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On August 14, 2014, more than 50 people gathered in Westminster Hall to learn from experts about the current conflict in Iraq. Alex Ebsary, director of public affairs for Kurdish Regional Government in Washington, D.C., described the complex geopolitical environment in the Kurdistan region, where he lived for several years.
Beginning with the Middle East region, and then focusing on Iraq, he included these details:
- The Middle East is a complex area where many Arabic dialects are spoken.
- The neighborhoods are mixed; they consist of residents from various ethnic groups and religions. People have lived together for years.
- Eighty percent of Iraqis rely on the government for employment due to the lack of industry. Corruption is prevalent.
- The Kurds are a separate ethnic group that has resided in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia and Georgia. They are allies of the United States.
- The attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began in Iraq on January 1, 2013.
Rami Al Maqdasi, who moved from Iraq with his wife and daughter to Cheektowaga, NY, in March 2014, spoke of his life in Iraq and Syria. A native of Basra, in southern Iraq, Rami moved in 2005 to Syria, where he served Christian refugees in Damascus. He graduated from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor in Damascus, where he served a church until 2012. At that time, Rami and family moved to Erbil, Iraq, in the Kurdish region, where he served in the Syrian refugee camps. After trying five years to emigrate from Iraq, Rami, Raya, his wife, and Marilyn, their daughter, were approved through the United Nations and resettled to Buffalo through Journey’s End Refugee Services.
Rami spoke and shared photographs of the devastated churches and mosques in Syria and Iraq. He told stories about a few of the displaced families. He and Alex both spoke of the violence occurring under the siege of ISIS.
Yousra and Naelah Ido, sisters from Iraq, spoke of the atrocities against the Yazidi people in Iraq. Yazidis themselves, they immigrated to the United States 14 years ago. They shared their grave concerns about relatives still in Iraq.
What can we do?
- Write our elected officials to express your opinion about the plight of people in Iraq and Syria. A sample letter is available, as well as contact information for our politicians.
- Donate to organizations working in Iraq, e.g. Doctors without Borders, Save the Children, and Mennonite Relief Fund.
- Pray for peace in Iraq and Syria and for the many people who have been displaced and harmed.
- Assist the Al Maqdasi family by helping Rami find employment and eventually obtain a car. They also welcome help learning about Western New York and mastering English.
A fund to assist with expenses not covered by the aid they receive has been set up at North. You may designate your donation by noting “Al Maqdasi family” on your check.