Report of Sister Hatunes last trip to the Middle East mid September
My last trip to the Middle East lasted four days. Initially, I wanted to go with a cameraman from German television to the Syrian-Iraqi border, to meet the needy people there in the camps. But the cameraman did not get permission to go from his company, they considered it to be too dangerous. Right now, all of eastern Turkey is almost a war zone too, as there is a general curfew and bomb attacks every day. The Turkish government blames the Kurds, the Kurds blame the government.
So I stayed the days in Istanbul, and there was more than enough to do as well. I met our local partners, that had prepared everything very well: we distributed money, mostly for accommodation, and food, clothing and school material for kids. We served the really needy, and there are really enough of them.
About 30.000 Christians, refugees of the war in Iraq and Syria, live in Istanbul right now, some of them since quite a long time. Most of them stay illegal in Turkey, because they have no papers. These are not the kind of refugees, that get so much media coverage in Europe right now: that have the time and the means to pay 7000$ to an escape agent, and initiate their pass to Europe – Germany and Sweden preferably – by that. These people really fled, from the attacks of ISIS in their villages, with nothing but their clothes on their skin. They marched for days, hiding in the night to get some sleep, marching the next day again, up to 20 hours at a stretch.
Under the refugees, there are many deserters. In Iraq and Syria, all men between the age of 18 and 30 get drafted. If they are Christians, they immediately are put to the frontlines against ISIS, as cannon fodder of their national armies. The Christians there live discriminated as a religious minority, and are only privileged in dying in their national armies.
A young man of 27 years reported about his flight, trying to get to Europe: two tries to get to a Greek island onboard of a rubber boat failed, because it was overcrowded, burst and sank. During the third try, a group of 20 people made it to the open sea, but the boat also bursted and turned over. Many people drowned, among them a disabled woman in a wheelchair and her daughter. The surviving clinged to everything, that was floating on the open sea. The young man only survived, because he held on to a dead body for four hours. At dawn, he was found by fishermen.
I heard a lot of cruel stories, one worse than the other. It all battered me. I thought to myself: what has happened to us Christians? Once, we were so many, living mostly in peace with our Muslim neighbor’s. Now we are persecuted, scattered to everywhere, if not killed. I pray every day, that this terrible misery has an end.