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A Brave Testimony and a Surprising Turn of Events

“We are being slaughtered…”

Vian Dakhill, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s Parliament, to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize | Safin Hamed, Getty/AFP

People across the world paused when Iraqi parliament member Vian Dakhill spoke those words during her haunting testimony in August 2014. As the only Yazidi then in Iraq’s Parliament, Dakhill plead tearfully to her fellow parliament members, imploring them to take immediate action and save the Yazidis from genocide and enslavement by ISIS.

Dakhill’s brave words were a catalyst for the rescue of Yazidis besieged on the Sinjar Mountain by ISIS. Unfortunately, her name again reached headlines as the U.S. immigration ban threatened to prevent her arrival in Washington D.C. to receive the Lantos Human Rights Prize on February 8th.

Fortunately Dakhill was permitted entry into the U.S. by the state department – but we find it ironic that a travel and immigration ban created to increase safety in the U.S., can prevent those who promote peace and justice from entering the country. Peace activists are our allies in the battle against violence and hate. We need to support them and recognize their ongoing efforts to address life and death issues happening now.

At Tanenbaum we know this firsthand. For almost 20 years, we have worked with religiously motivated men and women, like Dakhill, who risk their lives for peace in violent conflicts around the world. Every two years, through an international search process, we identify two such Peacemakers in Action.

The recognition we give these brave men and women should never be compromised.

Yet the U.S. travel ban will likely impair the work of many peacemakers and humanitarians. Already, we know that Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani from Yemen, who we hope to bring to the U.S. later this year, may not be allowed to come.

There are ways to take action as it plays out in court: Read Against the Ban? 5 Things You Can Do Now and nominate a peacemaker for Tanenbaum’s 2017 Peacemaker in Action award.

In a time of great uncertainty, it’s critical that we continue all efforts to support those who work on the frontlines of global conflicts—and especially those working toward peace.


Top Image: Credit Vian Dakhill

Please Think About Andrew White – As ISIS Menaces Baghdad

Canon Andrew White

 

Right now, all we can do is pause, hope, and for those who pray – to pray.

Canon Andrew White, one of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action, was interviewed from Baghdad where he continues to tend to the dwindling Christian community and their neighbors.

He remains in Iraq, even though he tells us that ISIS is descending on Baghdad. Word is that they are about 5 miles out. Andrew is supposed to have some protection from Iraqi soldiers assigned to defend him. But his soldier told him that, if ISIS comes, he will take off his uniform and run! Andrew believes that ISIS must be defeated by ground troops – but there are none. And meanwhile, the roads out of Baghdad are blocked.

And so I ask you to join us today – to pause and remember Andrew and all the Iraqi people.

Thank you for caring,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

UPDATE: Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White

Tanenbaum Peacemakers Rev. Canon Andrew White and Yehezkel Landau

Tanenbaum Peacemakers Rev. Canon Andrew White and Yehezkel Landau

Tanenbaum Peacemaker Yehezkel Landau met with Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White yesterday morning in Jerusalem.

They had a deep and important conversation over coffee inside the Jaffa Gate to the Old City.  Andrew is in Israel to work on getting humanitarian relief to people in Gaza.

They shared elements of their respective peace efforts, and are trying to support each other going forward.

We are glad to hear that Andrew is doing well.

A Child is Slaughtered…A Peacemaker Mourns

We are deeply saddened to report that a 5 year old Christian boy, named Andrew after our Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White, was murdered and cut in half by Islamic State terrorists (ISIS) during an invasion of Qaraqosh, a small Christian town in Iraq.

“I’m almost in tears because I’ve just had somebody in my room whose little child was cut in half,” Anglican Canon Andrew White of St. George’s Church told the Anglican Communion News Service. “I baptized his child in my church in Baghdad. This little boy, they named him after me — he was called Andrew.”

“When this story came across the wires, we looked at it, thought of our Peacemaker in Iraq, Canon Andrew White. It leaves me without words. All we could do was to try to call him. But we haven’t been able to reach him yet.”
– Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO of Tanenbaum

Known as the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White has declared to news sources that he refuses to leave Baghdad. VICE News filmed a short documentary series about Andrew and his work which can be found in our blog post here.

