PHILADELPHIA — In response to the nearly two million civilians that have been displaced in Iraq and Syria by the barbaric Islamic group ISIS, which identifies itself a the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an American Christian ministry has launched a project to not only meet the immediate physical needs of the people, but to eternally impact souls with the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bibles for Iraq, a project of Bibles for Refugees, recently launched a global effort to provide those displaced by ISIS with their own copy of the word of God.
“As for all nations, the greatest need in Iraq is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and at no time are the Iraqi people more aware of the reality of life, death and eternity than now,” the project website outlines. “Our project, Bibles for Iraq, will focus on bringing the Scriptures to as many refugees as possible—many of whom cannot read or write and have never had access as much as they do now.”
Headlines over the past year have been filled with horrific reports of the unthinkable forms of torture and murder committed by ISIS, as well as the mass exodus that has resulted as the terror group continues to capture cities for Allah in its quest to build its Islamic caliphate.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom outlined in its annual report issued earlier this year that in 2014, ISIS issued an ultimatum that non-Muslims living in captured cities must “convert to Islam, leave …, pay a tax or face death.” The threat prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the region for safety.
Among those who have fled are the Yazidis, a people group that believes that the Earth was created by a formerly fallen angel called the “peacock angel” and that their eternal destiny will be determined by a grand mufti following death.
“For Yazidis, the ISIL ultimatum was to convert or die; they are not considered ‘people of the book’ and therefore not afforded the options to leave or pay a tax,” the report stated. “In addition, thousands of Yazidi women and girls, including those who had not reached puberty, were kidnapped, raped, sold as sex slaves or killed.”
Reports now place the number of displaced civilians at 1.8 million, and those who have traveled to the region to minister in the name of Christ to the suffering state that hearts are hungry not only for food, but also for spiritual truth as they seek answers and hope in the midst of persecution.
Bibles for Refugees, in collaboration with World Mission, a Michigan-based organization that distributes the devices to unreached people groups worldwide, is now working to put solar-powered audio Bibles programmed with the Old and New Testament in both Arabic and Kurdish into the hands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
“Our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq, and through this we have been compelled to take a stand at the gates of hell against the enemy who came to kill and destroy,” said Michael Marcavage, president of Bibles for Refugees. “The Lord not only impressed upon my heart to pray, but to act in reaching these devastated people with the words of Life.”
“Humanitarian assistance shows love in a practical way that will last temporarily,” World Mission Executive Director Greg Kelley told Christian News Network. “The word of God in their own mother tongue language will provide hope and transformation that is permanent.”
He said that the audio Bibles, called “The Treasure,” are especially needed in Iraq and Syria since of many those who have fled are illiterate.
“Among Iraqi refugees there is a very high concentration of oral learners,” Kelley explained. “Although these oral learners may not read a Bible, they will be deeply touched by listening to the precious word in their own language.”
He noted that, in his experience in other nations such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and in the African Congo, the Bibles are generally shared in listening groups, which gather together to hear to the word of God.
“On average, a single Treasure is used in a group of 10-12 people that will listen for 1-2 hours at a time,” Kelley stated. “Leaders who provide oversight for these Treasures will launch new groups each month. So, at the end of 12 months, 144 people are being ministered to by a single Treasure.”
“The joy of listening to the word of God in their mother tongue language is difficult to describe,” he continued. “Imagine never being able to read (2/3 of the world are oral learners) and hearing the Bible for the first time! Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press around 1440 was instrumental in the Protestant Reformation. In a similar way, the Treasure is providing millions of people around the world with historic access to the word of God.”
Marcavage said that while the organization plans on working alongside others providing humanitarian aid, Christ reminded His followers that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
“While we will go in part to help meet the physical needs of the people, above all, the Iraqi people need the daily bread of God’s word,” he said. “Lord-willing, we hope to take these audio Bibles to northern Iraq later this year and put them in the hands of a people who have been more devastated and displaced than any other people group.”
Marcavage stated that Bibles for Iraq seeks to raise funds for the distribution of at least 2,000 audio Bibles, or $30,000. As of press time, the ministry has raised nearly 60 percent of its goal, with almost $18,000 donated in support of the project.
“We desire to impact millions of people in Iraq. They have endured so much tragedy,” Kelley said. “There is nothing we could provide that is more loving than the word of God.”
Editor’s Note: To help give an audio Bible to a refugee in Iraq, please click here.