KEEPING THE FAITH IN IRAQ DESPITE FLIGHT OF THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS
In the summer of 2014, Open Doors spoke with Martin, a young priest-to-be who had just fled his village of Karamles in Iraq because the Islamic State (IS) had begun attacking it. Thrown into the turmoil, he started assisting a priest in caring for the displaced people of Karamles, a village near Mosul still controlled by IS.
It’s about a year later now. Open Doors workers met with Martin in a chilly tent in the middle of a refugee camp. While the people of Karamles share small apartments now, there seems to be little hope of returning to Karamles in the near future. The majority of Christians in Iraq are now thinking about leaving the country. Many have already left. Many Christians from Karamles are also planning to leave Iraq.
For Martin, this is another setback. After he had to say goodbye to his family that emigrated three years ago, he had to say goodbye to his village. Now he fears he has to say goodbye to his Karamles people, too.
“You know I am also a human, so I have many thoughts in my mind,” he says. “Sometimes I think: ‘How can I still be here while so many people are leaving. Who will I serve? Will I just serve the walls of the church which are just buildings?’”
Still, Martin doesn’t give up hope. Recently he received more responsibility when he was ordained a deacon. It wasn’t only a step in his personal life, but it also fed his people with strength to continue.
“I wanted to show them that it is possible for someone from the church district of Mosul, a refugee, can become a deacon, even in this situation. They know my family isn’t here and that despite the situation, I have decided to stay in Iraq with them. That gives them hope.”
The hope Martin is able to show comes from Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one he goes back to continuously.
“In moments of doubt, I put the image of Christ in front of me,” he says. “I remember that I am called to serve as He has served. When I do that, I forget all my worries.”
Martin doesn’t know what the future will bring, but he knows his future will be with Christ.
“Of course I desire to go back to my church; the place I grew up in. But if I’m called to serve in the desert, I can still serve there. From sand I can make a church.”
Martin is completing an on-line course about pastoral care that is provided by a local partner of Open Doors.
The people of Karamles are receiving food support in their camp through a relief program.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in northern Iraq, including over 100,000 Christians. Iraq is ranked third on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.