Like many communities on the Plains, there are Christians in this town—but also Yezidis, Shabaks and Muslims. Just behind the mountain, a centuries-old monastery is a silent reminder of the historic presence of Christians in this area. The Christians here trace their lineage back to the days of Jesus’ disciples—Peter even sent his greetings to the church in this region in 1 Peter.
Dalia lives in a quiet corner of this town with her family—her husband Ghader, three young adult children and their white chihuahua. They have visited the monastery—a physical connection to their historical faith—but her first memories are of her grandmother’s garden, not far away from where we sit now. She remembers playing with her nieces and nephews, eating with the whole family, going to church together. They are beautiful memories … but they are now bittersweet.
That’s because Dalia won’t make new memories here with her extended family.
“I am the only one of my extended family that’s still here,” she says. “The others all fled Iraq because of the persecution.”
Dalia has known persecution as long as she can remember, but the most painful memory is the brutal murder of her uncle in the city of Mosul in 2006. He was one of the Christians killed by Islamic extremists to tell people following Jesus that they didn’t belong in Iraq. “During my uncle’s funeral, my father got a call,” Dalia remembers. “[The person on the phone said] if we didn’t give my uncle’s murderers a certain amount of money, they would kill my brother, too. So, we stopped the funeral and started to collect the money.”