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Coming Home: Tragedy and Hope in Iraq

Last year, 68.5 million people around the world were forcibly displaced due to war, persecution or natural disaster.

It's the greatest number in world history - someone displaced every two seconds.

Rohingya refugees in displacement camps welcomed the presence of the United Methodist Committee on Relief after government militia attacked their villages, burning their homes, crops and places of worship to the ground.

With this and other well-publicized disasters, UMCOR delivered food, water, shelter, and long-term recovery assistance - working to return lives to normal.

Your gifts on UMCOR Sunday helps support lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere.

But many disasters don't make the headlines. They deserve our immediate attention, too.

Imagine being driven from your home by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - ISIS - only to return to discover your child's swing set has been booby-trapped with an explosive device. Thousands of innocent civilians have been injured or killed in northern Iraq after bombs were hidden in or around people's homes - in their toys, furniture and appliances. Laced with explosives, these everyday household objects became opportunities for destruction instead of opportunities for prosperity.

Since 2017, UMCOR International Disaster Response has partnered with the Mines Advisory Group to save lives and ensure a safer future for men, women and children affected by the conflict in Iraq.

The clearing of landmines and unexploded ordnance is taking place in Nineveh Governate, specifically the area surrounding Mosul, the governate's largest city. Currently, UMCOR is working to clear at least 300 acres of landmines, booby traps and other deadly items of unexploded ordnance in the Hamdaniya District.

 "The grant is important because in the first 10 months of 2016," says Laurie Felder, director of IDR, "5,566 civilians were killed and 10,392 civilians injured by explosive weapons in Iraq." Many of these civilians were killed or injured when they came home, having previously fled in fear.

When deadly explosives are destroyed, displaced persons regain the basic human right of physical safety. They experience the relief of returning home in peace, without the worry of violence being the first thing to greet them.

With each landmine removed from the ground, the state of "normalcy" grows in its place. As people reestablish their lives, their communities begin to rebuild as well. Crops are planted, and the fields produce a harvest. Roads provide safe passage for a child's walk to school or a mother's trip to the market. Homes are places of communion with self and others. They are truly sanctuaries.

For those in our world who are displaced from home by disasters of all types - ethnic conflict, hurricanes or even landmines - our challenge is simple but urgent: to stretch out arms of compassion.

For the past 80 years, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has worked to alleviate human suffering in all forms and serve the most vulnerable among us. I urge you to join them in this work, ensuring that all of God's children experience "home" as a place of hope.

Thomas Kemper, general secretary of Global Ministries.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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