Christians in Erbil Commemorate One-Year Anniversary
One year ago, on June 10, as the Iraqi army withdrew, Mosel fell, opening the roads for fighters of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) to overrun the city.
Through a partner of Open Doors in Iraq, a Christian man in his late twenties who fled Mosul during that night of June 10 shared his recollection of that experience. (For reasons of security, he asked to speak anonymously.)
“Last Friday, I thought of Mosul, because it was June 5, the day the curfews started one year ago. We were not allowed to take our cars into the streets anymore. For five days, there was heavy fighting on the other side of the Tigris River. I lived on the left-bank. On our side, it was relatively calm, but of course we were afraid.
“Of the five bridges that cross the Tigris, only one bridge was operational. The rest were taken down, because IS feared the Iraqi army would bring in reinforcements. However, to all our surprise, suddenly the Iraqi army withdrew. The news spread very quickly through phone and social media. Many Muslims in my neighborhood stayed, but Christians especially wanted to leave the city. Despite the curfew, we packed our car with the most valuable things like papers, some photos and enough clothing for two months, and then left.
“I think that in Iraq we have enough weapons, but no loyalty,” he continued. “While on our way out of Mosul, we drove side by side with the Humvees of the Iraqi army. At that time, there were only a few hundred fighters from IS, and almost 4000 [Iraqi] soldiers. But apparently, they received the order from Baghdad to withdraw.
“The way to Erbil normally takes about 1 hour, but now it took us 12. There were four checkpoints, but the first one at Kalak took a long time. For eight hours we waited in lines of about 3 miles long. The two-way road had become one way direction, and the cars were about 10 or 12 lanes wide, 6 lanes on the roads and another 6 lanes on the sides of the road.
“Later, I had contact with my former neighbor. He told me that in 50 minutes after we left, the neighborhood was taken over by Da’ash.” (Da’ash is the Arabic acronym of ISIS.)
While many Christians try to rebuild their lives now in Erbil and other places, they live with these traumatic events. They are often reminded of what happened to them and to their people, especially on the anniversary such as this one.”
The interview continued as he expressed his gratitude to God for His goodness to him over the past year.
“On June 10, 2015, we had a prayer meeting in our church. It was not a meeting to despair or to be depressed, but a meeting to also see the goodness that God brought to our lives and to count our blessings. I’m part of a small church, and they took care of us very well. I now live in a small apartment in Erbil, and I’m happy with that. I think I will never return to Mosul ever again. Or maybe one more time, just to sell the plot of land I have. Then I will leave and never come back. There are good opportunities for me and my wife in Erbil, so we are rebuilding our lives here now.”
Through local churches and partners in Iraq, Open Doors continues to support internally displaced Christians and occasionally other people groups like Yazidis. Distribution of food parcels is still needed, but Open Doors also support initiatives focusing on long term support of the refugees through training and job creation.
Father, even as we pray for peace in Iraq and Syria, and as we lift up our brothers and sisters who are displaced because of the aggression of IS, we thank You for the many ways You have cared for them over the past year, and for the testimony to us of their strong faith in the midst of uncertainty and trauma. We continue to pray for Your healing hand to be upon them, for Your comfort to surround them daily, for Your provision to sustain them with food and shelter, for Your Word to strengthen them for whatever circumstances they face, and for Your wisdom to guide them as they look to the future. May Your grace-filled presence bring glory to Your Name and draw many people into saving faith. In the Name of Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, Amen.