On Christmas eve, 24th December 2014, Rescue 4 Children distributed over 500 toys for Christian children in the Churches and buildings where they seek refuged in Ainkawa, a predominantly Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital city - Erbil.
For months now, around 12,000 Iraqi Christian families have been living in temporary accommodations. Most of them belong to the Chaldean, Assyrian or Catholic denominations. While going to Ainkawa in these days– one comes upon two scenes: The shimmering Christmas decorations and the thousands of families taking refuge in wrecks and rubbles. Known as Iraqi Christians, the ‘Assyrians’ commemorate the birth of Jesus, by attending religious services at church and perform various Assyrian customs. The Assyrian community lit the bonfire in the courtyard of Mar Yusif Church on Christmas Eve, followed by prayers recited by families.
Living conditions for Assyrian Christian refugees forced from their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants are so desperate that a town mortuary has been converted into a kitchen and bathroom. Preparations were carried out at Mar Yusif church early on in the day by young Assyrian youth. The church grounds were being cleaned, and wood gathered together for an open fire pit, which would be lit at the traditional mass ceremony in the evening.
We visited the displaced Christian families who have been seeking refuge in an empty unfinished construction site; the joyful spirit of Christmas was in the air. The families had put together decorations: a tree and a display of a manger handmade from reusable materials, setting the mood and spirit for the children and families in this dull building.
Rescue 4 Children, distributed toys, chocolates and milk to all the children and wished them all a Merry Christmas.
The mass service in the evening at Mar Yusif Church began at 10pm, the fire was lit, the hymns were sung and the church was very busy as no room was left to stand in the church. Lots of families were scattered around on church grounds listening to the service on amplifiers placed outside.
As rescue 4 children, we feel privileged to have spent Christmas with the Christian community of Iraq, the powerful ceremony highlighted this difficult time for the families who were recently displaced and have been away from their homes. We hope all the displaced families will be able to return to their homes shortly, and for the time being we hope we can provide them with more necessary aid. This is where we need you.