In August 2014, the night before the Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, 50,000 Christian refugees fled to Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of the city of Erbil in the Kurdish region of Iraq. It is incredible that so many Christians were able to escape the Islamic State even though most thought the Iraqi army would protect them, fleeing mere hours before the Islamic terrorists invaded their ancient villages. Their notice of the impending disaster came from one priest already living in exile, in Erbil, who knew that the terrorists were coming — and that the Iraqi army would not be there to protect his people.
In the days before the Islamic State conquest, Father Behnam Benoka, a priest of the Syriac Catholic Church, undertook a modern-day ‘Ride of Paul Revere.’ Father Behnam stayed up late into the night calling all of the priests on the Nineveh Plain telling them to get their people out of harm’s way. Father Behnam saved many lives that night, and since then has worked tirelessly to continue caring for the Christian refugees he helped bring to Ainkawa.
Father Behnam now runs the most important health clinic in Ainkawa: The Saint Simony Health Center. A series of eight shipping containers converted into offices and exam rooms, enclosed with a tarp ‘ceiling,’ the center has served over 90,000 Christian patients since the Nineveh Plain was lost to the Islamic State. Open three days a week, St. Simony’s is run exclusively by volunteers. Three doctors and a support staff provide the camp with pediatric medicine, gynecology, and general medicine.
Now, in anticipation of Christians returning to their homes throughout the Nineveh Plain, Father Behnam wants to have a fleet of mobile health clinics ready to travel to all of the scattered villages that Christians will soon be reoccupying.
The mobile clinics will be a crucial part of the Christian resettlement. Having been abandoned and pillaged for more than two years, the villages lack medical equipment, medicine, and practitioners. If the Christian Church has any hope of resettling their homeland, healthcare must be available during the initial return, and sustained during the entire rebuilding process.
The clinics will be in an outfitted RV. To purchase a vehicle and equip it with the necessary medical supplies will cost $30,000. With this investment, Father Behnam can ensure Christians are cared for as they reconstruct their lives and their ancestral homes.
Solidarity with the Persecuted Church is honored to be working with Father Behnam to realize his vision of providing reliable healthcare, which he and we see as critical to helping the Church persevere and ultimately triumph over persecution.
In order to contribute to Father Behnam’s clinic fund, please use the donate form below.