I’ve been working with the Bible Society in Iraq for a number of years, providing Scriptures for the pressured Christian community. I’ve heard and seen extremely upsetting things over the years, as life got harder and harder for Christians, but never have I seen and experienced the levels of heartbreak that are happening now.
Here are just two short stories of people I’ve met in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they fled to when IS took over their towns. (We’re providing aid, such as food, and bedding for the refugees, as well as Scriptures for those who want them):
I met a little girl
I was walking through a refugee camp when I noticed a little girl beaming at me. Her happy face shone out amidst the sadness around her.
“Hello, mister,” she greeted me, smiling broadly.
I greeted her back and asked her what was making her so happy. She asked me if I had any children and I told her that yes, I had a daughter a little older than her. She then asked me if my daughter had a bed to sleep on. I told her yes, and asked why she wanted to know. I’ll never forget her answer.
“For a whole month since we got here my little sister and I have been sleeping on the ground, without a mattress. I just want to live like a normal girl again, with toys and a bed and a house to live in.
“Today, I’m so happy because tonight will be the first night I’ll be sleeping on a mattress again! Thanks so much for bringing me a mattress…and say hi to your daughter for me!”
She turned and walked away, leaving me speechless and filled with questions about how we can stop the suffering of these innocent children.
A mother’s agony
Aida’s story is a difficult one to tell.
As IS forces raged through Qaraqosh, a town 20 miles from Mosul, Aida and her husband – both Christians – knew they had to get their children to safety. They arranged for their three oldest children to escape the city, but kept the youngest, a toddler, because she still needed her mother. For two weeks, they hid at home, eking out their food until it was all finished.
Then the militants came to their neighbourhood and announced on loudspeakers that all Christians had to assemble to be taken to another city. Aida and her husband wept as they walked up to the waiting bus, knowing they were saying goodbye forever to their home, neighbourhood and friends.
Then Aida noticed some of the militants looking at her daughter, who was in her arms. She held her even more firmly but one of the men grabbed the child and took her away. Aida and her husband followed, weeping and pleading for their daughter, but they were told that they would be shot and were forced onto the bus.
“It was the hardest moment in my life,” Aida told me. “I felt dead inside. I wish they had killed me rather than take my daughter from me.”
Devastated, Aida and her husband, along with other Christians, were taken away in the bus and ended up walking for more than seven hours to reach the safety of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they were reunited with their other three children.
Aida and her husband remain firm in their faith, and pray without ceasing, for their daughter’s return.
Please join me in praying for Aida’s family, and for others like them who have suffered so much. If you would like to give towards the work we are doing to support Iraqi refugees in Kurdistan, please contact your local Bible Society. Thank you.