Thousands trapped by a murderous cult, Islamic State, on the side of a barren mountain side with little food and water.
Women and children killed, people crucified. All this happening in the glare of the worlds media.
The breakdown of the Iraq state has been sudden and devastating, especially for people from minority faiths such as the Yazidis and Christians, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the inhuman brutality of the Islamic State forces. The situation for Christians has been dreadful for years (it is believed that nearly a million Christians have fled from Iraq out of 1.5 million since the invasion of Iraq).
So, what can we do?
Firstly, we can pray. As Christians we bring to God not only our own needs but also the needs of others. As Christians we believe that God hears these prayers and cries. We may not understand how he always answers our prayers but we do know that prayer changes things. Prayer helps us to focus on what is really important, it helps us work out the essence of the issue. Prayer helps us to engage with the issue at hand. It involves us and God seems to use that to enable things to happen.
Secondly, we can act. Here there is a really practical response that we can make. The Kurdish region in the north of Iraq has thousands upon thousands of refugees. There is a huge humanitarian need. After discussion with staff and wardens at Springfield Church we are having a collection in aid of the humanitarian help for the refugees. We looked at a number of charities that we could go through and have chosen Christian Aid as they already have a significant presence in the Kurdish region and are well placed to help and I have asked Helen, who works for them, to share some of what is going on and what we can do on Sunday.
Thirdly, we can lobby our government and MP’s to ensure that this stays on the agenda of the government and that aid and assistance are sent to help. Some in parliament can be incredibly ignorant about the status of Christians in the Middle East. Rowan William’s biographer wrote recently “Rowan raised the matter of Christians under threat in the Middle East with a member of Gordon Brown’s cabinet, and received a jaw-dropping response. ‘If missionaries will march into Muslim countries trying to convert them, then it’s not surprising that they have a hard time.'” If a cabinet minister was so ignorant we need to ensure that people realise that the Christian communities of the Middle East have been there for two thousand years!
There will be a box at the back of Church for you to give for the refugee crisis in Iraq for the next few Sundays. Alternatively, if you want to give to Christian Aid direct then their appeal page is here: http://bit.ly/1q9GTNS.