Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 12 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Teresa of the Andes
home iconNews
line break icon

The surprising inspiration one American aid worker found in Iraq

Zoe Romanowsky - published on 07/01/16

Amidst the tragedy, there's much hope, born of spirits who don't despair

Britton Buckner has plenty of opportunities to cry. But with all the tragedy she’s seen in the past year as Head of Programs in Iraq for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the 35-year-old native of Alabama says the last time she cried was because of a story of hope.

A group of Iraqi Dominican sisters were providing education and caring for orphans and the disabled in the town of Karaquosh, but the Islamic State was getting closer. The sisters decided they would stay until the last minute. Then, in the middle of the night, the mother superior rallied her sisters together and said they all had to flee—now.

It was summertime, and because of the heat the car’s air conditioning was on and the gas began to run out since there was such a long line of people trying to escape. What should have been a 90-minute drive took the sisters nine hours. When they finally arrived in the northern capital of Irbil, despite their own trials, they immediately found the Christian community and began giving milk to babies, diapers to mothers, and began a school for displaced families, which is now recognized by Iraq’s Department of Education as the best school in Northern Iraq.

“I see this all the time,” says Buckner. “In spite of the trauma so many have endured, in their very difficult conditions, they’re still opening their doors to each other, offering to give what they have to someone else. That’s the dignity and faith they have, the solidarity they have, that someone else could be worse off than they are.”

Another example that exemplifies the kind of perseverance and solidarity Buckner sees is directly related to her own staff, most of whom come from the displaced population. “We’ve got engineers, for example, who’ve come from Mosul, who spent nights up on Sinjar mountain escaping ISIS with their families,” she says. “But when they came to Dohuk, where we are based in the north, they immediately started working around the clock.”

CRS was initially building shelters and homes in the winter because people were freezing to death — most people don’t realize Iraq has very cold, snowy winters — and the workers would not go home. “We said, ‘It’s Christmas, it’s December 25, it’s time to stop,’ and they said, ‘How can we stop? There are people out there freezing.'”

Buckner is amazed by the people she serves. “Families and individuals who have endured so much, who are not living comfortable lives, who are getting worrisome updates from family members in ISIS territory — they still want to help, they want to give back. That level of solidarity is inspiring.”

CRS’s work in Iraq focuses on responding to the crisis of internally displaced people, those who have been forced to flee their homes because of ISIS—over 3 million people. Because they have to flee their towns and villages at a moment’s notice, many initially live with friends or relatives. “Most are middle-class people — doctors, lawyers, teachers — and over time, their savings run out and they have to go into makeshift shelters and have no cash to cover basics,” explains Buckner.

In addition to shelter and sanitation, CRS provides emergency food and water — using a cash-based response wherever possible, so families can buy what they need. Half of the displaced people in Iraq are children, so in addition to assisting with their immediate physical and emotional needs, CRS is working with the Iraqi Department of Education to create more classrooms and mobilize the teacher force.

Tags:
CharityChristians in the Middle EastIraqIslamic Militants
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PRINCE PHILIP
Cerith Gardiner
11 Interesting facts about the late Prince Philip
2
Archbishop Georg Gänswein
I.Media for Aleteia
Gänswein: Benedict XVI expected to live only a few months after r...
3
JESUS
Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ
A simple test to see if you really believe Christ is risen
4
Philip Kosloski
Why you can eat meat on Easter Friday
5
DIVINE MERCY
Aleteia
Here’s how to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at home
6
Sister Bhagya
Saji Thomas-ACN
Catholic nun faces conversion charges in central India
7
TABLICA POŚWIĘCONA PAMIĘCI OFIAR PRZEMOCY SEKSUALNEJ
John Burger
N.Y. Cardinal: “For God’s sake, get back to Mass̶...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.