Searching for Hope After the Yazidi Genocide

In Sinjar, there are wrong things wherever you look. Things that shouldn’t have happened in this remote corner of Iraq.

Sunset near Sinjar. Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition

The first time I went, I was utterly overwhelmed by it all: children’s bones in mass graves, chemical rocket attacks, scowling confrontations at security checkpoints, and endless piles of irredeemable rubble.

Sinjar Mountain. Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

Sinjar is the land of the Yazidis, home to beautiful communities of people who’ve endured more genocide and war and political betrayals and manipulation than history can remember—and it’s all still happening right now, as you read this.

A fenced-off mass grave near Kocho, Sinjar. Kocho was the site of the largest number of ISIS killings and is considered the epicenter of the Yazidi genocide that began in 2014. Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

That stuff is easy to write about. Any photographer or reporter can splash that on a screen and get clicks, because it plays right into the bad-news boxes we all keep in our heads.

You can walk away from a place like Sinjar crushed by the pain and hopelessness. Or you can walk away more determined, more brokenhearted-yet-hopeful than ever.

So what makes the difference?

In the war-torn corners of the world, it’s all about what you look for. Because you will find what you’re looking for.

Soldiers stand guard near a mass grave outside Kocho, Sinjar. Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

If you expect and assume despair, it’ll jump out at you from behind every corner. But if you’re thirsty for hope, you’ll find it, no matter the desert. This is what you’ve practiced when you step toward people on the margins in love.

When you sent aid to overlooked neighborhoods in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, our teams of staff and volunteers went in hungry to hear and share stories of hope and resilience.

When you helped save lives outside war-torn Benghazi, Libya, our team helicoptered over ISIS-controlled territory and into a forgotten conflict with the belief that hope would be waiting for us on the ground—and it was.

Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition

When you air-dropped food into a small town in western Iraq that was surrounded by ISIS fighters, starving and barely holding on, our team of heroic volunteers and partners and staff found the kind of grit and hope John Wayne could only dream of!

When we began preparing to bring yet another round of aid into the former war zone of Sinjar—preparations that began months ago, that began with listening to the people we want to serve—we can feel it again. We’re expectant.

Sinjar is a special place for us—and for many of you. You’ve sent help to this mountain several times before. You’ve helped people who called this mountain home reclaim their lives after being driven away by ISIS. You’ve helped them become soapmakers and shepherds. You’ve helped them to thrive again.

Families are slowly returning to Sinjar. Some never left, even through the most hellish days. But there is little for families here. The world’s attention has long since moved on.

But still we go—and so do you. Because our hearts never left this mountain. We go expectantly. Which moments will fill us with hope? Who will we meet that inspires us, encourages us? What will cut through the wandering despair and point us to that true north of loving first, of choosing to love anyway?

It always happens, if we look for it.

Stay tuned for more stories from our latest delivery in Sinjar.

Photo by Matt Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition