The Risky, Bombed-Out Road to Peace

We say it all the time: you are sending emergency aid to the front lines, to the people who need it most. What you don’t always hear is what goes into making these often dangerous trips possible.

When you send our teams out with trucks full of food, we don’t just hop in a car and go.

We make calls. We take council from local security contacts. We talk to politicians. We coordinate with local tribal and military leaders. It takes a network of compassionate, savvy people to make these trips happen—and sometimes, in the end, we’re told that it’s just too dangerous.

This was one of those too-dangerous trips.

Recently, we heard about hundreds of families in a remote area southwest of Mosul – a full day’s drive from Baghdad. They live close to the front lines of ISIS, in an unstable part of the country under the control of Iraqi militias known as the Hashed—or, as the media calls them, Shia militias (though, in reality, there are many militia groups in Iraq and not all of them are Shia.)

Most organizations wouldn’t dare or dream of serving in a place like this. The United Nations and other humanitarian organizations haven’t been able to reach these families.

But you lean into the hard places.

During a trip briefing with the team leader, an incredible man you’ve met before named Sadiq, he ended the call by saying, “And only Iraqis are allowed on this trip. No big groups. It’s just too dangerous.”

After hearing this, one of our local staff members named Ihsan (eh-SAHN) didn’t hesitate a minute—he started packing. A few hours before Ihsan and the team were scheduled to leave, I heard a shy tapping on my hotel room door in Baghdad.

“Come in–why are you knocking?”

Ihsan came in and sat on one of the twin beds. We discussed plans for the trip and how the delivery preparations were going. Then I asked him the same thing I always ask before he heads out on one of these riskier missions: “How are you feeling? Are you sure you want to do this?”

He said “Absolutely,” and spoke with passionate certainty about how important this mission was; how trips like this are central to making peace and building trust between communities broken by conflict; and how taking risks for love is the way to peace.

For our team, this is the most exciting aspect of this delivery: the peacemaking element.

There is a massive breach of trust between Sunni and Shia Muslims in this part of Iraq, and that’s a big reason why our team was so committed to the delivery. It was a great way to show locals in the area that other Iraqis, and the international community, are for them and want good things for their future.

In addition to being incredibly dangerous, this part of Mosul is extremely hard to access. Some of the most notoriously anti-western, Iran-backed, sectarian militias are located along this road. Our team took great risks to be part of the delivery.

Just before leaving, Ihsan wrote and asked for prayer, saying that the road was “destroyed.” Their progress to these villages in such large trucks was extremely slow as the road is still contaminated with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and other unexploded ordinances.

Convoys are still hit regularly by the bombs.

But those risks didn’t stop us from delivering your message of peace in the form of trucks full of food, blankets, heaters, and animal feed for these mostly-shepherding communities.

When our assessment team asked locals what they need most, the consistent answer was “food for our animals.” People reported that the animals were the reason they chose not to flee from ISIS and all the fighting. They know that these animals are key to their future, and they need help caring for them.

So our team delivered forty tons of animal feed, which was distributed in coordination with the local community leader, a representative of the local militias, and our team leaders.

Ihsan came back from this delivery eager to share about the impact you are having in these communities. Over the next few days, we are going to share stories of our team’s four-day trip to this unstable and unreached region of Iraq.

Stay tuned…

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