By: Avery McGowan
Shlama, meaning peace in Aramaic, is just what Noor Matti and his five founding board members of the Shlama Foundation are hoping to bring back to Iraq. The fall of Mosul had just taken place, and an ultimatum was given to the residents.
On July 18, the residents were given the options to convert to Islam, pay a jizya (non-Muslim tax), leave the city entirely, or die. Nearly everyone had evacuated Mosul before the day’s end.
When the Nineveh Plains fell into the hands of ISIS, more than 200,000 community members became displaced. It was clear that the needs of the displaced civilians were dire, and thus, the Shlama Foundation was born.
Based in Erbil, Iraq, the goal of the foundation is to provide humanitarian aid to Christian families facing persecution, war and other life-threatening conditions in Iraq. Emergency response resources, medicine, housing and community development are just a few of the many aids that the foundation provides. Founder Noor Matti leads projects in Iraq, while board members Ranna Abro, Chris Sesi, Evette Shahara and John David coordinate efforts throughout the United States and Canada.
John David, a Shlama Foundation board member from Michigan, said, “We wanted to create an organization that eliminated the distance between the homeland and the diaspora. It gives our people a feeling of connection back to our roots. Through the act of giving, we show them they are not alone.” Their efforts have brought hundreds of families back to their homelands and have given them a new sense of normalcy.
Providing a better quality of life and a feeling of connection are two of the foundation’s strongest values. The foundation also prides itself on its donation transparency. The process is simple: every gift received is displayed on the foundation’s website through receipts, photos, videos, personal video mentions and public donation listings. “We knew that the key to successful humanitarian aid was transparency,” David said. “Donors will know exactly who they’re helping and how they’re helping.”
Since 2014, the Shlama Foundation has raised more than $280,000 for the displaced Iraqi Christians.
Recently, the foundation was able to build a youth community center in Alfaf, which is part of the historical Mar Matti Monastary. The community center serves four surrounding villages. They have also furnished schools, provided toys and learning materials and promote cultural preservation by supporting cultural projects in Iraq.
“Shlama believes that Chaldean Assyrian Syriac people have the right to do what’s best for their future,” said David. “Our focus is to help our people survive in the homeland as they are the indigenous people of the country. What Shlama does is more than just provide aid to a community that has been neglected the past 2.5 years. We are trying to preserve our language, culture, traditions and customs in the region they have thrived in for 6,000 years. If our people cease to exist in their ancestral homeland, it will be the end of our language and our existence.”
Some goals that the foundation has for 2017 is to contribute infrastructure and economic sustainability to Iraq. Their long term vision is to provide schools, hospitals, and churches to the communities. The foundation is always seeking new donors and volunteers to help make these goals a reality. Patrons can sign up for newsletters, become monthly donors, and follow along with the foundation on social media.
For more information on the Shlama foundation: visit shlama.org.