Kurdistan is a region in Northern Iraq with limited self-governance. The Kurdistan Regional Government or the KRG includes the larger cities of Mosul on the Tigris River and Erbil to the East. Mosul is the ancient city of Nineveh. The Kurds are proud decedents of the Medes, spread over Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Throughout the history the Kurds have pushed back against the Turks, Arabs and the Persians to establish an independent state - but have always been defeated. Most recently the Iraqi Kurds were victims of genocide by chemical weapons unleashed on them by Saddam Husain in 1988 killing over 5,000 with poison gas.
In their struggle for independence, they have grown a strong sense of empathy for the oppressed. They are now hosting over two million displaced people from the occupation of the Islamic State in their region and beyond.
During Easter 2017, we visited several Christian villages that had been occupied by ISIS. Some houses were flattened by mortars and air strikes. Centrally located churches were used as ISIS headquarters, sniper towers and shooting galleries. Graffiti disrespected the cross and our faith. Books and musical instruments were burned. Hatred and violence hung in the air.
The village of Telleskof had over 7000 inhabitants before ISIS arrived. In the middle of the night, fleeing members of the neighboring village warned them that ISIS was moving quickly in their direction. They grabbed what they could and ran for their lives. Fortunately, the Christians of Tellesckof escaped with few casualties.
We were able to survey some of the damage around Telleskof and visit with a few of the 400 brave residents who have returned. They know that it will be a long time until the village establishes a “new normal” – but they are thankful to be there to help make that happen. They couldn’t stop praising their neighbors from Batnia who fled a fierce attack to warn Telleskof that ISIS was coming – saving their lives.
The majority of the villagers of Telleskof are living in IDP camps. They left their productive land, their properties and their family savings in the houses that ISIS occupied. Their lives had been very much like ours in middle class America. It’s been 3 years now, and they are still living day to day in tent cities with hope of returning someday.
Resettlement priorities begin with clean water, electric power and medical care. This village of Telleskof is the place where our funds were used restore water lines and a back-up generator for the medical clinic. Phase 2 of our project is to dig a well to provide clean water for the village.
We hope to continue to help the Telleskof community - maybe even go there to help rebuild homes, clean up rubble and patch bullet holes. We have been given a God-shaped opportunity to come along side these Christian brothers and sisters – to assist them during their time of need.
Please keep the people of Kurdistan in your prayers. And ask God what role you can play in their resettlement. And if you’re interested, contact Brad Pontius for a more thorough report on our time in Kurdistan.