Iraqi Christian Dr. Rabia was rich. Very rich. Before IS conquered his village he owned three houses, many possessions and a lot of cattle. In a few hours he lost it all. Financially he is poorer than ever before, but spiritually he feels richer. “Because of IS, I have found Christ,” he admits openly. His mission: to share this newfound inspiration with whoever he meets and to help other Christians to stay in Iraq. And he is not alone; the ‘Jesus Lovers’ are there to help.
Would he think of leaving Iraq? Dr. Rabia is very determined in his reply: “Never.” The first period after he had to abandon his houses, his job as veterinarian and all his prestige after fleeing IS, he felt different. “I was ready to leave the country,” he admits. “I had my passport ready and a visa to migrate. But God told me very clearly not to go.”
We meet Dr. Rabia in a shopping mall in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He shows us how he and his wife and their five children now live in a very modest two bedroom apartment above a few shops. “This is all I need now. God cares—that’s enough.”
He sees it as his mission to keep Christians from leaving Iraq, by organizing them in volunteer groups and by providing them with housing and work. He even advertises on Facebook, inviting Iraqi Christians who have already migrated to Europe or North America to return to their homeland. “I guarantee them an apartment, a job and when the time comes, help to return to their villages as soon as IS is gone. Already several people have returned; they couldn’t fit in abroad. I’d love to welcome back any Christian who wants to return.”
The former veterinarian is confident in his faith now, depending on God in every aspect of his life. But up until two years ago, speaking with God on a personal level and being guided by Him were completely unknown concepts to him. “Back then I went to church on Sunday, but that was just part of life like sleeping and eating. Now I see that I lived my life sleeping because my faith wasn’t alive. I didn’t know Christ personally.”
He feels that God used the Muslim terrorists of IS to wake up the Christian people in Iraq. He puts it even stronger: “For me personally, I see IS as a gift from God. Without them I would not know Jesus like I do now.”
Amos coming alive
He shares how he discovered the power of the Bible while being displaced and how things started to make sense when he read Amos 4. He opens his Bible and reads from this part of the Scripture: “The Lord said there: I gave you empty stomachs, yet you have not returned to me. I destroyed your gardens, yet you have not returned to me. I killed your young men with the sword, and yet you have not returned to me.”
He looks up. “This is what’s happening in Iraq today—the message is that we, God’s people, have to return to Him. I may be a grown up man, but spiritually I am two-years-old; two years ago I was born again when I discovered what I just shared in God’s word.”
The doctor does everything he can to help Christians discover that as well and bring them closer to God. In very practical ways. He sums up how he, when he was forced to move to Erbil, connected to Christian leaders, asking their help to house displaced Christians. Thanks to him hundreds of Christians live in apartments now. Last year he even arranged for 72 new apartments to be built to house displaced families. And by connecting displaced Christians to businessmen he has arranged jobs for hundreds of unemployed Christians.
Through local partners of Open Doors, several of these believers have been trained in discipleship. Dr. Rabia hopes this will help them to stay in the country and not migrate, as many Christians do. “Together with the voluntary groups I will go to great lengths to keep people here by giving them perspective, hope and faith.”
He feels he can tap into an existing spiritual awakening among Iraqi Christians. “Many people realized that it was only God who saved them from IS. Who else will protect us? That has brought us back to the very basics of our existence here on earth. That is why I don’t need my three houses back. I see now that life is not about storing treasures on earth, but about living for God: building a treasure in heaven.”