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The Refugee Who Risks His Life to Help Others

“Who taught you to live this life of helping others?”

“My father.”

Marwan grabbed his phone, quickly swiped his finger across the screen until he stopped at a photo of his father, Barakat—a handsome man with a thick moustache, dressed in traditional clothes.

Bringing New Life Out of Devastation in Iraq... Literally

Meet the newest member of our soapmaking family in Iraq!

The other day when I visited Faris, one of our refugee soapmaker friends, he was so excited. He and his wife just welcomed their fourth baby the night before. And this little guy is beautiful.

For These Mosul Dads, Everything is Gone—But Not Lost

Sami with his finished cabinets at the end of the training program

At the second workbench from the big bay door, Sami finished his first set of kitchen cabinets. After tightening the last screw and wiping the dust off the shiny, aluminum surface, he cried.

He was relieved and utterly overcome—proud to have made something beautiful and useful for his family.

Iraqi Christians Arrested in Detroit: What You Should Know

A Chaldean Christian girl in Iraq

Up to 100 Iraqis, mostly Christians but also some Muslims, were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Detroit on Sunday. They were rounded up outside churches and restaurants. Parents, siblings, and loved ones were separated from their families and now face deportation to Iraq.

An Armed Protester in Seattle Taught Me that #LoveAnyway is Messy Business

The author holds her sign during the confrontation described blelow. Photo by J. Rooney Photography

“Wait wait… hold on. She might be on our side.”

Nick, a member of the self-described “Western chauvinist” group Proud Boys, put a hand on his friend’s shoulder to stop him from screaming in my face while I held my sign and my eye contact with him. He looked me up and down, trying to figure out what my deal was.

Still Displaced, But No Longer a Refugee

“Aid organizations still come to me, but I don’t need their help.”

We’re standing in Faris’s warehouse—a large room, really—surrounded by soap. Next door is the house he shares with 14 relatives, including his wife and three children.

Faris is relaxed, confident. He smiles a lot. He’s not what comes to mind when you think about refugees.

Don't Think Your Love Makes a Difference in Iraq? Think Again.

Across Iraq, families find themselves in a variety of difficult situations.

Some are desperate to survive as Iraqi forces battle ISIS in the Old City of western Mosul. Others in Mosul are walking out of their homes freely for the first time in over two years, as their neighborhoods experience the first days of liberation. 

Three Years Since ISIS Took Mosul, the Real Battle Begins

The date June 10, 2014 is etched on our memories. 

That was the day—three years ago today—that Mosul fell to an extremist group known as ISIS. Seemingly out of nowhere, 1,500 militants repelled a 60,000-strong Iraqi force and claimed the city and its 1.5 million inhabitants as their own.

The Battle for ISIS’s Capital in Syria Has Begun. Here’s What You Should Know.

“Where… people are not getting help?”

The woman repeated the question again, and we nodded again. She’s an official whose job is to  help aid organizations begin work in northern Syria, but our request took her by surprise. She assumed we wanted to deliver aid to displacement camps, just like all the others.

Why Some Families in Mosul are Skipping Ramadan This Year

This year in Mosul, Ramadan is different. During the Islamic holy month, observant Muslims usually abstain from eating, drinking, and other activities like sex, during the day so that they can contemplate the spiritual instead. Then, when night falls, they break their daily fast with friends, family and neighbors.

But after being under ISIS rule for over two years, the people of Mosul feel the freedom to celebrate Ramadan a little differently. 

''I Saw This Video... I Have to Do Something''

Black abayas litter the ground around an evacuation truck near Mosul.

It was late, near bedtime, and I’d just sat down to an unimaginative dinner salad, all I managed to scrounge up at the end of a long day. Two bites into it, my mother called.

“I have to do something. I saw the video on the news. This video…” 

The Iran You Won't See in the News

Early today, a dozen people in Iran were murdered by ISIS. Tragically gunned down and blown up at two of the country’s most symbolic locations. But you may not have heard about it. Partially because of our relentless 24-7 news cycle. And partly because, for those of us in the United States, Iran is our enemy. 

Building a Life that Can't Be Stolen

From the moment Dakhil was born, there was always someone to play with.

Born into a close-knit family in the mountain region of Sinjar in northern Iraq, he was immersed into the kind of life so many rural families treasure for their children. There was space to explore—neighborhoods, mountains and wide skies. 

Standing Between Neo-Nazis and Anti-Fascists in Portland

Photos and video by Gary Christenson

There was a woman on one side of the street shouting into a megaphone about racism and murder, while a man on the other side, dressed like Captain America, stood flipping her off and making other vulgar gestures. In between them was a line of riot police. A lot of riot police. Law enforcement was clearly expecting the worst.

The First Step to Rebuilding After ISIS

We roll down streets pocked with airstrike craters big enough to swallow our car whole, lurching back and forth between lanes. Sometimes it’s hard to find enough level pavement to keep moving forward.

We’ve gotten used to the bombed-out landscapes that flash by as we criss-cross the northern part of Iraq, visiting families who need emergency aid, help getting back to work, and medical care at medical clinics.

How to Push Back Violence with Water

There’s no more basic need than water, and there’s no more basic equation, either. Water = Life.

There’s a beautiful story tucked away inside each water droplet. Water molecules don’t want to separate. They cling to each other. Especially at the surface—where there's no molecule on the other side to grab onto—they hold tight, creating a network able to resist forces pushing against them.

Here is how you are holding onto the people of Mosul, helping them resist the forces pushing against them:

ISIS Prepares for its Last Battle in Mosul at the Mosque Where It All Began

The Great Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul seen through a sniper hole. Photo by Quentin Bruno. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

ISIS is preparing for defeat in Mosul. And it will come at the same mosque where it all began.

Almost three years ago, in July 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood on the steps of the Great al-Nuri Mosque in west Mosul and announced the creation of the so-called Islamic caliphate.

Now, on the grounds of the same historic mosque, in the heart of the old city, ISIS is preparing for a final battle and imminent defeat.

Baghdad, Kabul, Portland, Manchester: The Frontlines Are Where We Live

People mourn at a memorial service for a suicide bombing in Baghdad last year

I heard the news as I was going to bed. A suicide bombing in Baghdad, targeting an ice cream shop full of children and families as they were ending their daily Ramadan fast.

Then two more attacks—one hitting a neighborhood of elderly retirees and another near a school west of Baghdad.

None of this is normal.

He Fought ISIS to Save His Family—“I knew I was going to die, but they needed time to escape”

The dust cloud sped off toward the mountain.

They only had one car to escape in, and Zido stood watching it drive away, his pregnant wife and five children inside. Some of the other people in villages and towns weren’t sure what to do—some even thought running from ISIS was foolish.

5 Ways Teachers Can Help Muslim Students Succeed During Ramadan

When teachers entered their classrooms this week, Ramadan was already underway. This year, Ramadan falls at the end of the school year. This holiest season for Muslim students—a time for prayer, fasting, and intentionally drawing closer to God—will be peppered with completing assignments, writing exams, and snack-filled end-of-year parties.

For many students, fasting from all food and drink from sunup until sundown, particularly during warm months, can have a real impact on energy levels and concentration. But there are things every teacher can do to make Ramadan a positive experience for their students. 

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