There’s A White Cloud Over Mosul, And You Helped Put It There

A white cloud is rising over this part of Mosul.

We’re at a warehouse inside the Mosul city limits, just a few miles from the front lines. Trucks are parked out front, but I can barely see them through the white haze. Our eyes are burning from it. People are coughing because of it.

But everyone is thrilled by it.

Redefining WE: A Peacemaking Photography Experience for Muslim and Christian Women

Have you ever had an idea that you just can’t NOT do for some inexplicable reason?

This project was one of those.

It started as an assignment for grad school. My professor made us immerse ourselves in a foreign subculture for a semester - a fairly easy task in the Seattle area where I live. Since I knew very little about it, I decided to use it as an excuse to learn about my local Muslim community. I called up a local mosque, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), and asked if I could visit. 

I had no idea it would set the course for my entire year.

Love From the Ashes of Hate

“You know, Courtney, for every terrible thing like this that happens, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of love that create a ripple effect, touching all of us.”

Those were the first words Aunty Farida said to me yesterday morning, as she climbed into my car to go get a cup of tea together.

The night before, a transient man with a criminal record and a history of mental health problems lit their mosque on fire and then laid down on the asphalt to watch it burn. With the help of some accelerants, the fire spread quickly, severely damaging the back half of the Islamic Center of the Eastside, despite Seattle’s wet climate and recent sub-freezing temperatures.

The Front Lines Are Where We Live: 4 Ways to Respond to Violence With Love

We talk a lot about going to the front lines. Aleppo. Mosul. Fallujah. We talk a lot about going where no one else will go to love the ones no one else will love.

For many of us, it’s easy to think about the front lines as somewhere “over there.” But the truth is...

The front lines are where we live. And we need to show up here, too.

From “Dream City” to Nightmare to Medical Clinic: How You’re Meeting Needs in an Overlooked Refugee Camp

There is a place in Iraq called “Dream City.” But for many of the refugees who took shelter here after ISIS, it felt more like a nightmare.

Earlier this year, you helped provide water here for displaced families who found shelter in this unfinished housing development in northern Iraq.

For Hatem, Growing Up Is An Unexpected Privilege

Hatem is just starting to grow a mustache. He’s pimply. He’s shy and a tiny bit awkward in conversation. But he meets my eye every time I ask a question. His answers are short, but sure.

At 15 years old, he’s in that slice of in-between time, when boys’ bodies start to take the shape of men. We can now see in him growing into the adult he’s going to be. And we are left weak at the knees with gratitude.

The Unstoppable Determination of a Refugee Mom


Four of the fingernails on my right hand—and a good portion of the surrounding skin—are freshly painted purple. Toleen, four years-old and not yet skilled with the tiny brush in the bottle of nail polish we gave her a few days ago, decides she has finished my impromptu manicure. She climbs up into her mother’s lap and settles in for a few moments.

Her mom, Abeer, buries her face into her daughter’s messy curls, barely held back by a yellow plastic hair band. Toleen is her treasure.

Inclusivity Is More Than Tolerance

Photo by Christine Anderson

In the last couple months, most of us have at least considered dropping Facebook—and maybe even Instagram on the worst days. We just couldn’t face one more political post. The discussions about racism and discrimination have been frustrating at best, anger-inducing at worst.

This 5-Year-Old Wants to Be Famous… For Loving Kids in Aleppo

You know those people...the ones who are unapologetically awesome in the face of obstacles and don’t seem to experience feelings of insecurity or insufficiency?

Ava is one of those people. And at five years old, she is my new hero.

As Families Return to Aleppo, an Unthinkable Challenge Awaits

More families are expected to return to eastern Aleppo in the coming days, according to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The question is: what will they find? 

Short-Term Solutions Are Easier... But We're Not Looking For Easy

Sunlight shines in through the front door, projecting a brilliant shaft across the floor and far wall. We sit together drinking sugary tea, at least five conversations happening at the same time. There is a lightness and warmth here—a palpable sense of satisfaction and  accomplishment.

Fadeela and Madeeha were our first two business grant recipients, pioneers of our empowerment project two years ago. It is a joy to visit them again. So much has changed in that time, but it took the full two years to get to a place of real stability.

What a Texas Cowboy Can Teach Us About Waging Peace

Justin Normand outside a suburban Dallas mosque (Facebook)

For some people, wearing a cowboy hat says something about who you are and what you care about. But for one Texan, his hat wasn’t a big enough statement. So Justin Normand of Dallas made a sign to share with his neighbors.  

“I drove to the nearest mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors,” he says. “My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.”

“You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America."

This Year, Have the Audacity to Believe You Can Make a Difference

When confronted with tragedy, violence, and injustice on a global scale, it’s common to feel helpless and paralyzed. Hearing about devastating situations can overwhelm us with sadness, anger, fear or despair about a problem that feels far beyond our reach. It’s just too hard and too big. So we freeze. Or look away. Or move on.

That is a normal initial response. But it doesn’t have to be our final response.

See Beyond 2016

You don’t need us to tell you that it’s been a rough year.

In America and Britain and so many parts of the world, it feels like we’re more divided than ever. Sectarian conflict is not just a Middle Eastern thing. Not by a long shot.

Water as a Weapon: The Damascus Terror Attack the Media Isn’t Telling You About

Damascus, Syria

Up to 4 million people in and around Damascus, the Syrian capital, have gone without water for a week. But this terror attack and resulting crisis have barely registered in the international media.

Why We Give Refugees Business Grants Instead of Loans

We enter the raw concrete courtyard through a metal gate. Curious, barefooted children screech in excitement, then run to stand in the shadow of their grandparents.

Little puddles of water glisten in the sun—the floors have just been washed and aren’t yet dry. This home in a nearby refugee camp, a couple tiny rooms lining a small courtyard, is impeccably clean. So clean that it takes a minute to actually register the space. 

There is almost nothing here.

10x More Help For Aleppo Families

Recently we shared how your amazing generosity allowed us to double our emergency response in and around Aleppo. That was true…until now.

As of this week, we’re increasing our Aleppo response by a factor of ten.

There's a Lot of Death Around Us. But There's a Lot More Love.

This week, hundreds of Christians in northern Iraq celebrated Christmas in their own churches, for the first time in years.

Back in 2014, ISIS swept across the Nineveh plains, capturing town after town—including some of the oldest Christian communities in the world. ISIS persecution targeted Christians, Yazidis, Muslims, and others. No one was safe.

Providing Hospitality...Because People Are More Than Their Needs

“It’s so cold. The families who come to us feel terrible because of the cold and fear, and the struggle to come all the way from Mosul to this place.” —Firas, hospitality center manager

We scraped snow off our windshields this morning, it’s that cold.

And as much as we appreciate the beauty, it is impossible to forget the families that ran from Mosul today, newly displaced, fleeing from ISIS and completely unsure of what is ahead.

As we ramp up emergency relief efforts in Aleppo, Syria, we continue to help Iraqi families who are caught up in the war against ISIS. So far, most families have stayed put—either by choice or necessity.

But many of those who run are fleeing south from the Mosul area, and many of them land at our "hospitality center," where they can catch their breath and plan their next steps.

That’s where you meet them.

Meeting Needs, Even When They Aren't Part of The Plan

“I don’t care if mortars are falling all around us. We are getting these families food.”

That’s what we told the delivery team lead on our last trip to Mosul. After everything we’ve seen in Iraq and Syria over the past few years, there isn’t a lot that shocks us anymore.

But the living conditions of the families in this school, just a few miles from ISIS, did. I’d never seen anything like this, not after nearly six years of living and working in Iraq.

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