabbouleh. There was a woman there in her 30s, a widow with 5 children – she could only bring 3 with her – the oldest age 9 stayed home with the baby – we sent food home with her and many others. But before we started, we prayed, and said to all gathered, “We love you with the Love of Jesus” – and I was hooked. This was my personal intro to the largest humanitarian disaster and relief effort since WWII.

What do you wish people knew about the crisis and the refugee people?

The hard irony of war is that it’s results fall on those who are marginalized in the first place. To be born female in the Middle East (and many other parts of the world) is to be born a disappointment. Yet, it is women and children who bear the heaviest burdens of refugee life – with the least power and fewest resources.

Many refugees escaping Iraq are educated with college degrees. Syrians are known across the Middle East for their skills as craftsmen and in business. You would be happy to have most of these people for neighbors.

What gives you hope looking forward?

Even in the midst of war, there are people like those at Gleaning For the World whose major motivation is to rescue and serve God’s people. Love swallows up hate. Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday.