Ramadan in Fallujah: Finding Mercy in the Desert

The sun is high in the sky, and heat shimmers above the desert sand in wavy bands. It is oppressive. Nearly a week after fleeing Fallujah for this sandy plain, there is still no tent to protect you, no food to sustain you.

When the time comes for midday prayer, your mind becomes focused. You are displaced from your home, but it is still Ramadan. Like so many others, you fix your attention to worship God in your heart, to acknowledge your need for purity.

And so you begin preparations.

BREAKING: Our Aid Team Bombed in Airstrike, Held At Gunpoint During ISIS Attack in Fallujah

It was supposed to be a normal aid delivery.

Two trucks carrying 100,000 pounds of food for those who fled Fallujah. Our destination was one of the neediest, most underserved camps in all of Fallujah, if not all of Iraq.

After a few hours on the road, the trucks were stopped, not by the typical holdups like security officials wanting to check papers. Both trucks got stuck in a massive rut. Members of the team spent hours trying to free them, toiling in 110-degree heat—but to no avail, The trucks weren’t budging.

Fallujah "Liberated," But Thousands Still Trapped in the Desert

On Sunday, Iraqi forces announced they had taken full control of Fallujah, just over one month after they launched their campaign to liberate the city from more than two years of ISIS rule.

Now what?

What does it mean for the 86,000 people who fled over the last few weeks alone? 

"My Legs Will Never Prevent Me From Continuing My Studies."

Earlier this year, we introduced you to Mouamin, the most determined 6th grader you’ll likely ever meet. Mouamin desperately wanted an education, despite the fact that he struggled hard to get to school. With a birth defect that left his legs malformed and poverty that kept him from getting proper treatment, Mouamin relied on his own grit and the kindness of neighbors to get to school.

The school year is over now, and we thought you’d like to hear how Mouamin is doing.

Peacemaker Fridays: June 24, 2016

Celebrating refugee chefs in Paris; wrapping Syrian families in a supportive community in Amsterdam; and a women's cello quartet in Atlanta helping refugee women thrive.

In honor of World Refugee Day earlier this week, we're sharing three stories of people all over the world standing with their refugee neighborsreaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

Fallujah Crisis Update: Sounding the Alarm on BBC News

Preemptive Love Coalition’s Jeremy Courtney went on BBC News today to share the increasingly dire situation in and around Fallujah. Displacement camps have been overwhelmed by more than 86,000 fleeing civilians—many of whom have gone days without shelter in the extreme desert heat. 

Delivering Aid in a Sandstorm: Fallujah Crisis Update

A dust storm engulfed the entire camp outside Fallujah during one of our aid distributions this week. The journalists who accompanied us into the camp struggled to find words to describe the scene that greeted them. 

In the midst of the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, the people of Fallujah are facing the worst of the worst. 

What It's Like to Flee ISIS

"We were running with other families. And I saw some of them get shot by ISIS snipers. But we kept running. If we stopped to help them—we would be easy targets. We ran for our lives."

The families who fled Fallujah before ISIS withdrew from the heart of the city often made their attempts at night. The hope was to make it harder for ISIS snipers to pick them off as they ran across dusty fields, or crawled through marshes.

Going Back as Many Times as it Takes: Fallujah Crisis Update

The temperature is 102° F (39° C) with a hot wind that pushes the sand into every bit of exposed skin—it cakes around the nose and eyelashes. It’s cooler than it was earlier in the week—“cooler” being a relative term in Fallujah—but still feels brutal after walking miles to safety.

When the Iraqi army opens up a “safe corridor” to allow Fallujans to get out, there is no time to worry about the heat—it is simply time to run.

"No tents. No water. No words." Displaced From Fallujah on World Refugee Day

No one imagines a refugee camp as a pleasant or easy place to live. But it would be nice to think that once a family has made it into one of these camps, they are safe. However uncertain their future, for now, at least, they’re out of immediate danger. Their needs are met.

