Iraq: More Refugees Streaming into Kurdistan
Raja (her real name is protected due to security reasons) is a young woman from Mosul. For the last few years she has been living in northern Iraq. After the Islamic State (ISIS) took over Mosul in June and after the ultimatum they gave the Christians in July, the remaining Christians of Mosul also fled north into Kurdistan. Raja is helping in the Open Doors refugee relief program, in partnership with churches and other Christian organizations. Below she shares her most recent experiences.
More and more refugees are coming into our region. Churches are packed with people. Helping in the relief program, I hear a lot of their stories. The courage of an 8-year-old Christian girl amazed me. Together with her 6-year-old sister, she was sitting on a pile of mattresses and blankets, stored in a corner of the church where they are now living. Her sister was sipping a soft drink. Her mother, in her 30’s, shared their story. I smiled as the mother told how her daughter was the only one able to bring something back from an ISIS checkpoint.
“We slept on the roof as ISIS had cut off the electricity, so it was too hot to sleep inside.” At 1:30 a.m. shelling started and bombs were flying near our house,” the mother said.
They went downstairs to get whatever they could take from their house to leave Mosul.
“It was dark, so we used some small lights. We just wanted to run away to save our lives.”
Everything was taken from them at the ISIS checkpoint. The only thing the mother could hide was her wedding ring. She had put it in the diaper of her 10-month-old baby.
“We were all crying and upset, especially the girls and the baby,” recalls the mother. “My daughter cried saying, ‘mom, we want our clothes.'”
The soldiers would not yield. The girls’ grandfather, 80, who fled from Mosul with them, started to get angry, demanding that ISIS terrorists give everything back that they took from them. But the ISIS soldiers firmly told him: “Do not speak or we are going to hurt you.”
Then a soldier from ISIS took a new iPad that the father had bought his daughter recently as a gift. The 8-year-old girl couldn’t take it any more; she became angry and went down on the ground screaming. At that point, the ISIS soldier threw the tablet at her, while saying in a stern voice, “Take it.”
I have heard many stories about Christians passing the checkpoints, but I’ve never heard an ISIS soldier being deterred by a child.
Now the girl and her family have found shelter in the hall of a church in embattled Erbil. They were fortunate because some churches don’t have places to stay anymore. Friends that fled from Mosul came to our house last week. My brother called the church to see if they had any places left for them, but the church was full.
The church had 300 refugees staying in the hall already. It isn’t easy to escape and travel safely to the Kurdish region. Now people start worrying that ISIS will also attack us here. Some families have already fled further into the Kurdish region. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to prepare for the moment that ISIS will come here. I hope they never will. It is so hard and I need to pray and ask God to help. We really need help!
To help Open Doors and its partners assist the refugees in northern Iraq, go to http://members.opendoorsusa.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=101221&em_id=70981.0&_ga=1.144596412.865476695.1347478100.
Pakistan: Fear of Violence in ‘Long March’
Is another storm coming Thursday in Pakistan? Aug. 14 is Pakistan’s Independence Day. An Islamic group and the opposing body in the House of Parliament are joining together in what is called a “Long March.” It has already begun across the country with the number of protestors increasing. The fear is if violence continues in the wake of the march, civil war could break out. If this is the case, martial law could be imposed.
The groups which have been organizing the “Long March” are calling for mid-term elections and claiming that the current government used fraudulent means and poll rigging to come into power. There have already been killings, violence and protests across the country.
Pakistani Christians are concerned because of the fallout from the Middle East violence. Christians in Pakistan often suffer as a result of the intensifying violence in the Middle East, particularly hostility between Hamas and Israel. Christians are automatically seen as supporting Israel. There is also concern of copycat ISIS-type violence across the Gulf region.