Bishop Rowell returns from ISIS fact finding trip

The Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell has released a report on his fact finding trip to Kurdistan undertaken on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to examine the plight of Christian refugees

The former Bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell, has released a report on his fact finding trip to Kurdistan and Northern Iraq undertaken on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to examine the plight of Christian refugees who fled Mosul and the Ninevah plains ahead of ISIS forces. From 1-4 Dec 2014 Bishop Rowell, accompanied by the Rev. William Taylor, Chair of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, met with Christian leaders in Erbil and in the Dohuk region, touring refugee camps, schools and hospitals.

In Erbil, some refugees have found shelter in an unfinished shopping centre, the bishop reported, living in shipping containers. “This accommodation is damp and cold; there is an urgent need for an adequate supply of electricity, blankets, and basic furniture, as well as educational provision for the children.”

The bishop further noted that local churches and overseas aid agencies were “doing excellent work” with the limited means at their disposal in housing, feeding, and educating refugees.

Bishop Rowell also reported bitterness from some Christian leaders with Western policies in Iraq, which they believed led to the current state of affairs. Bishop Rowell wrote: “Before reaching Dohuk, we stopped at Alqosh to visit the Monastery of Our Lady of the Seed-time ….  Fr Gabriel, who received us, spoke strongly about the consequences of the Iraq wars for Iraq’s ancient civilization.  ‘You have’, he said, ‘turned the Tigris and Euphrates into rivers of blood’ – an indication of the depth of feeling of a clearly devout Christian monk concerning western intervention in Iraq.”

At this point in the war “Education is a priority both for the ‘settled’ Christian community of Erbil, and for the displaced,” and “prayer is also needed and much valued.” He said “there is a continuing urgent need for resources, for housing, clothing, heating, washing facilities, and food. The winter is making everything much harder.”

Bishop Rowell concluded that “hope needs to be maintained: what those who have fled want is a return to their villages, and ISIS expelled from the Nineveh Plain, and, if possible Mosul. If this happens, further aid will be needed for re-settlement, and also reconciliation with Muslim neighbours, some of whom are viewed as having betrayed those who had to leave, whilst others gave generous assistance in the face of the ISIS advance. The Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces do not engender sufficient trust to be seen as safeguarding Christian returnees – some kind of international guarantor would also be needed.”

 
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