In ten days' time, on Sunday, 20th December, Della Shenton from 5th Gospel Retreats will be leaving for Amman in Jordan, to spend Christmas with Christian refugee families, living in cramped portacabins in the grounds of a Catholic church. If you would like to send a card or donation to buy a small gift for them - please see her contact details below.
The story of these refugees is harrowing. They lived in Mosul and Nineveh in Iraq, one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Some of the churches were nearly 2,000 years old. In August 2014 IS arrived in their convoys. They told the Christians they had two hours to convert to Islam, leave, or be killed. The families had to pack what they could and run. The priests were the last to leave. Some didn't get away and were killed. When the families got the border - IS solders were waiting for them. They took all their possessions.
Della explained that when they first arrived in Jordan they were given shelter by local Christian parishes. King Abdulla of Jordan offered them sanctuary because they are suffering religious persecution. Around 7,000 Christians came.
They face a very uncertain future. Della said: "They have lost everything. They can't go back. Their homes and their churches have been destroyed. They have heard horrific stories of people left behind who were beheaded or crucified. They are waiting for some country to accept them."
1,000 have gone to Australia. The UK won't take because they are not in living a refugee camp. They don't want to go to the refugee camps, Della said, because they are afraid of some of the Muslims there. When IS came and drove them from their homes, most of their Muslim neighbours did not help the Christians. Now in Jordan they feel safer in the care of the Church.
Della said: "They are lovely people. When you visit their cabins they have the same Catholic images on their walls that we have. Most of them are educated professionals who would be an asset to any community. They are not allowed to work in Jordan. Everything they had was stolen by IS. They have sold any possessions they managed to keep in order to buy food. Now they are relying on help from Caritas and the church community which is not wealthy."
"Although they are resiliant people and their faith is strong, you can see many are suffering from stress. There are women who have lost their husbands. Children who have seen their parents killed. They don't know what the future holds."
"What I want to do is bring Christmas cards with messages and small presents from people here, so they can at least feel they are not forgotten."
Della leaves on 20 December. If you would like to send cards or make a donation, see her contact details below.
Write: 5th Gospel Retreats Limited
4 York Villas
Torquay TQ1 3SJ
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