Losing Faith in Iraq

By Todd Daniels

09/01/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “How can we stay in a country that doesn’t respect humanity?”

This was just one of the questions posed to me by Mr. Louay* as we sat on a mattress in the corner of the large room that his family had apportioned as their new home.

He, his wife, and their two sons – one who should start his final year of high school two weeks from now and the other university aged – used to live just an hour south in Qaraqosh, Iraq. The area known for centuries as Iraq’s Christian capital had been home to approximately 40,000 Christians.

In the summer of 2014, ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, or ISIL) jihadists took first the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and then continued their assault across the Nineveh Plains, taking Qaraqosh and many of the surrounding Christian villages and moving towards Sinjar Mountain, home of the majority of Iraq’s Yazidi community.

These religious minorities were massacred, abducted, and driven out with brutality that seems almost unthinkable in the modern world. Yet, the targeting of religious minorities continued because they believed the wrong thing.

As a Christian, a Yazidi, or a Shi’ite Muslim, ISIS jihadists would, at their most generous, give the offer to convert to their fanatical interpretation of Islam, pay an unspecified but exorbitant tax and live as a subjugated minority, or face execution.

For more than 150,000 Christians from Mosul and the villages of the Nineveh Plains, they fled in the morning hours before ISIS came to their homes. Homes that are now marked “property of the Islamic State” and either used to house foreign fighters and their families, looted, or simply destroyed.

This is the story repeated by family after family of those who have found temporary refuge in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Now the number of those repeating this story is dwindling quickly.

The religious center where Louay and his family live now is home for 44 families, far too many people for any sort of privacy. Yet, in the months immediately after the crisis this center was housing more than 100 families. Just three months ago there were 62 families, and last week it was down to 44 families.

Where have all of these families gone? A few have found housing in Iraq, but the vast majority have left the country and expect never to return to live. Some have moved to Beirut or Amman or California and are attempting to restart life with family who have gone there before.

Still others are likely part of the record breaking surge of refugees and migrants attempting to enter Europe, whether by land through Eastern Europe or making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean from the North African coast.

This is the latest wave of Iraq’s Christian community fleeing the country as violence has not only rocked the country, but specifically targeted them as religious minorities.

The political solutions seem far removed from addressing the realities facing families like Louay’s.

“We don’t have much faith in protest movements as a means to change,” he said. “The constitution is based on Sharia and cannot contradict Islamic principles. Yet, it claims there is freedom of religion. These are two contrary ideas. We have to have a country that respects the ’other.’ That allows for religions to live together,” Louay continued.

While he can see things that need to change, for his life and the future of his sons he believes that they too will soon be leaving the country.

“I don’t have much faith in the future as a Christian in Iraq,” Louay said.

Then he asked a surprising question, one that a few others have voiced as well.

“What do Christians in America think about the future of Iraq? Do they think things will change? Will Christians be able to live here in Iraq?”

For Christians in Iraq, they truly believe that their brothers and sisters in America and around the world do make a difference in the future of Christianity in Iraq.

They have witnessed it firsthand over and over again the past year as aid poured in to provide food, water, and shelter to sustain them through this crisis.

Now as they look for the future – as they need jobs and education for their children – they are wondering if Christians around the world will continue to stand with them or if they too are losing faith in Iraq.

The answer remains to be seen whether leaders can find the ways to provide for security and a future for Christians to remain or if Iraq is going to be losing entire faith communities, one family at a time.

30 Year Celebration Interviews: Founder, Ray Barnett Clip 3

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Ray Barnett, founder: The African Children’s Choir

The third part of our short interview series recorded in Uganda in August 2015 during the ’30 years of The African Children’s choir celebrations’, with founder, Ray Barnett.

In this interview segment (part 3) Ray gets into more detail with regard to his vision for the future of Music For Life and the African Children’s Choir. He is focused, not only on having the best education for Children in Africa, but providing extra training that would equip students to run Music For Life programs, anywhere in the world where children are in need.

It’s about taking children who may be from disadvantaged backgrounds, and helping them develop their full potential – exactly what has been happening through the choir program for the past thirty years. The track record has already been established. As new students qualify and become teachers and mentors, they can in turn run their own Music For Life centre and in this way expand and multiply the number of disadvantaged children being reached.

You can see some of the highlights from the 30 year celebrations in the video below.

If you can help us reach the goal of $90.000 to launch the new phase of the vision then please donate via the links below.

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“A hundred years from now it will
not matter what my bank
account was, the sort of house I
lived in, or the kind of car I
drove… but the world may be
different because I was
important in the life of a child.”

