Because of the generosity of Christian churches and doctors like the one in this story, the city of Erbil (just over an hour’s drive from the devastated city of Mosul, Iraq) has been named a “city of light.”
Many people do not know that 60 percent of the world’s 25.4 million refugees live, not in camps, but in cities and urban areas across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many of the refugees in Erbil represent Assyrian Christians, driven from other parts of Iraq, though their faith has a history in the region dating back to the first century.
Driving through the undulating countryside outside Erbil in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq (KRI), on his way to see patients at a nearby Syrian refugee camp, Dr. Mohammed Issa is sanguine about the fact that any fees he receives will barely cover his fuel costs.
“Money is the last objective,” he says. “I want to help Syrians as much as I can. They can’t afford to come and see me – they are poor. I do home visits because I can’t allow a poor person to pay for a taxi ride to [the city].”
A general practitioner who now focuses on physical therapy, he makes house calls to mostly elderly Syrians after a morning of appointments at a private clinic in Erbil. He gently massages his patients’ feet and legs before leading them through exercises that he encourages them to perform each day until his next visit.