The Greater Danger
August 7th marked the two year anniversary of the invasion of Qaraqosh, Iraq, by the Islamic State. Qaraqosh (sometimes called Bakhdida) is an ancient Assyrian city located just southeast of Mosul and was, in 2014, completely overrun by Islamic State fighters. I was in Iraq at the end of August, 2014, not far from Qaraqosh. Watching the flood of people escaping and fleeing to cities like Erbil and Dohuk was an experience that I find difficult to describe, one perhaps of biblical proportions, with a level of fear in the air that you could almost taste.
During my travels and work at that time I saw many great acts of heroism, and heard of many acts of unbelievable cruelty. The Assyrian Christians that I met, those who had escaped death at the hands of the Islamic State, were in a state of shock, unable, as I think many of us would be, to understand what had happened to them.
That was 2014. Now, in 2016, although the Assyrian Christians are physically safe from Islamic State fighters, they face perhaps an even greater danger. Crammed into Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDP camps), those same Assyrian Christians have fallen into the slow strangulation of their professional skills (and ability to make a living) that comes from doing almost nothing for two years. Ten of thousands of highly educated and formerly wealthy Assyrian Christians are being held, their lives on hold and skills deteriorating, in IDP camps all across northern Iraq. When the liberation of their cities and towns comes (and not soon enough), most will find it difficult (if not impossible) to step out of the poverty-trap of the camps and restart their lives and communities.
Working with the Restore Nineveh Now Foundation, I intend to do something about the economic and professional stall that has taken hold of the Assyrian Christians of Iraq. We are preparing a new initiative, called From the Ground Up, one that will deliver much needed capital and business expertise to those who have been brutalized over the last two years.
I have met hundreds of Assyrians during my many trips to Iraq, and I can tell you that they want to restart their lives and communities – and they want to work. What they need is access to capital and some solid advice to help them restart their economic engines. I am very optimistic and excited to help launch this effort. Coming soon, I will tell you much, much more about it.