(Photo courtesy of Yazidi Solidarity Association)

On June 12, Mohamed Abu Jasem, left, Hussam Abdullah and other volunteers with MCC Iraq partner Al Amal loaded a truck in Bashiqa with food and water to be distributed there and in other villages in Nineveh Province.

As armed conflict forces Iraqis from their homes, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is providing vital items for daily life and is planning with partner organizations for an ongoing response.

MCC also is calling on U.S. lawmakers to oppose military intervention in Iraq and instead to send humanitarian aid for the U.N.-estimated 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country.

After the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took over the city of Mosul June 11, more than 300,000 residents fled into nearby villages and the Kurdish area of Iraq, where MCC workers Deborah and James Fine live and work. The Fines are from Bristol, Pa.

One MCC partner, Al Amal (The Hope), which has ongoing peacebuilding and community improvement projects near Mosul, already is providing food and water to IDPs, supported by MCC funds. Water and electricity are cut off in many of the villages, making coping difficult for both the IDPs and the host families that have welcomed them.

The Fines, the only MCCers in Iraq, are in Erbil, about 60 miles east of Mosul. Their work continues, which now includes planning MCC’s emergency response with partner organizations in Nineveh Province, where Mosul is located; and the short-term Summer Intensive English program, which brings teachers to a program of Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, a Christian partner.

People can help Iraqis through MCC by meeting critical needs for relief kits and hygiene kits, financially supporting the response and MCC’s ongoing work in Iraq, and sending letters to lawmakers calling for peaceful response in Iraq.

Relief and hygiene kits help people who have fled their homes because of war and disaster keep clean and healthy. More information is available at mcc.org/get-involved/kits or by contacting an MCC office. MCC hopes to send 12,000 hygiene kits and 3,000 relief kits, the equivalent of two shipping containers, to uprooted Iraqis and others in the region affected by ongoing conflict and displacement. MCC sent more than 57,000 of these kits last year, including to people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan displaced by the Syrian war.

Gifts of money support MCC’s efforts with partners in Iraq to respond quickly to meet basic needs and to continue to invest in long-term solutions that build peace. People may give online at donate.mcc.org/iraq, by calling 1-888-563-4676, or by sending donations to MCC U.S., 21 South 12th Street, Akron, PA 17501, specifying “Iraq response.”

The MCC U.S. Washington Office Action Alert, mcc.org/advocate-iraq, provides a simple method for people to contact their representatives and the president.

Gordon Epp-Fransen, an MCC program leader in the region, notes that while the U.S. military appears to be renewing engagement in Iraq, MCC already is there and actively meeting the needs of people displaced by conflict both in Iraq and in nearby countries.

"The same day that President Obama announced the introduction of 300 military personnel into Iraq, five teachers from the U.S. and Canada flew into Iraq to serve with MCC's short-term Intensive English Program, one of the ways we support Iraqi Christians, many of whom have been displaced or traumatized by earlier conflicts. We will continue to work with long-term partners to determine how MCC can be of immediate assistance to the thousands of recently displaced persons."

Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen are MCC representatives for Iraq, Iran and Jordan, and live in Amman, Jordan. They are from Winnipeg, Man.