ISIS, IRAQ & IRBIL - An Update from the Buxton Family

Greetings to all our friends and family around the world...

Since waking up we have been inundated by emails and messages of concern surrounding the terrible situation taking place here in Northern Iraq. We are so grateful for all of you that care deeply about our safety and are praying for us and the ISIS threat.

As we read and watch the news today we are - and have been ever since our arrival - profoundly saddened by the suffering, persecution and brutality that ISIS have been inflicting on innocent civilians here in Northern Iraq.

We are heartened by the news that today the United States will be taking humanitarian action now, in addition to military air strikes against ISIS should they continue an advance towards the city of Erbil. 

This threat from ISIS is by no means a recent threat, it has been growing for quite some time now. Since controlling almost a third of Syria through their brutal jihadist campaign of killing and fear mongering they have now made significant gains in Iraq. 

As of today they have taken control of the key cities of Fallujah, Tikrit & Mosul. In the process, millions of Iraqi & Syrian civilians have fled from their advance, the vast majority have taken refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq where we live. 

Today ISIS and their absolute barbaric assault on Christian and Yezhidi minorities is making headlines. Their strict enforcement of Sharia law and the forced conversion of non-Muslims - or face certain death by execution - is filling up my Facebook feed, and quite possibly yours too.

It is just sickening to read all the reports, we just want ISIS and their jihadist advance to end. What is happening right now is nothing short of evil in every sense of the word.

As a family we have been watching things closely ever since we arrived here in Northern Iraq. In fact, we landed the very same day that Mosul fell to ISIS fighters, just 30 miles from the city of Erbil. 

We live in the North-eastern town of Soran, which is a 2+ hour drive from Erbil. Their are three mountain ranges and several army checkpoints that separate us from Erbil city. 

We feel safe here in Soran, but I must say we do have concerns about traveling to Erbil until we get a better idea on what things are really like from a security standpoint.

In fact we were in Erbil just 2 days ago buying food and supplies, but didn't really notice anything abnormal.. no obvious panic, but we being foreigners probably wouldn't be the first to pick up on anything. 

We have been in constant communication with our co-oworkers about possible evacuation paths, most likely through Turkey. We are assuming that flights from Erbil - which have been on & off lately - would not be a safe or an easy option as any threat would most likely come from the Erbil direction.

We certainly have our finger on the pulse here and are getting ready to do whatever is necessary should things get worse. We have been following news stories and get daily reports and inside information from our Kurdish friends who have family members fighting with the Kurdish Army (Peshmerga). 

Kurdish Army with President of Kurdistan - Barzani

Advance into Kurdistan by ISIS would be a potential game changer, as the Peshmerga has provided the only real opposition towards the ISIS fighters. The Peshmerga are a considerably large and brave army, but they still lack important weapons and resources and do not have an air force. Support from the US is therefore critical in enabling the Kurdish Army to hold back and defeat ISIS.

Like you, we are waiting to see what impact the US & Kurdish forces are able to have on this terrorizing ISIS advance. Whilst we will be making necessary decisions to evacuate should we feel in any way threatened by ISIS, right now we are considering ways that we can respond to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding.  

Because of the relative distance & difficulty in getting to our town, Soran, we have only seen a small number of refugees here, but, many more are sure to make their way here. There are also hundreds of Kurdish families welcoming relatives into their homes here, having fled from Mosul and surrounding areas. 

Until we feel that it is unsafe for us to remain here in Northern Iraq we are looking and seeking God for ways that we can help. 

  • Please pray for the displaced, persecuted and suffering people of Iraq & Syria.
  • Please pray that we would be able to provide meaningful support and care for those that have been displaced by ISIS. 
  • Pray also for the brave Kurdish Army, many of whom are our neighbors, retired and elderly Peshmerga or just ordinary civilians taking up arms. I’ll never forget driving down the road and seeing the kind man who had installed our window screens just days earlier, now dressed in army clothing and waiting to get picked up and taken to the front lines to fight.
  • Pray for the world leaders to take the necessary action to avert continued suffering and mass killings. Entire people groups (both religious and cultural minorities) and the lives of innocent people are at risk right now. I can’t think of a more effective way forward than for US and other world powers to support the Kurdish government and their efforts. 

We firmly believe that God deeply cares and that He has all sovereign power to bring peace and justice. We ultimately look for Him to intervene. 

Would you join us as we pray and respond? 

Tim & Sarah Buxton

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.  (Amos 5:24)