The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (the Fellowship) is calling on the United Nations to grant refugee status to Iraqi Christians fleeing ISIS. This would provide critical humanitarian assistance to them and facilitate their immigration to other countries.
The Fellowship’s Founder and President, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, recently delivered aid to help thousands of the estimated 10,000 Iraqi Christians who have escaped ISIS and made their way to Jordan. On this trip, he also announced that the Fellowship is spearheading a public campaign appealing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN’s refugee agency based in Geneva, to help save Iraqi Christians.
“So many Iraqi Christians have experienced unspeakable pain and trauma at the hands of this barbaric terrorist force,” said Rabbi Eckstein. “While many Iraqi Christians are fortunate to have escaped Iraq alive, they remain adrift in Jordan, unable to build a better future. We urge the UN to act swiftly by declaring these survivors of ISIS as refugees, in order to extend them critical international aid.”
More than 20,000 people have answered the Fellowship’s call via their website and social media campaign by signing a petition to the UN. The Fellowship has also launched a wider public campaign to raise awareness of persecuted Arab Christians and other minorities throughout the Middle East who have been targets of discrimination and terrorism.
In June, Rabbi Eckstein visited Iraqi Christian refugees in Amman to provide critical aid including food vouchers, medicine, money for housing and funds to establish a medical clinic in a local church. These refugees remain in legal limbo in Jordan, unable to secure work permits, and are now relying solely on the Fellowship for help. The Fellowship has already raised more than $300,000 for this effort and is seeking to raise an additional $500,000 to aid these refugees, as well as vulnerable Arab Christians who constitute between 2-3 percent of all Arab populations.
Rabbi Eckstein said he was “humbled” by his meetings with the Iraqi Christian refugees. “Many Iraqis have seen friends and family members murdered or tortured simply because they are Christians. They have been hungry and homeless. They fled to Jordan because it was, quite literally, a matter of life and death. They have been living on faith alone,” he said.
The Fellowship’s “Rescue the Persecuted” campaign parallels other efforts by the Jerusalem-based charity to help Arab Christians and other vulnerable Middle East minorities. Last summer, the Fellowship aided Coptic Christians in Egypt after a series of terrorist attacks, in part by providing respite summer camps for children. The Fellowship regularly assists Israeli-Arab Christians with economic aid such as clothing and food and is aiding 100 Druze refugee families also living in Jordan.
The Iraqi Christians and persecuted Christians in other Arab nations feel “abandoned” by the world at large, Eckstein added. He hopes Christians and Jews unite, and can raise awareness of Arab Christian suffering and come to their defense.
“The Iraqi Christians I met were amazed that here was an Orthodox rabbi from Israel helping Christians in a Muslim country,” Eckstein said. “But the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews can show the world the truth of the biblical verse, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’ We can give hope to Christians whose lives have been devastated.”