A VOM worker recently visited a Middle Eastern country to meet Christian refugees who have fled conflict and persecution – and saw how VOM ministry partners are caring for them –
Ahmed* (not his real name) was brought up in a strict Sunni Muslim home in Iraq, but fell in love with a Christian girl. They married and his wife kept her faith to herself, not allowing her in-laws to discover her Bible. However, curiosity got the better of Ahmed and, thinking that the Old Testament and the Koran were the same, he began to read his wife’s Bible. As he did so he began to experience real peace and after a period of three years gave his life to Christ.
Knowing how his family would react if he openly declared his new-found faith, he too kept his beliefs secret – at least to start with. Ultimately though it was impossible to hide them in a community where lack of attendance at the local mosque would be noticed.
At first his family tried to pressure him to return to Islam, but Ahmed stayed true to his new faith, even when it cost him his job. Then one day as he was driving home he was stopped by three men dressed all in black who dragged him from his car. In the beating that followed his skull was fractured…
Christian refugees in northern Iraq are now facing the difficult choice of returning home to Mosul and other areas formerly occupied by ISIS.
The Islamic State group is now on the back foot, having been driven out of Mosul and other areas of Iraq and Syria. Christians who formally lived in these areas but who were forced to flee in the face of ISIS, now face the challenge of returning to their destroyed towns and villages, often with very little of their old lives remaining. Their homes have been destroyed, business ransacked, and churches burned and vandalized by ISIS.
Recent clashes between other independence forces and the Iraqi army haven’t helped, with Christians caught up in the middle and concerned about the future.
“People are scared because of the conflicting news and all that is going on, and Christians are the first affected as they are a minority,” explains a church leader in the area.