Iranian aid convoys poised to deliver aid to Iraqi Christians

REUTERS/Ahmed JadallahA displaced Iraqi boy, among those who fled from Islamic State in northern Iraq, at Baherka refugee camp in Erbil. Iran is sending a convoy of aid to the region.

Iranian aid convoys are poised to deliver supplies to Christian communities in Iraq which have been affected by the ethnic cleansing policies of Islamic State, according to Iranian Christian parliamentarian Yonatan Betkolia.

Betkolia, who represents the ancient Assyrian and Chaldean communities in Iran, had appealed to the Iranian Red Crescent for aid. The organisation agreed to supply 10,000 blankets and 300 floor coverings for the refugees, and convoys are waiting for permission from the Iraqi government in Baghdad to enter the country. They will also deliver good, tents, clothing and medical supplies to Christians who have found refuge in the Kurdistan region, having been driven from their homes.

Betkolia told Mehr News that Iran had been sending food and blankets since the onset of Islamic State forces, saying: "A great number of Iranian officials residing in Erbil have had many meetings with Iraqi Christians in order to assess the areas for helping the displaced."

Iranian humanitarian aid was aimed at helping refugees take shelter in safe areas, he said.

According to the Fides news agency, the Iranian ambassador to Jordan, Mojtaba Ferdowsjpour, had visited the Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Maroun Lahham, before Christmas. Ferdowsjpour told him that "the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to assist the Christians of Iraq and Syria in order to alleviate their suffering and their sorrows". Lahham told Fides: "Iran has undoubtedly taken a crucial role in the Middle East. It is in permanent contact with the Holy See, with which it shares very important dialogues. We hope that the contribution of Iran has a positive effect in the search for solutions to crises that affect the people of Iraq and Syria."

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