SUMMIT, NJ - Seeking a way to help victims of Islamic State persecution, The Unitarian Church in Summit has raised $18,000 to support a shelter and rape crisis center in Iraq for Yazidi women who escaped abduction by members of the ISIS militant gtoup.

The women’s shelter, in Dohuk, Kurdistan, is the only one of its kind in Iraq's northern Ninevah region, said Yifat Suskind, executive director of MADRE, an international organization that supports grassroots women’s organizations in war, disaster and their aftermath.

As part of the fundraising drive, Suskind came to Summit and described MADRE's connection with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, which runs the shelter. To raise the funds, the Summit congregation contributed the proceeds of plate collections on successive Sundays in January.

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The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking ethno-religious group in northern Iraq whose distinctive religion is linked to ancient Mesopotamian faiths. For the past two years, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has targeted the Yazidis in its campaign to “purify” Iraq of non-Islamic influences.

Most of the shelter's 30 residents are under the age of 20 and have survived kidnappings and enslavement. At the center, they receive clothing, food and shelter, medical care, trauma counseling and basic literacy training.

The center's job training includes sewing and embroidery classes, so the women can find work in their own communities, Suskind wrote in a letter to the Summit congregation. “It’s hard for them to imagine now, but someday they’ll be able to use these skills to raise income and stand on their own two feet.”

For more information, visit ucsummit.org or call 908-273-3245.