Eric Johnson

Hotel Tur Abdin, Midyat, Turkey

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good.   Call it serendipity, or the work of the Holy Spirit: a chance meeting with a team from World Hunger, Germany.

We stopped at the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Mardin to make a courtesy call with the Bishop  on our way to Mardin and the refugee camp located next to Mor Abraham monastery.

At lunch at a past parishioner of Fr. Dale we just happened to bump into Ulrike Dufner, the team leader of effort being undertaken by the German nonprofit Wert Huner Hilfe, to provide for the refugee’s education for children, health and warmth,, a cash card system and advice. (

Ulrike was very excited to hear about the Seeds of Hope- Nineveh program. This was, she said, precisely what was needed by the refugees. Not only was it a means of bettering the nutrition needs of those in the camps (lots of rice and other carbs), it also provided a means to the next step in leaving the refugee camps in Iraq with hope for a better life.

The Bad.  Or visit with the refugees (Yazidis and Muslims) in the refugee camp at Mor Abraham was postponed as we awaited the final approval of the local governor. He hasn’t yet said, “No,” but based on what I know about Middle-Eastern bureaucracy, no one every gives a flat-out refusal, but we’ll never get an approval, either.

The Ugly.  The road to our next stop at the monastery at Mor Gabriel, Fr. Dale’s home before he moved to Mor Augin. Unfortunately, the road was blocked by the Turkish

Staying in the car, where I belong...
Staying in the car, where I belong…

Army who were facing a crowd of Kurdish Iraqis who were protesting the recent Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, the closing of the border crossing at Jizreh, and the deaths that occurred in the crossfire.  So it was back to Mor Abraham, where we spent the night at a hotel in Mardin.

Fr. Dale met with a group of German reporters very early this morning. They have heard some reports that the border crossing should be open soon. (They’re here to cover that).  We have their cards, and they will keep us updated.


Diyarbakir, Turkey

We’re in the Hotel Karavansary, on the old Silk Road, a hotel built right into the basalt walls of the Byzantine fortifications built by Julian the Apostate.

Dale and our room's entry door
Dale and our room’s entry door

Diyarbakir is the city where we’ve just purchased seeds for the refugees. It is also, at the same time, one of the early-20th century killing zones of Christians and well as the present-day unofficial capital, apparently, of Kurdistan.

First the seeds: After consultations with those who routinely cross the border, Fr. Dale was told that the customs agents on both sides would be suspicious of a tourist party carrying a thousand pounds of seeds in which could easily be hidden a wide variety of illegal substances.

Fr Dale determined that the best course would be to have a commercial trucking company haul the seeds, and we would bring a variety of samples of what the big haul contains.

This afternoon’s shopping, then was to pick up the samples of the larger haul and package the samples for distribution.

Fr. Dale purchasing seeds
Fr. Dale purchasing seeds

We’re also hearing reports that the Turks have escalated their military maneuvers against the PKK Kurds. We understand that there were some hostilities at the border crossing yesterday, and Fr. Dale’s people are keeping a close eye on that. It worse comes to worse, we may be obliged to take a plane across the border.

Packing seeds
Packing seeds

The Turks have taken the opportunity—as they join the coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIS—to resume their air campaign against the PKK. Sadly, the PKK had laid down their arms two years ago in an armistice with the Turks, but apparently, the Turks considered an opportunity to drop bombs on their old adversaries an opportunity they could ill afford to pass on.

Continue reading “Diyarbakir, Turkey”

Preparing for Takeoff – Seeds of Hope-Nineveh

Seeds of Hope - Nineveh logo. The Arabic Letter
Seeds of Hope – Nineveh logo. The Arabic Letter “N” (in red) stands for “Nazarenes” and is the letter the Islamic State paints on the sides of Christian Houses; above the cross, sprouting seeds of hope.

My Bags Aren’t Packed, but I’m Ready to Go.

Fr. Dale Johnson, is no stranger to refugee crises.

This Syriac Orthodox priest has aided the UN High Commission on Refugees all over the world—in South Africa, Mongolia, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Fr. Dale now resides most of the year at the Mor Augin Monastery in eastern Turkey, where yet another refugee crisis moved into the neighborhood, right across the Iraqi border, in Dohuk.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians have escaped the genocide of the Islamic State and are massed in the hills (and even abandoned shopping malls) around Kurdish-controlled area of Dohuk.Dohuk Camp

The Islamic State seems to be hell-bent (truly!) on eliminating all the minority religious peoples out of the region. Now, for the first time since the time of the apostles, we fear that those Christians who speak the Aramaic language (the language of Jesus and his disciples) will disappear from the Middle East. Continue reading “Preparing for Takeoff – Seeds of Hope-Nineveh”

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