The Osprey Relief Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Osprey Global Solutions, both located in Wilmington, has been in northern Iraq several times since August conducting an assessment and coordination to provide emergency medical relief and other supplies to displaced Christians and other religious minorities. This initiative is called the Mercy Bridge Initiative.
An estimated 800,000 religious minorities, including 200,000 Christians, have been displaced from areas that are now controlled by ISIS (Islamic State Iraq Syria). The refugees have taken up residence in sanctuaries in Kurdistan with little more than their shirts on their backs.
Among these displaced men, women and children are members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The Iraqi Christians belong to an ethnic group called the Assyrians, who are believed to be direct descendants of numerous ancient civilizations, including Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Christianity was brought to Iraq in the first century A.D. by St. Thomas, who Christians believe was an apostle of Jesus.
The majority of the Iraqi population was Christian until the 14th century. A population of 1.3 million to 1.4 million Christians had been reduced to 200,000 to 400,000 believers by 2003. Before the advance of ISIS into the Mosul area and the Nineveh plains, there had been a continuous Christian presence in the area for 2,000 years.
The Osprey team has met with Archbishop Barshar Warda in Erbil, United Nations representatives, and other non-profits and key government officials in Kurdistan to understand the current crisis, identify the areas of greatest need and the emergency supplies that could address them, and determine how to secure the reception and distribution of donated goods from the United States. These contacts have shared horrific stories of crime, destruction and abuse of women and children by ISIS terrorists. Displaced populations not only bear physical injuries from conflict, but most are severely traumatized.
Emergency aid is arriving from the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other international relief organizations – but it is a slow process, and barely meets the needs of these persecuted populations. There have been recent visits by the Committee on International Justice and Peace from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a group of Dominican sisters from Springfield, Illinois, to assist the refugees and to gather information to present to U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Osprey Relief Foundation is working with groups in Northern Virginia and the Chicago area to provide clothing and medical support to these refugees. Our partners in Italy are also contributing to this effort through close coordination with the Osprey Relief Foundation. Together, and with help from the private sector, we plan to make a difference. Our focus area is medical aid and winter clothing because it is critical, and we can achieve substantial results with limited bulk and weight on air transport. Air movement will be achieved by using space available on military airlift and the donation of "angel" commercial flights.
For more information, to donate or to find out how you can help, please visit http://ospreyglobalsolutions.com/index.php/expertise/osprey-relief-foundation or contact Holly Grange at [email protected].
Holly Grange is the Director of Community Relations at Osprey Global Solutions and is a firearms instructor for Osprey Armament. She is a certified NRA instructor in Basic Pistol, Basic Rifle, and Personal Protection in the Home and is certified by the North Carolina Department of Justice as a Concealed Carry Handgun Instructor. She is a 15-year U.S. Army veteran, an attorney and a licensed real estate broker.
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