Easter food parcels for Iraqi Christians

Christians in Iraq often face extreme persecution, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country in recent years.

Easter is a key date in the Christian calendar and although most of us are looking forward to sharing meals with loved ones, many believers across the Middle East won't be so fortunate.

Years of dictatorship and war in Iraq have had a devastating effect on its citizens, plunging millions into extreme poverty.

Although the fractured nation holds some of the world's largest oil reserves, many Iraqis are forced to live on just a few dollars a month.

In addition to this, thousands of Christians in Iraq fear for their lives on a daily basis as a result of intense persecution which has led to a mass exodus, despite their deep roots and heritage in the land.

Three of Mowaffak's children with Father Emad, who leads the church that helps to support the family.

Barnabas, a UK charity which works to strengthen the global Church, recently released a report which states that believers have been "deliberately and mercilessly targeted by Islamist Militants", and the UN estimates that 850,000 Christians have fled Iraq since 2003.

The escalation of human rights abuses and the destruction of church buildings have led Barnabas to label Islamist extremist actions "a form of ethnic cleansing".

Just 400,000 Christians now remain in Iraq, many of them virtually penniless, and the AMAR International Charitable Foundation is launching an appeal to help provide the most vulnerable families with food parcels this Easter.

A food parcel such as this could make a huge difference to a family in need.

£30 will feed a family of six for the entire Easter holiday, and the charity is calling on the international community to give generously to help those in need.

A similar appeal was held at Christmas, which saw over 400 needy families, including 61-year-old Mowaffak and his four children - two of whom suffer from Down's Syndrome - receive parcels containing essentials such as oil, rice, tomato paste and cheese.

Another who benefitted from the donations was Youssef Moshi, an elderly man who lives with his wife in an abandoned church. In addition to a food parcel, he received blankets to help keep him and his wife warm over the winter.

AMAR is committed to helping those of all faiths and last year raised enough funds to give out over 1,200 food parcels to Muslim families during Ramadan. In addition, the charity runs primary health care services and mobile clinics across Iraq which are staffed entirely by local people.

Youssef Moshi has to rely on charity to survive

Baroness Emma Nicholson, who founded the charity in 1991, says: "You cannot imagine the poverty that so many in Iraq are forced to endure. The country is putting its own house in order, and they have potential wealth to deal with these dreadful problems eventually.

"However, the need is now, and so many rely totally on what help the outside world can give them.

"People of all faiths have had a terrible time over the last few decades, and the Christian community has suffered more than most," she adds.

"There were more than one and a half million of them just 11 years ago, but now the figure is around 400,000. It's a shocking statistic. This is why an initiative like our food parcel project is so vital.

"It provides simple but nourishing food at an enormously significant time for Christian people, and it also gives them a much-needed boost in moral, knowing that people around the world are thinking of them and want to help."

To donate to AMAR's work in Iraq, click here, where it is possible to specify that the donation is for the Easter Appeal.

Alternatively, call 0207 799 2217 to make a donation over the phone, or send a cheque to AMAR Foundation, Hope House, 45 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 3LT.

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