Our Story: Why we do this
Stand With Iraqi Christians began as a conversation between Fr. Chris Bishop and Randy, a parishioner of St. Martin’s, who lived and worked in Erbil, Iraq. After that conversation, Fr. Chris conducted a brief interview with Randy to help us understand the crisis from Randy’s perspective.
Where do the refugees come from?
They come from various parts of Syria and Iraq, including other parts of Kurdistan that have been attacked by ISIS.
What are they running from?
They are running from civil conflict and war with ISIS.
What are the conditions they are currently living in?
Deplorable. Some live in unfinished concrete structures previously meant for office buildings, malls, and other uses, and some live in UNHCR camps. Some of the camps are very bad while some of the newer camps are better. All are overcrowded with the bare minimum in living standards.
What are their greatest needs right now?
They need the war to end and they need to go back to their homes, villages, and communities. They need medicine, money, jobs, and food.
Why do you care?
I care because I am a human being. I care because these people did nothing and were forced from their homes. I care because no person, weather Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other religion or race, should have to pay the price for their government’s failings to protect them.
These people were not given a choice, they were forced out because of politicians and leaders waging war on each other and they are the collateral damage we hear so much about.
Why should Americans in general and American Christians in particular care?
The Christian community as a whole in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world, and one by one they are being extinguished. Their churches are being destroyed, and their faith is being tested.
Why did you tell Fr. Chris about them on that evening in the church at the Christmas pageant rehearsal?
Honestly I am not sure.
In America, we live in a bubble. We are fortunate to have the lifestyle we have. We can go to church every day, every week or whenever we want.
These people cannot, and nobody is talking about it. If not helped, these people will not have any place to worship, they will be wiped from existence and Christians will no longer exist in Iraq.
Maybe I thought Fr. Chris would help. Maybe I thought he would listen, maybe God wanted me to tell Fr. Chris because he knew Fr. Chris would do something and this was our joint calling.
We walk through life as Americans on a daily basis worrying about how we are going to get our children to football, baseball, play practice, and other activities, while these people worry about where their next meal is coming from, will their children be safe, will their daughters be stolen and sold or married off to extremists at the age of 9, 10, or 11; it is not even a blip on our radar. Iraq for Americans is a place that nobody wants to talk about and that honestly nobody cares about. These are human beings that didn’t ask for this, it was not their choice; we need to help.
What do you want people in the U.S. to know about this situation in particular, and the situation in Iraq with ISIS in general, that they are not getting from the American media?
It is much worse than anybody realizes. The media likes to talk about war and bombs and troops on the ground, what they should really be talking about the plight of these refugees, people in need, Christians, Muslims, whatever their religion, they are human beings that didn’t ask for this. America is the most prosperous nation in the world—it is our duty to help.
What do you think is the most important thing Americans, and anyone, can do to help these refugees and churches helping them right now?
If every American gave a dollar, or fifty cents; if every athlete or celebrity didn’t have that one summertime party and took the money they would have spent and donated it, we could make a difference.