Iraqi Christians think it an honor to be among the oldest Christian communities in the world. They speak Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. But now the militant Islamic State ISIS has hundreds of thousands of them as well as other religious minorities on the run. Thousands of civilians and military prisoners have been murdered, and according to an August 10 article in the Christian Post, ISIS is systematically beheading children and their parents with UN estimates running more than 200,000 people who have fled from the town of Sinjar. In the rush to flee, an estimated 50,000 Yazidis (one of Iraq's oldest religious minorities) found themselves trapped in the Shangal Mountains without food and water.
40,000 Iraqi refugees rescued
The displaced people were eating leaves from the trees just to survive. Humanitarian efforts delivered food and water to those trapped on Mount Sinjar with American forces conducting two successful airdrops that delivered thousands of meals and precious water. Limited American airstrikes against terrorists around the mountain allowed Kurdish rebels who crossed from Syria to rescue of the 40,000 Iraqi refugees on Sunday night.
"We will continue to work with the international community to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Even as our attention is focused on preventing an act of genocide and helping the men and women and children on the mountain, countless Iraqis have been driven or fled from their homes, including many Christians." – President Obama
Remaining 10,000 waiting to be rescued
Options for saving the remaining 10,000 refuges are under consideration. In the meantime, those who have been rescued began returning to Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday. The day-long journey carried them over a mountain range into Syria, then through the Peshkhabour crossing where Kurdish officials provided them with food and shelter.
Airstrikes opened window of opportunity
The Yazidis who escaped credited the YPG (a Syrian Kurdish rebel faction) and the US airstrikes on ISIS positions for their escape. The airstrikes opened a six-hour window of opportunity on Saturday and the YPG helped the refugees through it.
While many of the Yazidis have now reached safety, we must not forget the 10,000 who remain on Mount Sinjar. The siege is not over. Keep praying. The Iraqis and Kurds are working together as never before and some towns have been taken back.