What caused the crisis in Iraq?
ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria) originated as a terrorist group in Iraq that pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. In June 2014, the group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate and began referring to itself as the Islamic State. As a caliphate, it claimed religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. Its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a worldwide caliphate were widely criticized, with the UN, various governments and mainstream Muslim groups vehemently rejecting the idea of its statehood.
Rejected or not, they managed to seize large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, killing or taking captives thousands of Yezidis, Kurds, and anyone else that refused to bow to their rule. Millions were forced to flee for their lives, creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis to date.
On August 3rd, 2014 Islamic soldiers from ISIS attacked the Sinjar region of Northern Iraq home to approximately 250,000 people, many of them Yezidis. Yezidis are a peaceful minority group of about 800,000. Many of them are shepherds and produce farmers and were living side-by-side with their Muslim and Arab neighbors. Thousands of them were forced to flee on foot, taking refuge in the Sinjar Mountains were they languished for eight days before aid was able to get to them. The ones that didn’t manage to escape were rounded up like animals, the men and older boys were shot or buried alive. The women and girls were sold as sex slaves and the young boys were taken to ISIS training camps to be indoctrinated with Islamic propaganda and trained as fighters. Today, thousands are still missing.
After escaping from the mountain, thousands of them ended up in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. Here they were put into huge refugee camps, empty houses and wherever they could find shelter. Today there are more than 1.5 million refugees in Kurdistan.
We were in Kurdistan, Iraq from 2014 – 2020 and are currently working towards closing this field down due to more urgent needs in other areas of the world. Seeds have been planted and we have seen God’s mighty hand at work! Let’s be faithful in praying for Iraq.
WHAT CAUSED THE CRISIS IN COLOMBIA?
Every day, approximately 5,000 Venezuelans are forced to leave their homeland in search of food and shelter. More than 4 million have left Venezuela in hopes of finding security with more than 1 million having left in the last year. Most of them are heading into Colombia looking for work and a safe place to sleep. On foot, carrying a few belongings in backpacks and bags, many of them with little children, they have become know as the Walkers.
Venezuela is in the midst of a leadership struggle, with authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro facing challenges from opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuela’s leader by many countries, including the United States. This leadership struggle has caused Venezuelan currency to lose most of it’s value, with inflation of more than 30,000%. To put this into perspective, if you had one million dollars worth of Venezuelan currency in 2014, that same currency would now be almost enough to buy one dozen of eggs. Most of the people crossing the border are without any savings, having lost it all to the hyperinflation.
What PCCR is doing in Colombia
PCCR sent a team to Colombia during the summer of 2019 to see how we could help with the Venezuelan refugees crisis. On October 5, 2019 we traveled to Colombia again with a man who was interested in taking his family there to assist with the crisis. We connected with a local Christian in Colombia who had a passion to help the Venezuelan refugees. With his help we were able to open a simple shelter at a strategic location where the Venezuelan walkers could stay overnight. At this shelter we were able to provide bathrooms, shower facilities, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a gospel message and literature.
These walkers left Venezuela on foot, and were walking hundreds of miles to cities in Colombia and countries beyond with the hope of finding a job that would provide food and a roof over their head. After several months this shelter location was closed and we moved to a location close to the Venezuelan border where our team is currently working.
There are many opportunities to reach out and be the hands and feet of Jesus in Colombia. Most of the Venezuelan refugees are from a Catholic background, and have idol worship mixed into their religion. Our goal is to reach out in love and compassion, meet their physical needs of food and water, their emotional needs of safety and knowing someone cares, and their spiritual needs by introducing them to this man called Jesus.
Currently we are reaching the Venezuelan refugees, and the most needy Colombians by going into the shantytowns, camps, and the poorest communities and doing food distributions, church services, children’s programs, and discipleship. We are doing “walker ministry”, which is providing food, water, and prayer support to the many Venezuelan refugees that are still walking the long journey from Venezuela to other locations in Colombia. There are also hundreds of hours spent discipling the people that God has placed into the lives of the team there.
We appreciate all the support that was shown for the work in Colombia. You are welcome to contact us for more information on sponsorship and volunteer opportunities.