The persecution of Christians in Central Iraq and Syria is possibly unprecedented in the modern era. Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to leave the area, and many of these Christians came from some of the oldest Christian communities in the world.
A few weeks ago the persecution escalated, and martyrdom became a reality for hundreds, if not thousands of Christians there. This has brought on a humanitarian crisis for the global church. When an earthquake or tsunami hits, there are government agencies that send food and money. But when this kind of persecution hits, there are political and practical limitations to what any government can do. Instead, it falls to the church to meet the needs of those suffering because of Jesus’ name.
I’ve pointed out elsewhere that not all who are being persecuted believe the true gospel. They would not all be evangelical. Some of this is historic—many of these churches predate the East/West spilt, and thus they are neither Orthodox or Catholic. Many are Anglican, some are Baptistic, some are Catholic, some are Orthodox (or affiliated loosely with the Coptic Pope), but most are Assyrian. And those churches—just like many American denominations—can vary in their faithfulness to the word.
But with that said, those doing the persecuting are not targeting only those who are born-again believers. Essentially, anyone who worships in a building with a cross on the wall, or who does not face Mecca at prayer time, or who refuses to acknowledge Mohammad, they are persecuted. It has long been a radical Muslim goal to remove all Christians and crosses from the Euphrates River cradle, and that is exactly what is happening now.
And so it falls to Christian churches to step in and meet the vast humanitarian and spiritual needs that result from this kind of epic hostility to the faith. But how? Most churches don’t have missionaries there, and this is not a place where you can send an STM team (not that one would necessarily be helpful anyway).
Here are a few organizations that do have the ability to get supplies, food, humanitarian relief, as well as Bibles and other evangelistic material to those who are being persecuted. Many of their strategies overlap, but all of these organizations have a track record of success in this part of the world, and you (as well as your church) should feel confident in their ability to get money and resources to those who need it.
Christar has a network of churches in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. They have missionaries on the ground there setting up churches in refugee camps, and they also work with churches in some of the hardest hit areas in Iraq. Many of these pastors have been trained at evangelical seminaries, and they adhere to an evangelical statement of faith.
Christar is using any donations to meet physical needs through their network of churches. They have the ability to set up bathrooms, distribute food and water, as well as Bibles and other literature, and they are doing it all through the churches there. You can donate to this project here.
World Relief works with a similar network of churches as Christar (in fact, many cities have churches in both networks). They are setting up food, water, and medicine distribution for all those fleeing the violence (not just Christians). They are doing this in partnership with the ECI group (Evangelical Churches of Iraq), which is based out of the Kurdish North—where so far it is still safe for them to operate. They also are working with Syrian refugees who have made it into Jordan to help give them job training and relocate them to churches in Amman.
Open Doors also works through local churches for food distribution. Their work is concentrated in Ankawa and Dohuk (both in Iraq; together those cities have received 130,000 refugees).
Voice of the Martyrs
Voice of the Martyrs has had a network of churches in Iraq that they have worked with for ten years. They distribute “VOM Action Packs” which contain clothes, toiletries, and food. They are also working to relocate 200 families away from danger. You can give to their work here.