‘I pray there will be no terrorists’—Iraqi children share their Christmas wishes

December 22, 2020 by Lindy Lowry in Middle East

“I pray that there will be no terrorists in this world, so we can live in peace.”

 

Eleven-year-old Fakhri’s Christmas wish gives us a stark reminder of what children in places like Iraq face every day. Since his family fled from Mosul seven years ago, escaping ISIS, Fakhri has lived in Erbil. The wishes of Iraqi children like him may not all come true this year—but your support and prayers are helping to keep their hope alive.

The atmosphere in the church is full of excitement and joy. A group of 17 children, between the ages of eight and 12, are standing at the front of this church, getting ready to sing Christmas songs. Some fiddle with their music sheets. Others patiently listen to Father Zachariah rehearsing on the oud, his pear-shaped stringed instrument.

The tree, the nativity scene, the blinking lights, the music—they make it feel like Christmas.

But some things about this service or church are less traditional. The walls are foam-core aluminum panels, usually found in a factory or a warehouse.

Meet the Iraqi children you’ve prayed for when they were just toddlers fleeing with their families from ISIS.

The children are here in Erbil, but their birth homes are far away, a place some of them barely remember. Father Zachariah’s heart aches to return to Mosul, 80 miles to the west. But Mosul is still too dangerous, and there are too many radical Islamic influences there to return at the moment. So he will celebrate Christmas here in Erbil, with these children and their families. It is the seventh year they will celebrate Christmas away from their home.

The choir sings beautiful hymns, with unique tunes and rhythms. They won’t be familiar to Christians everywhere, but some of the words, like “Hallelujah,” are echoed by Christians across the globe.

After the singing, the children talk about their greatest wish for Christmas. Their answers reveal the kind of world they have grown up in:

10-year-old Sam says, “I wish that people could live in safety and in peace.”

Nine-year-old Dima says, “I ask the Lord to protect my church in Iraq.”

10-year-old Lydia and eight-year-old Marina would like to live like other children in the world, in love and peace.

Since their families first arrived in Erbil, Open Doors local partners have helped support believers who were forced to flee ISIS– first with emergency aid and child-friendly spaces, and later with trauma care, education, and helping parents start small businesses.

Open Doors also supports churches in Iraq to provide Christian education for children—like a Sunday school that also runs during some of the school holidays. The children sing Christian songs and learn the original Syriac language. They also learn Bible stories, and they have the Kitabi club, which means “my book club.” The children receive a children’s Bible or read other books from the library, provided with support from Open Doors.

One of the children in the choir, 10-year-old Mark, says, “[I wish] I would be able to go back to my church in Mosul.” Only God knows if one day his wish will come true. But for now, you are helping children like him to continue to grow in their faith and learn to trust in God, whatever the future holds.

Please continue to pray for these children and their families this Christmas. Ask God to keep them safe, provide for their needs, and help them to truly know Immanuel (God with us).

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