It would be nice to think the sight of a UN logo emblazoned on the outside of a refugee tent meant this camp was safe and well supplied.

It’d be nice to think that. But “nice” and “reality” don’t always line up so neatly, especially for the thousands of families who have fled Fallujah in recent days. 

To All the Dads Who Remake the World...

To the all dads who remake the world for their kids, in ways big and small...

Looking Refugees in the Eye: The Difference Four Minutes Can Make

Source: YouTube

Can four minutes really change the world?

Maybe not. But they can impact a human heart.

Peacemaker Friday: June 17, 2016

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's easy to despair at the voices of fear, hatred, and violence that seem to drown out all others. But there are voices that are quietly speaking through the pain, reaching across divides, and choosing to love anyway.

For this week's Peacemaker Friday post, we wanted to share some of these voices, in memory of those who lost their lives.

Food, But No Means to Cook It: Fallujah Crisis Update

This is what showing up for Fallujah looks like.  

Since the crisis began, you've provided food for thousands of families who have fled ISIS, many of whom have landed in displacement camps around the city. They had been starving for months, and they needed food. You showed up. You responded—and continue to respond—to their calls for help. You've helped deliver hundreds of thousands of pounds of food so far.

But these camps are stretching at the seams. More families flee Fallujah every day; many of them arrive to nothing more than a tent—if that. 

The Beginning of the End? The Slow, Inevitable Demise of ISIS (Yes, Really)

Front lines against ISIS in northern Iraq (Preemptive Love Coalition / Matt Willingham)Front lines against ISIS in northern Iraq (Preemptive Love Coalition / Matt Willingham)

For the last two years, ISIS has seemed an unstoppable force, crushing everything in its path. First Syria and Iraq, as the militant group attempted to create a homeland of its own. Then in parts of northern Libya. So many innocent civilians have died. So many have been enslaved and tortured.

But despite their recent call to make Ramadan a month of "conquest," the seams of the so-called caliphate are cracking. The light is slowly getting in. ISIS is losing ground on all three battle fronts.

"Miserable" Conditions West of Fallujah, You Responded With 50,000 Pounds of Food

Every time the Iraqi Army is able to open a safe corridor out of Fallujah, thousands flee for safety. They walk for miles, passing through towns and villages along the main road out of the city. If they have extended family who live along the way, those who've been displaced may find shelter with them.

Eventually they pass displacement camps, already full of families who were able to escape before them. So they keep walking.

4 Ways You're Defying Sectarianism in Iraq

You’re all over the place!

Do you realize how many people you’ve helped serve this week—how many different kinds of people you’ve loved

When the Candles Come Out...

What do we tell our kids about Orlando?

How do we begin explain the hate and violence that took 49 beautiful people from this world?

How do we explain that dehumanizing words have a way of turning into dehumanizing violence—that when we fight with our words, at some point words become fists... or in this case, bullets?

To be honest, I don't know everything we should say. But here is what my children know: when the vigil candles come out, that’s when we show up to love.

3 Ways to Bless Your Muslim Neighbors During Ramadan

It’s easy to fear—to hate—the unknown. It’s easy to fear and hate people who are strangers to us, who practice different religions or represent different cultures. News cycles can feed into the fear and hate.

What we know about Islam and the Middle East—or think we know—tends to come from news corporations who have a vested interest in serving up the most fear-driven and controversial stories.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

First Exit Route Opens in Fallujah as Thousands Flee

Thousands of families are beginning to flee Fallujah. Sunday, the Iraqi army announced it had secured the first safe exit route out of the city. Up till now, families trying to escape have had to risk sniper fire and landmines planted by ISIS. The militants continue to hold thousands of civilians inside Fallujah.

Meanwhile, displacement camps are stretched beyond the breaking point as families seek refuge in the blistering desert. So far, you've helped provide food for more than 12,000 people—in many cases, it's the first or only aid they've received. Your ongoing support allows us to continue showing up with lifesaving aid.

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