Iraq – As the Coronavirus grips many with fear, this week I met with 18 Syrian men, within our church in northern Iraq. They left their country because of the violence and have come to Iraq as a staging ground as refugees in hope for immigration to Australia. Some have their children in our program.
Daily, these men wrestle with the issues of being a refugee in a country that is not their own, trapped in the middle of a conflict that they did not create, walking a path they did not expect. The ground seems to have been leveled globally with uncertainty, but this time it’s an unseen virus bringing many to a sense of panic.
One of the men from Damascus, a chemical engineer, shared how he fled to Homs for safety but when he and his family arrived in this city, found it to have been destroyed. Can you imagine how incredibly difficult this is for them? They are not guaranteed immigration, yet they wait, and in hope they look to the future. I reminded the men that Jesus said, “I will never leave you, never will I forsake you,” and I shared from Heb. 4:14-16. But as I looked into each man’s eyes I asked myself the question, what about today?
…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tested in every as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-16 Holman
Years ago during a very difficult time in our ministry, one of the men of the church I was pastoring came behind me put his hand upon my shoulder. A big smile came across his face as he asked, “Pastor John, how are you doing?” Those words he shared with me and the memory of his hand on my shoulder resonate with me years later. It made a difference that someone cared.
Worldwide, millions are genuinely terrified of the Coronavirus; medical professionals continue to reassure that much information online is inaccurate. Yet what is accurate, according to the WHO, is what another killer does each year: cardiovascular heart disease claimed 17.9 million lives in 2016, making it the #1 cause of death worldwide. Cancer, terrorism and car accidents also claim millions each year. But this virus is crippling many with fear. Why? because we can’t control or stop it.
Rational or irrational fears? Depends who you talk with. Our response to the Coronavirus, however, has the potential to make us more compassionate to refugees whose fears are rational. But our compassion in potential is only existent in reality through actions.
I reminded the Syrian men of our Father’s care, and that many people are praying for them. Their response? Anger? Fear? Resentment? All refugees struggle with their thoughts in these areas, but these men have worked to keep a focus on God. They also have a deep gratefulness and humility to the Lord for bringing them this far.
IM assists refugee families in Iraq through our Rapid Response Fund. Children and their families in the Child Sponsorship Program receive regular food and assistance.
– John Cook, CEO