In June 2014, ISIS proclaimed a caliphate – a government based on Islamic religious law. They have been violently displacing anyone standing in the way of what they believe is their territory. They have forced many minorities in northern Iraq to convert to their extreme brand of Sunni Islam, or give up their homes and all possessions. Faced with the option of converting or death, most minorities have fled their ancestral lands to the autonomous Kurdish region, where they are now living as refugees (called Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs).
World Renew has been partnering with an organization called Hope, Peace and Joy (HPJ) to provide winter items, including kerosene heaters, winter clothes, blankets, food packages and rental assistance to people of many different faith backgrounds. You can read about that response here.
This year, World Renew is also partnering with Insaf Safou to bring spiritual nourishment to displaced women who have witnessed unspeakable violence.
Insaf is organizing two spiritual conferences in March 2015 for displaced women in Dohuk and Erbil. These displaced women are living in tents, unfinished buildings and simle mobile homes far from their homes.
"Imagine, within a few hours, your home is taken from you and you are in the streets..."
“Imagine, within a few hours, your home is taken from you and you are in the streets,” Insaf said about the hardships that these women have gone through “You can’t sleep in your own bed. You can’t take a shower in your bathroom. You find yourself in a tent or mobile home or in the street. You are waiting for someone to give you blankets and mattresses. You lose your job, your work, and your friends.”
It is this plight that has inspired Insaf to action. “When I hear the word ‘IDP’ – I just need to imagine one minute in their shoes, what would they be feeling,” she said, explaining that putting herself in the shoes of these displaced women forces her to act. “I need to be loving, understanding and respectful of their situation. We want to reach these women who have become displaced, and bring believers together with nonbelievers. We will speak about Jesus being our security and peace.”
Ken Little, Senior Program Manager explains, “While this is not a typical project of World Renew’s disaster response team, we are pleased to partner with Insaf to reach these women in this unique way.”
“These families have been been violently uprooted from their homes. We are grateful to partner with HPJ to meet their immediate physical needs. Now we have the opportunity to provide these women with a cathartic outlet through these conferences. They will have the opportunity to spend time with our Lord and each other. They will be strengthened and spiritually refreshed, and this will help them cope with the difficult memories of displacement as well as their current living situations.”
Insaf is not a stranger to the experiences of these Iraqi women. She, herself, lived for seven years as refugee in Istanbul before immigrating to Canada in 2001. When the new war in Iraq began in 2003, she understood what this would mean for her homeland and felt called to go there.
“Saddam’s regime was falling” she explains. “I felt like my people had enough. There was too much war. God was calling me back to Iraq and I wasn’t sure why.”
On a visit to her homeland, she met women who had lost their loved ones.
“I met a woman whose husband was killed in roadside bomb” she explains. “Hearing her story felt like a volcano of fire erupting in my heart. I hugged her and prayed with her. I believed the Holy Spirit would comfort her. From then I felt God calling me back to listen to the women and help comfort them.”
Since that time, Insaf has done trips to Iraq each year, always visiting families affected by the war. In 2005, she was inspired to hold her first conference for women at an Alliance church in Baghdad. It was open to women in all churches throughout the cities of Baghdad , Kirkuk , Mosul, Duhok and Sulymania . She organized inspirational Christian presenters who could speak into the lives of these women. It was largely successful because it was the first of its kind in bringing many women together from all different denominations.
At this year’s conference, there will be four speakers each with a different background, ranging from pastoral care to Christian counseling. The women will have the opportunity to bring their children who will have their own time of worship with Sunday school teachers. Throughout the conference, women and children will have the time to fellowship together and share meals.
Insaf wants the women attending to know that their Lord loves them deeply and understands what they are going through.
“We preach about Jesus, God’s love, Jesus’ love for the entire world. He is the healer. On the cross he went through everything we are going through now. He understands us now. We are going through all these emotional and physical things. We need a solid base to stand on, and that can only be found in Jesus.”
Insaf also plans to provide a blouse to each woman at the end of the conference, that they could wear for Easter. These will be purchased locally in Iraq. In providing this, she wants them to feel special, that they are worth it. She explains that they want to give something special that will make them happy.
“The needs in Northern Iraq are so big. But my God is bigger. That’s why I go back. Even if I work with a few people, at least I can make sun shine in small area.”
Choose "Iraq Response - Women's Focus" from the International Disaster Response category.
Or mail your cheque marked "Iraq Response - Women's Focus to:
World Renew US
1700 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508
World Renew Canada
P.O. Box 5070 STN LCD
Burlington, Ontario, L7R 3Y8