Forest Witcraft

30 Year Celebration Interviews 2: Founder, Ray Barnett

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Ray_opforwebste

Ray Barnett, founder: The African Children’s Choir

The second part of our short interview series recorded in Uganda in August 2015 during the ’30 years of The African Children’s choir celebrations’, with founder, Ray Barnett.

Given the difficulties getting the African Children’s Choir established in the early days, did Ray ever envisage getting this far?

Ray also succinctly outlines his vision for the African Children’s Choir and Music For Life for the future. This is a vision we’d love you to be part of. Implementation is already underway and you can expect some exciting announcements in the near future.

The audio clip with Ray below lasts less than two minutes, so please take time to listen.

You can see some of the highlights from the 30 year celebrations in the video below.

If you can help us reach the goal of $90.000 to launch the new phase of the vision then please donate via the links below.

GB2 US_2 Canada2

“A hundred years from now it will
not matter what my bank
account was, the sort of house I
lived in, or the kind of car I
drove… but the world may be
different because I was
important in the life of a child.”

Forest Witcraft

30 Year Celebration Interviews: Founder 1

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The African Children’s Choir past and present members, their friends, chaperones, workers and supporters, gathered in Uganda recently for a grand reunion to celebrate the choir’s first thirty years.   On this website we will be bringing a series of short audio interviews that were recorded in Uganda during the days of celebration. We’re kicking off with founder, Ray Barnett.

Just listen to the passion and excitement in Ray’s voice in this short interview which is less than one and a half minutes long. Here’s someone who is observing the culmination of thirty years of his life’s work with great satisfaction.

From the outset, Ray refused to join the pattern of the large, established NGO’s, who at that time promoted images of starving African children with begging bowls. Instead, Ray wanted the world to see the beauty, dignity and potential of the African child. Ray invested in their education and that’s why today, the young adults attending these celebrations are changing Africa for the better. And Ray knows that he can entrust them with the vision for the work for the next thirty years.

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Ray delivering the ‘future vision’ speech

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Ray in more casual mode at the celebrations

 

30th year celebrations in Uganda

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One of the current African Children’s Choir, perform at the 30 years celebrations in Uganda.

The African Children’s Choir celebrated 3 decades of change making. This took place by the waters, at the African Children’s Choir Primary School, in Uganda, where touring Choir children return to start their quality education.

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The three day celebration over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, was filled with music, dance and a reminiscing of olden days. The founding Father Ray Barnett addressed the audience, sharing his future dreams for the organization.

With performances that blew the crowds away, the Children’s Choirs, School Choir and Alumni Choir (Young Africans) entertained the crowd with performances of singing, creative and traditional dances.

Under the theme “30 Years of Change Makers” the former Choir children presented a skit on the humble beginnings of the African Children’s Choir and how Choir children were selected into the Choir. This was one of the many performances that left the founding father, Ray Barnett, along with the invited guests and alumni amused.

With a beautiful poem entitled “Once But Now”, Amanda Rachael, a secondary school finalist wowed the audience, as she expressed gratitude to ‘Daddy Ray’ on behalf of the alumni.

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Ray Barnett, founder. Addressing the audience at the 30 years reunion celebrations.

In a heartfelt speech, Ray Barnett recalled the time at which the organization was formed. That in the most difficult and challenging time of the Civil War, God enabled him realize a dream that seemed an impossibility. He says, “Everything we shared in the vision before we even had a penny has come to pass.” And now at the 30 year mark of the organization, Daddy Ray still has bigger dreams going for the African Children’s Choir, whom he refers to as family. “I believe that the African child is beautiful, dignified and has unlimited ability and can change the world,” he comments. And he adds, “These children can change if we give them a chance.”

Further more, there was breaking ground at the African Children’s Choir Primary School, where a new training facility will soon be established.

During the Saturday celebrations, former chaperons reunited with their Choir children, sharing unforgettable tour memories. Together they sang, danced and ate. To sum up the Saturday celebrations, each choir was presented with a beautiful cake, which they all shared.

DSC_8236-325x217It was a time full of joy and gratitude as many people from the organization’s past, present and future came together to celebrate the last 30 years, and look forward to the next.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of the last 30 years, together we will continue to create ChangeMakers for the future of Africa, for the next 30 years – and beyond!
Would you like to make a 30 year celebration donation to the African Children’s Choir?  You can here.

– See more at: https://africanchildrenschoir.com/30th-year-celebrations-in-uganda-8811/#sthash.F72nALIa.dpuf