 

Top News Stories

Thousands of Yazidis are stranded without water and food in the Sinjar mountains after fleeing ISIS. IMAGE: EMRAH YORULMAZ/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Under the cover of nightfall, ISIS terrorized the small town of Sinjar located in the mountainous region of northern Iraq. By the following day, thousands of atrocities had been committed and documented on social media – children beheaded, crucifixions in the park and deplorable acts of violence that haunt the soul.

A Friend Flees the Horror of ISIS is the story of Karim as published by The New Yorker. Karim is a Kurdish member of the Yazidis, a religious minority group in Iraq that has been vehemently targeted by ISIS because of their religious beliefs along with Christians and other minority groups.

IRAQ: Be Aware, Stay Committed: A statement by Joyce Dubensky, CEO, on the atrocities committed by ISIS against the Yazidi people.

Also in Iraq, Tanenbaum Peacemaker, Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, declared to the Huffington Post that he refuses to leave Iraq, despite Christian Persecution by ISIS.

Peacemaker, Canon Andrew White is Chaplain at Baghdad’s St George’s Anglican Church. In a CNN video, he estimated that St. George had approximately 6,000 members – and in the last ten years, more than 1,200 have been killed.
That is a death toll of 20% – or in other words, 1 in every 5 church members is now deceased.

On a more uplifting note, The Religious Market Theory of Peace is a new report that outlines seven reasons why religious freedom promotes economic growth. Research was conducted by Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Roger Finke, a Penn State Professor. They concluded from data analysis that religious freedom reduces corruption and fosters peace by decreasing violence related to religion – thus contributing to economic growth and stability.

 

IRAQ: Be Aware, Stay Committed

Tens of thousands of Yazidis have fled ISIS and are stranded on a barren mountain in Iraq. (Photo Credit: The Times UK)

Dear Friends,Two weeks ago, one of our Peacemakers, the Rev. Canon Andrew White in Iraq, reported that 1,500 Yazidis (an Arab and Kurdish religious community) were executed in one day by ISIS insurgents. These insurgents are moving through Iraq, taking over towns and slaughtering entire communities.

Most of world was unaware of these massacres when Andrew first reported what was happening.

Three days ago, a Yazidi member of Iraqi Parliament collapsed in tears, calling upon the world to rescue the Yazidis. “A whole religion is being wiped out from the earth,” she cried. Click here to watch the video.Two days ago, The New Yorker published a story about these horrors, claiming an even higher death toll than Andrew’s report of 1,500 executed in one day. Click here to read this story.

Thousands of Yazidis have fled to the top of a mountain in Iraq. Yesterday the UN stated that some Yazidis have been rescued. Up to 50,000 Yazidis, however, have fled their homes. If they stay in the mountains, they will starve to death. If they come down, ISIS (now the Islamist State) will most likely execute them. Click here to learn more about another ISIS massacre (WARNING:gruesome images).

Andrew, our Peacemaker, won’t leave Iraq. The Huffington Post interviewed Andrew on video and posted it yesterday. Watch it here.

The humanitarian food drops from Turkey and the United States are important. But they are not the solution. We can help by remaining steadfast and aware of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion.

We salute all of our Peacemakers, who – like Andrew – never stop pursuing peace.

Please help by sharing this story with people who also imagine a more peaceful world.

With Sorrow,

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

 

Pay Up or Die: Christians in Iraq Update

This man fled from Mosul by car. He checks on his belongings before walking to the Khazair checkpoint. He hopes to travel to Erbil. Many others arrive without any belongings. UNHCR / R. Nuri

Iraqis flee from Mosul. UNHCR / R. Nuri

Have you been following the news about Iraq, ISIS (now IS) and what’s happening to Christians in areas IS controls? Take a quick look with us.

This past Saturday, as reported in Breaking Israel News and other media outlets, the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) “issued a deadline for Christian residents of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to leave, pay, convert or die.

