Skip navigation.
Home

 

Refugee Voices




NEED HELP? RESOURCE GUIDE FOR REFUGEES

Find resources for refugees throughout San Diego County by clicking this link. Many services are available including help with resettlement, immigration, education, jobs, literacy, healthcare, and much more. 

You can also find an interactive map here.

INSIDE KURDISTAN'S REFUGEE CAMPS: A REPORT FROM RESCUE TASK FORCE

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue Task Force, a nonprofit international rescue organization that started in East County, now has a team in Kurdistan/Iraq assisting the refugees there. It has been difficult even for major international media to get reports from inside this region, since many news organizations have pulled out their correspondents after the beheading of two journalists by ISIS terrorists (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Today we received this report from Gary Becks, founder and president of RTF, on the situation he and his team have found there as they work to assist religious minorities forced to flee their homes.

By Gary Becks

October 5, 2014 (Kurdistan)--Less than one mile separated us from ISIS.  It was too close for comfort, but it was where comfort was needed the most.  One of our RTF mottos is: We Go To Where Others Will Not, To Do What Others Will Not’.

In the Nineveh region of Kurdistan (Iraq) there are formal refugee camps set up in proximity to major cities to help the one million two hundred thousand displaced people.

Out here in the hinterland, though, there are tens of thousands of refugees who fled from ISIS into these countryside areas where they had connections and/or to where they feel safer than in the large metropolitan camps.

CONGRESS ADJOURNS WITHOUT TAKING ACTION ON IRAQI REFUGEE BILL

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Congress adjourned last week without voting upon a measure to help relocate Iraqi minorities displaced by ISIL, the Islamic terrorists who have seized control of much of Iraq and Syria.

ASYLUM BILL INTRODUCED FOR IRAQI RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

 

By Miriam Raftery

“We are confident that with the continued support of the citizens of San Diego, we will not only be able to give a hope to the hopeless, but a state to the stateless.” -- MarkArabo

September 9, 2014 (San Diego) – Congressman Juan Vargas is introducing a new bill that would grant asylum for religious minorities displaced by the ISIS, or Islamic State, terrorists in Iraq.

RESCUE TASK FORCE HEADS OVERSEAS TO AID IRAQI CHRISTIAN REFUGEES: $20,000 IN DONATIONS SOUGHT FOR RELIEF EFFORT

 

Photo:  At a recent rally in El Cajon, thousands of local Iraqi Christians implored America to send help for their families in Iraq fleeing genocide

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 7, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—Rescue Task Force, an international aid group that started in East County, announced today that it will send a multi-national team of veteran disaster responders to help refugees displaced in Kurdistan by ISIS or Islamic State terrorists. The RTF volunteers will bring medical and dental help along with humanitarian supplies.

The group will meet up in California with leaders Gary Becks and Larry Cutting. They will travel to Erbil and then trek to northern Kurdistan.

To date, 1.2 million people have survived the initial slaughter by ISIS forces and have fled to safe havens in Erbil and Kurdistan, faced with a stark choice of fleeing, converting to Islam, or being beheaded.  Most fled with only the clothes on their backs.

NEW LAND, NEW HOPE: SOMALI-BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA CELEBRATION SEPT. 20

 

September 5, 2014 (San Diego)—A cultural celebration featuring music, dance and cuisine of San Diego’s Somali-Bantu community will be held on Saturday, September 20 from 2-5 p.m. at the United Domestic Workers of America office, 4855 Seminole Drive, San Diego.

OVER A HALF MILLION DOLLARS RAISED LOCALLY TO HELP IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Noori Barka speaks as slideshow depicts Iraqi Christian refugees forced to walk across the desert, fleeing their homeland to escape ISIS terrorists with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

 

September 4, 2014 (ElCajon)--Community members and religious leaders came together on August 27  in El Cajon at a fundraiser to help save Christians in Iraq who have fled their homes to escape the Islamic State imposed by ISIS terrorists.  ISIS is systematically massacring Christians and other minorities who refuse to convert to Islam.  The event, which was emceed by KCBQ radio host Mark Larson, raised over $588,000. 

Bishop Sharhad Jammo (photo, right) has pledged to personally  travel to the Middle East to deliver the donations, despite grave dangers in the region, where Christian religious leaders have been kidnapped, tortured and murder.

FUNDRAISER TONIGHT IN EL CAJON TO HELP IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

East County Chaldean Bishop Jammo to personally deliver donations from Iraqi Christian Relief Fund fundraiser to persecuted Christians in Iraq

East County News Service

August 27, 2014 (El Cajon) Tonight at 7 p.m.,  over 700 San Diegans, including the Chaldean community, will gather in solidarity to raise funds for persecuted Iraqi Christians, at the Iraqi Christian Relief Fund (ICRF) fundraiser at St Peters Chaldean Cathedral in Rancho San Diego.

This is the first major fundraiser in San Diego for persecuted Iraqi Christians.

Speakers at the fundraiser showing unity with Iraqi Christians, will include Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Church in Rancho San Diego.

ISIS CAPTURES IRAQ'S LARGEST CHRISTIAN CITY: IRAQIS IN SAN DIEGO & MIDDLE EAST ISSUE WARNING FOR THE WORLD

 

"Your sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future…You are in danger." -- Exiled Iraqi Archbishop Amel Shimoun Nona

By Miriam Raftery

August 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq (photo, left), has been overrun by Islamic State terrorists (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria), CNN reports.

Sean Malone from Crisis Relief International (CRI) sent a heart-wrenching text message stating, “We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically.”

KALASHO CALLS FOR NEW PROVINCE TO BE FORMED IN IRAQ AS SAFE HAVEN FOR PERSECUTED CHALDEANS AND OTHER MINORITIES

 

By Nadin Abbott, Reporting San Diego

Reporting San Diego sat down on August 22 in Santee with Ben Kalasho, a leader in the Chaldean community, to discuss genocide in Iraq. Excerpts below are reprinted with permission.

Aug. 24, 2014 (Santee)--“All those people who you see on the mountain side on Sinjar, sleeping on what seems to be the front of churches, those people were homeowners, they owned vehicles, they had jobs or owned businesses and are now homeless,” said Ben Kalasho, a leader in the Chaldean community and President of the East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce.

According to Kalasho,600,000 people are internally displaced in Iraq. This is an almost incomprehensible number, but we cannot turn away from it.

Our leaders, starting with the President, have mentioned the Yazidis, who are an ancient people that precede Islam and Christianity in Iraq. But the plight of other minorities, including Christian Chaldeans, Siriacs and others has not drawn the same level of national media attention.

LOCAL CHALDEANS FIGHT TO REMOVE ISIS RECRUITMENT SITES FOR TERRORISTS

 

Pins pop up to show solidarity with people displaced by ISIS

By Miriam Raftery

August 23, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – After finding that the Islamic extremist group ISIS had an Instagram page for recruiting potential terrorists and next finding an ISIS Facebook page boasting of atrocities, Ben Kalasho of El Cajon set out to shut down ISIS online.

CALLS NEEDED TO LEGISLATIVE LEADERS TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS, REVIVE RESOLUTION, LOCAL LEADERS SAY

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 22, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Assembly Rules Committee has stalled an emergency measure, SJR 17, by Senator Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) that calls for executive action to left a regional immigration ceiling and allow persecuted Iraqi Christians to come to America. 

The measure faces imminent death Monday unless legislators act, said Mark Arabo, national spokesman for Iraqi Christians and President/CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association. Concerned citizens are urged to call Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins at (916)319-2078 and Assemblyman Richard Gordon, Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee at (650) 691-2121 today to urge passage of SJR 17.

PEACE MARCHERS IN EL CAJON ASK U.S. & UNITED NATIONS FOR AIRLIFTS, ASYLUM TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

United Nations passes resolution for sanctions against ISIS backers; local Iraqis ask for airlifts to save lives

Hear our exclusive interview with Mark Arabo on progress at the United Nations to save Iraqi Christians, originally aired Aug. 20 on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM:

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/6scu4kz7x2/Arabo-UNresolutioninterviewfor8-20-14show-FINAlwithrallyclips.mp3

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 21, 2014 (El Cajon) – Chanting “Save Iraq, save humanity,” and “Save Iraqi Christians,” hundreds of Iraqi-Americans marched through the streets of El Cajon on Tuesday. Many are gravely concerned about family members trapped in Iraq or who have fled as refugees as terrorists now calling themselves the Islamic State have seized cities across Iraq, torturing , killing or kidnapping those who refuse to convert to Islam.  The community showed support, with many motorists honking horns and drawing cheers.

Speakers, including former State Senator Wadie Deddeh, Chaldean-American leader Mark Arabo, and religious leaders also turned out to show solidarity with the persecuted minorities of Iraq.

LOCAL KURDS RALLY TO PROTEST ISIS TERRORIST ATTACKS: HEAR OUR INTERVIEW WITH A LOCAL KURDISH-AMERICAN WITH FAMILY IN TURMOIL

 

Update: Hear our interview with  a loca Kurdish-American whose family is caught up in the tragic actions unfolding in Kurdistan under the ISIS assault. Listen online now: http://kiwi6.com/file/toy925ngc9 (This interview originally aired on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM)

Anguish hits home for local Kurdish residents

By Miriam Raftery

August 11, 2014 (San Diego) – “This is a great humanitarian tragedy, and another genocide against the Kurdish nation,” Kurdish-American Amina (who asked that her last name be withheld) told East County Magazine.  She is horrified at news reports of beheadings, mass graves and the kidnapping of young girls as sex slaves by ISIS terrorists who have laid siege to the city of Shingal and trapped 100,000 refugees atop the Shingal Mountain. No one feels safe there. People are hopeless,” she says.

Now the crisis has impacted her own family, like many of the 4,000 to 5,000 Kurdish people in the San Diego region and 15,000 Kurds in the U.S. overall. 

“The Kurdish people know that their dear Pesharga do not have weapons to defend them from these barbarians, and this makes them live and die in fear. We hear that the Kurdish government is asking people (one of them being my brother) to find themselves weapons and join the Peshmarga,” she wrote in an e-mail to East County Magazine. “Sadly, most people do not have weapons, so if they go to war, they will go with bare hands.”

IDENTITY THEFT SCAM TARGETS REFUGEES

 

August 15, 2014 (San Diego)—The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has issued a warning to local refugee groups about a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft.

PEACE WALK TO END GENOCIDE IN IRAQ:AUGUST 19 IN EL CAJON

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 18, 2014 (El Cajon)—Mark Arabo, a national leader among Chaldean Christians in the U.S., has announced plans to lead a “massive” group of Iraqi Christians in a “peace walk to end genocide in Iraq” Tuesday in El Cajon. 

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other minorities have been displaced from their homes, murdered or mutiliated in attacks by  ISIS terrorists in Iraq who now call themselves the Islamic State. A prayer vigil earlier this month for Iraq Christians held in El Cajon drew an estimated 2,000 people.

PRESIDENT LAUNCHES AIR STRIKES AGAINST IRAQI TERRORISTS TO HALT “GENOCIDE”

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: President Obama meets with national security advisors on August 7 (WhiteHouse.gov)

August 8, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – U.S. fighter jets today dropped two 500-pound bombs on terrorists’ artillery that were being used to attack Kurdish forces in Irbil, the capitol of the Kurdish province in Iraq. In addition, U.S. planes dropped humanitarian relief to aid refugees stranded without food or water.

President Barack Obama last night authorized the use of force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda splinter group that has renamed itself the Islamic State.  The President also authorized humanitarian aid for victims of ISIS forced to flee their homes or be killed, including persecuted Christians and other religious minorities. The President made clear however that he will not authorize ground troops in the conflict.

Locally the announcement drew praise from Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association and a national spokesman for Iraqi Christians.

​"​Our work that began seven weeks ago in Congressman Juan Vargas’ office has resulted in a crescendo of tears, smiles and joy throughout the ​entire Iraqi Christian community​," Arabo said, referring to a Congressional resolution authored by Vargas and drafted by Arabo calling for humanitarian aid. 

SOMALI BANTU ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA DISCUSSES ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND ASKS FOR MORE VOLUNTEERS AND PROMOTION OPPORTUNITIES

 

By Janis Russell

August 7, 2014 (San Diego)- At the July 31 Somali Bantu Association of America board meeting, president and CEO, Said Abiyow, told ECM he is specifically looking for more volunteers to help promote events and they also hope to promote themselves.

LOCAL CHURCH HOSTS BORDER CHILDREN FORUM: AUGUST 17 IN LA MESA

 

Church launches drive to save lives, help children fleeing violence

"Jesus himself was a refugee, who with his family fled to a foreign as an infant." --Rev. Kaji Dousa

Hear our interview with Doug Brunson from UCCLM: http://www.kiwi6.com/file/gvviv3lgb6

View or sign a petition to help the children: http://tableucc.com/witness/sign-the-petition-central-american-refugee-crisis/

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 7, 2014 (La Mesa)—United Church of Christ in La Mesa has stepped forward to help children from Central America who have sought refuge in the United States, fleeing violence, drug trafficking and threats of death.   The public is invited to a Border Children panel discussion on Sunday, August 17 at 3 p.m.  at the church, located at 5940 Kelton Avenue, La Mesa.

 “We need to welcome the strangers. We need to help those in need,” Doug Brunson with UCCLM told East County Magazine in a recent radio interview, quoting Jesus.  “This is a crisis…something that needs to be addressed now,” he said of the 50,000 children.

ARABO-LED COALITION CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL ORDER TO PROTECT CHRISTIANS & DRONE STRIKES AGAINST ISIS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Arabo speaking at rally for Iraqi Christians last month in El Cajon

August 6, 2014 (El Cajon)—Mark Arabo,  a local Chaldean leader, and a coalition he has assembled will meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the White House on Thursday and possibly Secretary of State John Kerry.  A press release announcing the upcoming meeting states that they will discuss the Christian genocide in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon by the terrorist group ISIS.

WORLDWIDE PROTEST HITS HOME FOR EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS OVER VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

 

By Janis Russell

August 3, 2014 (El Cajon)- Yesterday was another protest rally over violence against Christians in Iraq and Syria at Prescott Promenade in El Cajon. There was also a rally last month and a prayer vigil. The latest event was organized by the East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. There was an estimated attendance of about 100 at this rally.

WHITE HOUSE CONDEMNS ISIS ACTIONS AGAINST CHRISTIANS

 

East County News Service



August 2, 2014 (Washington D.C.)—The White House has issued its first official condemnation of the persecution and massacre of Iraqi Christians by ISIS terrorists.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes met with Iraqi Chaldean and Assyrian leaders on July 31st to discuss the security situation in Iraq and its effect on Christian and other minority populations.

“Mr. Rhodes appreciated hearing the vital perspectives of these important communities regarding the difficulties facing Iraq’s Christians. He condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) ongoing attacks on the Christian and minority communities in northern Iraq and the group’s systematic destruction of religious sites," a statement issued by the White House press secretary later in the day reads.   Rhodes further emphasized that "the United States continues to urge Iraq’s leaders to form an inclusive government that can address the rights and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s diverse communities, including Iraq’s Christians – only then can Iraq successfully and sustainably confront the security and humanitarian challenges all of its citizens face in the common fight against ISIL," the White House press secretary stated.

WORLDWIDE PROTEST AUGUST 2 OVER VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ & SYRIA

 

August 1, 2014 (El Cajon) – Tomorrow, nearly 12,000 people worldwide will be staging protests over the violence against Christians in Iraq and Syria.   In San Diego's East County, Ben and Jessica Kalasho have organized a local protest at 6 p.m. in Prescott Promenade Park  on Main Street in downtown El Cajon.

ISIS terrorsts have sprayed the red letter for "Nazarene" shown at left on Christian homes, where residents face a choice of converting to Islam or death.  Many have fled, seeking safe refuge.

A Facebook page for the local event lists 156 participants so far.  “Join us to stand in solidarity with our Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac brothers and sisters around the world to protest the violence against the Christians in Iraq and Syria,” Kalasho writes.  Guests can RSVP at the Facebook page here locally:  https://www.facebook.com/events/813180182039823/permalink/815478478476660/

In other cities visit  https://www.facebook.com/events/653888978028664/ or scroll down for a list of events listed as of now:

RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL LEADERS OFFER HOPE AMID DESPAIR TO PERSECUTED IRAQI CHRISTIANS AT PRAYER VIGIL IN EL CAJON: HEAR AUDIO

 

By Miriam Raftery

Update:  Hear our audio highlights from the vigil, as reported on KNSJ 89.1. 

Click here to listen now: http://kiwi6.com/file/31hofx5nbg

July 26, 2014 (El Cajon)--Local political and religious leaders offered messages of hope for Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution and genocide in Iraq, many of them seeking to find refuge in America.   They offered a safe haven here in East County, as well as political actions now underway in Washington D.C. and Sacramento to aid Christians in their homeland.

“When they come here, I want you to tell them they will be safe here,” Mayor Bill Wells told the crowd during a prayer vigil in El Cajon’s Centennial Plaza last night  that was attended by an estimated 2,000 people.

The Mayor denounced the “unconscionable” slaughter of Iraqi Christians by ISIS terrorists who have declared a caliphate, or Muslim state, in the Mosul area, where churches dating back to Biblical times are being destroyed and Christians ordered to convert to Islam or die by the sword.

LA MESA CHURCH LAUNCHES PETITION TO HELP REFUGEE CHILDREN; MEETS WITH CONGRESSWOMAN DAVIS

 

“We  expressed our concern over the current debate that is focusing on sending the children back while we believe it should be focusing on the care and safety of the children.”—Doug Brunson, UCCLM Committee on Border Justice

View or sign petition: http://tableucc.com/witness/sign-the-petition-central-american-refugee-crisis/

Over 50,000 young children have crossed the border to seek refugee status in the U.S. this year.  Some are fleeing gang violence and drug trafficking, others are escaping grinding poverty or trying to reunite with family already in the United States.  Many have paid large sums to smugglers and made dangerous journeys atop trains to get here from Central America, only to be placed in overcrowded, often unhealthy holding facilities while awaiting determination of their status by understaffed courts.  Some have also endured the verbal abuse of militant protestors seeking to banish them back to the horrors from which they fled.

Inspired by The Rev. Kaji Douŝa’s sermon on Sunday, July 13, members of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa gathered to discuss the child immigration crisis and how the congregation, as a justice-oriented church, should respond.

THOUSANDS EXPECTED AT PRAYER VIGIL FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS TONIGHT

East County News Service

July 25, 2014 (El Cajon) -- The recent persecution of Iraqi Christians has outraged people all over the world. Over 40,000 Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians live in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, which has one of the world’s largest concentrations of Chaldeans.  Tonight, elected officials, community leaders and Christian leaders of all denominations are coming together I El Cajon for a vigil in support of persecuted Iraqi Christians. 

The event is organized by City Transformation, San Diego Leadership Forum and the Chaldean Council for Public Affairs.  Leaders in attendance will include El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, Bishop Sarhad Jammo from St. Peter Chaldean Diocese, Dr. Jim Garlow, pastor at Skyline Church, Pastor Mark Hoffman from Foothills Church, and other local political representatives, community and church leaders.

TWO GOVERNORS, TWO POLAR OPPOSITE APPROACHES TO CHILD REFUGEES

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 22, 2014 (San Diego)--How should America deal with the tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America, arriving at our borders?  Many are traveling alone, trying to reach family members in the U.S.  Most are teens, but some are as young as three years old.

CHRISTIAN HOMES MARKED, FAMILIES KILLED: EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS RALLY FOR HELP TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hear our  radio special report on the Save Iraq Christians rally, plus our interview with East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce president Ben Kalasho on the worsening crisis in Iraq:  http://kiwi6.com/file/iw4izsdhq7

By Miriam Raftery

July 21, 2014 (El Cajon) –They carried an American flag, proud to be in a country where they are free. But their hearts ache for loved one endangered in their homeland: Iraq.  They are Iraqi-American Christians who rallied Friday in El Cajon's Promenade Park, pleading for political leaders to save Iraqi Christians from massacre by terrorists invaders who have declared an Islamic state, or caliph.

Farouk Georges shared the latest chilling news. Just one day earlier, he revealed, sources inside Iraq told him that the terrorist group ISIS “issued a decree against the Christians of Nineva…They are asking them to leave, or to convert to Islam, or be killed.”   

A million and a half Christians in Iraq have been displaced, said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the rally. “We’ve counted 120 churches that have been bombarded and destroyed.” Thousands of Iraqi Christians have been killed, hundreds have been kidnapped and as of a few days ago, he revealed, “ISIS has spray-painted the letter N on Christian homes, letting everyone know where the Christians live.”  The N is for Nasrani, an Arabic word meaning Christian.

(caution: graphic photos)

RALLY TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS: FRIDAY, JULY 18

 

 

July 18, 2014 (El Cajon) – East County is home to an estimated 40,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians as well as many Assyrians and Syriacs. 

Local Iraqis including the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, churches and other groups, ask the community to join them in a rally today, July 18 at El Cajon City Hall , 200 Civic Center Way, to urge protection and humanitarian help for those now fleeing Iraq, where a terrorist group has declared an Islamic caliph and is slaughtering Christians and other minorities.

A petition has also been launched calling on U.S. representatives to consider creating a safe haven for Assyrians and other minorities in the Nineveh Plains.

IRAQ VIDEO: BEFORE THE WAR

 

East County News Service

July 2, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- Ben Kalasho, president of the East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, has posted a video on his Facebook page to show what Iraq was like before the war and the violence currently tearing the nation apart.  He writes,

"A lot of people always ask me what IRAQ was like before U.S. intervention. I always hear the same things; Was it all desert? Was it hard to live there? Was it safe? Was it clean? Sometimes I wondered if they thought we were nomads living in tents. Perhaps even huddled on a sidewalk somewhere begging for change.

I am glad to see this video being made. For those who have never been to IRAQ pre U.S. occupation, this should serve as a great visual tool." 

Syndicate content