Westminster student raises money for relief in Iraq

Abdullah Al-Hadeethi hasn’t been home to Iraq since the summer after his freshman year at Westminster College.

Despite that long absence, Al-Hadeethi — who graduated in May and currently is a Westminster Fellow — still has strong connection to his native country and receives frequent updates from family on what is happening there.

Thousands of Christians and Yazidis have been displaced by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in recent weeks, the United Nations has declared a state of emergency, and Al-Hadeethi wants to do what he can to help.

He is asking area residents to help him raise up to $1,000 to be given to UNICEF for its Iraqi relief efforts by early September.

“We may not be able to stop the fighting, but we may be able to provide a bottle of water and a piece of bread that could save someone’s life,” Al-Hadeethi wrote in a letter making his appeal to Westminster students and staff. “Every dollar counts.”

In an interview with the Fulton Sun, Al-Hadeethi, who majored in international studies, business and trans-national studies, described the situation in his homeland as “a major humanitarian crisis.”

He said his aunt who lived in Haditha — which he said has been divided between the army and ISIS — fled with her family to stay with his family, with no idea when it might be safe to return home.

Al-Hadeethi said he chose UNICEF because the organization is already established there.

“Basically UNICEF is able to reach the northern part of Iraq, they’ve been able to do food drops and provide water, vaccinations and psychiatric care for the kids,” he said. “Ninety-one percent of donations to go the cause and they have people working on the ground.”

Himself a Muslim, Al-Hadeethi said the ISIS forces working in Iraq “do not represent Islam, nor do they represent any other religion.”

“No religion stands for the killing and torture of innocent children, women and men,” he said. “This is not what Islam is about. No one should be persecuted.”

Al-Hadeethi said he wants local residents to keep an open mind and “not judge an entire religion or region by what one group does.”

He also asked for prayers for peace.

Anyone wishing to contribute to Al-Hadeethi’s efforts can contact him at (573) 592-9665 or at Abdullah.Al-Hadeethi@Westminster-Mo.edu. He said they also can make checks payable to Westminster College with UNICEF fundraiser written in the memo line — the money will be given to Westminster and the school will make one big donation online.

Katherine Cummins can be reached at (573) 826-2418 or katherine@fultonsun.com.

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