The Hard Work of Restoring Home After ISIS


There are no windows or doors in Fahti’s house yet. We sit in a circle on the floor of his living room, with Fahti and his brother Sami, discussing how tough it’s been to rebuild their homes after ISIS destroyed them.

To Our Friends in Las Vegas

To everyone in Las Vegas, still reeling from last night’s attack…

To the 22,000 people attending what should have been a night of music and celebration…

To first responders and ordinary citizens who put their lives at risk to save others while bullets were still flying…

Iraq Blocks International Flights In and Out of Kurdistan. Why This Matters…

Erbil International Airport is no longer open for international flights. Photo by Jeffrey Beall / CC BY 3.0.

The last international flight left Iraqi Kurdistan tonight, as authorities in Baghdad imposed an air embargo over the region, in response to Monday’s independence referendum. The embargo affects our staff in the area, making travel in and out of Kurdistan far more difficult. It has the potential to disrupt our work with refugee families here. It’s also affecting the livelihoods of thousands of people in an already fragile economy.

Fighting for the Forgotten in Houston

The picture of his precious little face on the fridge still haunts me a little bit.

“When I grow up I want to be: a soldier.”

I didn’t meet Mateo's 10-year-old son that day in Houston, but his smile claws at my heart when I think of him. To me, he represents some of the deep social injustices that were laid bare by Hurricane Harvey.

These Kurds and Arabs Choose Each Other Over Political Discord

Almost every night, Ghazwan Ahmad’s relatives in Baghdad get in touch. Are the Kurds attacking you? they ask. How are they treating the Arabs up there?

Every time he hears such questions, Ahmad, 30, says he gets a little shock.

Kurdistan Votes for Independence. What Comes Next?

On Monday, people in the Kurdistan region of Iraq voted in an independence referendum, and the results are in: it’s a “yes” for independence.

What does a  “yes” vote actually mean? What will change and how will Iraqi Kurdistan’s neighbors respond? All of that is still unclear to many. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation—not to mention concerns over the actual voting process. And the fact that very few global news outlets are covering the referendum doesn’t help.

North Korea: Our Rhetoric Could Make War a Foregone Conclusion

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in South Korea. Photo by the Missile Defense Agency.

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, military leaders promised a campaign of “shock and awe” that would deliver swift, decisive victory. Almost 15 years later, we are still dealing with the fallout of war.

Now we’re on the edge an even more perilous conflict in North Korea. This summer, President Trump promised to meet any hostility from North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Since then, the rhetoric has only ratcheted up on both sides.

A Prayer of Thanks and A Pile of Debris in Houston

For our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, we give thee thanks.

A six-foot pile of debris greeted us as we got out of the car. On top was this prayer—hand stitched, framed… and now discarded. Another casualty of Hurricane Harvey.

Partnering with Those Who Lost Everything

Sami had driven past his former shop a couple times, but he hadn’t stopped to really look at what was left of his business.

The truth is, there wasn’t much to look at. The only thing we could find was a single broken kettle. It survived thousands of cups of tea served to Sami’s customers, but it didn't survive ISIS.

Peacemaker Friday: Painting Their Way to Peace

Peace is not for someone else to make. It’s for you to make. With whatever tools and skills you have available to you.

I was chatting with a friend a while back and he told me how he desperately wanted to do something to make the world a better place, but didn’t feel like there was anything he could do.

Kurdish Independence Vote: 5 Things to Know

In just a few days, people in the Kurdistan region of Iraq will vote on whether they want to become their own country, separate from Iraq. While a “yes” vote will not mean immediate independence, it could have far-reaching consequences. Iraqi officials are calling for the referendum to be suspended, and tensions are already growing in the region.   

Is an 'International Day of Peace' Even Worthwhile?

I’m sitting here trying to figure out whether I care that today is International Day of Peace. I mean, really…what does that mean to you?

Humvees and Hijabs in a Texas Mall Parking Lot: A Picture of American Peacemaking

Middle Eastern spices waft through the air of a Sears parking lot in Port Arthur, Texas, while a group of Muslim young people serve dinner to a battalion of U.S. Army soldiers. It’s an odd and beautifully upside-down moment.

The soldiers’ plates are piled high with spiced meat, fragrant rice, roasted veggies and homemade pita bread. It’s the first hot meal they’ve had in weeks. And yet, I can’t tell who’s more excited to be there—the people being served, or the ones doing the serving.

Don't Drink the Water: After Harvey, a Different Kind of Water Crisis in Houston

"The water dripped on me and look what happened.”

There was a red welt on my colleague's arm where the water splashed him. Our team was out collecting water samples in an unincorporated neighborhood near Houston to test for contaminants. But based on the angry rash on Ben’s arm we didn’t need to wait for the results on this house.

Building Peace While Rebuilding Houston

Jeremy Courtney greets the Imam at a mosque near Denver, CO.

Houston’s devastation is horrific. After a year of so much division and violence, the easy thing would be to stay in our own communities—to show up for the people of Houston, but to show up with and for people who look like us and believe like we do.

Let me tell you about four congregations in Duluth, Minnesota, who believe they can write a new story of healing and reconciliation in their own city, even as they respond to the tragedy in Houston—alongside each other instead of apart.

Showing Up, Even Without a Hurricane

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas nearly three weeks ago, the entire country was laser-focused on responding to the crisis. Families, mosques, churches, and schools sent their love to Texas in the form of food, water, clothing, diapers, and tools. 

''Look For the Helpers.''

One of my all-time favorite quotes is by the sweater-changing, puppet-serenading Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

As the war with ISIS enters a new stage here in Iraq, there’s an invisible group of helpers that I want you to meet...

Moving Home After War Is Hard. But That Won't Stop These Brothers.

It was his nightly routine for years. After supper was eaten and the dishes washed, after the evening visitors had come to enjoy tea and conversation, after the children were tucked into bed and his wife began yawning, Sami moved through his home to make sure it was secure for the night. He checked the front gate to make sure it was bolted closed. He did the same at the front door, and then made sure the windows were secure.

After Harvey and Irma: How to Show Up

Image: NASA

Between Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it feels like our eyes have been glued to weather radar images nonstop for a month. More than 100,000 homes were damaged by flooding in Texas. It’s still too early to know the scope of the devastation caused by Irma.

Syria: The First Signs of Hope After a Three-Year Siege

More than 200,000 people have been living under siege for the last three years in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, caught in a brutal war involving ISIS, rebel groups, Syrian government forces, and at times, Russian and American jets.

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