The Islamic State is requiring residents of Mosul to pay the jizyah:

Jizya (sometimes written as jizyah and pronounced “jiz-yuh”), as explained by Forbes, “is the term for a tax paid by non-Muslims. The tax is the result of a centuries old contract called a dhimma. Under a dhimma, non-Muslims who lived in a Muslim state were protected under the law so long as they paid the tax: they were referred to as ahlu dh-dhimmati (people of protection) or simply al-dhimma or dhimmis. The arrangement is sometimes referred to as a ‘residence in return for taxes.’”

The Guardian noted Christians and Muslims lived together in peace in the city of Mosul. An estimated 100,000 Christians lived in Mosul before the U.S. invaded Iraq prior to 2003. The estimated population before last month’s takeover was 5,000. Now Christians are fleeing and The Guardian reported that there are as little as 200 Christians left in the city.

More than a month ago, the Anglican Communion News Service described the growing crisis: “An estimated half a million people, including hundreds of Christian families, are fleeing the area with many attempting to find refuge in the nearby Kurdish provinces of Northern Iraq. At least one Assyrian church in Mosul has been burned down in the recent violence.”

Also in June, Tanenbaum Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White described the growing violence in Iraq:

“Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group), a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.”

For the moment, we are grateful that Andrew is safe. He returned to England on July 15 and, on July 19, sent out a request for prayers on his Facebook page:

“We seriously need your prayers. ISIS have stated they will start killing all the Christians in Mosul from mid-day Saturday unless they convert or pay jazeera tax, this is really serious we need your prayers.”

Meanwhile, Christians who have chosen to stay in Mosul are afraid. But, at the same time, they have found support from their Muslim friends as reported in The New York Times

“A Muslim woman sitting next to her in the pew reached out and whispered, ‘You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’”

At Tanenbaum, we call on all of us to acknowledge what is happening to the Christians in Mosul and to the entire society of which they were such an integral part. We thank our Peacemaker in Action, Andrew White, for what he has done to support the Christian community in Iraq and to overcome the conflicts. We are committed to working with him and our Peacemakers – and to keep pursing a time when we will have a more peaceful world that truly accepts difference.

“The Vicar of Baghdad”: Peacebuilding in Iraq’s Red Zone

On Thursday, July 3rd, Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White spoke with fellow Peacemakers in Action during a monthly call. When asked about his safety, White’s voice reverberated through the technological static: “Peacemaking is not about making peace in comfortable, safe places.”

That is how Rev. Canon Andrew White lives his life: beyond comfort zones and within the lawless and chaotic Red Zone in Central Baghdad, Iraq.

Lovingly dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” Andrew is a steadfast leader in Baghdad not only for his church, Saint George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, but also as head of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, a relief and reconciliation program that supports the masses (Christians and Muslims alike) and coordinates reconciliatory efforts between Sunni and Shia leaders.

Andrew’s daily efforts, logistical challenges and reality are documented in “The Vicar of Baghdad”, a new three-part Vice Media special. Vice Media, known for being outspoken and bold in their news coverage, intimately portrays Andrew’s work on the ground. The candid look into Andrew’s daily life begins in a car; the camera shakes while lights flash red down a dimly lit street. From the passenger seat, Andrew narrates the situation, “It’s dangerous just sitting here.” These words color his actions, whether he is aware of it or not. He persists with his mission, guided by his peacebuilding practice and faith. Despite multiple kidnappings and death threats he does not sit still. Andrew is constantly on the move, visiting his parishioners and standing in solidarity with those in Iraq.

The Vicar of Baghdad has been filmed in 12-17 minute long installments. Each video is a window into the poverty, marginalization and hardships experienced in Iraq. With a backdrop of dry wit and humor, Andrew’s innate exuberance and the joy of his people are not fully dampened by their situations. The harsh environment does not mar his faithfulness, as he calmly proclaims, “My faith is everything.”

In recent days, the militant group the Islamic State, or IS, formerly called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), continues to encroach upon Baghdad. According to Andrew, the country’s infrastructure is failing and people are dying daily. Iraq’s problems deepen with their presence and ongoing sectarian violence. Currently, Andrew and his people are surrounded by constant gunfights and dwindling outside communication. Unwavering, he continues to fight for peace and solidarity in Iraq.

Vice Media – The Vicar of Baghdad      

Part 1:

 

Part 2:

Part 3: