In December of last year, the Iraqi military announced that their nation had been “liberated” from the clutches of the murderous Islamist jihadi group known as the “Islamic State.” The announcement came after a bitter and brutal war of attrition, as coalition forces punched through the groups’ defenses and drove them out of strongholds such as Mosul and Raqqa.
But despite the obvious jubilation that followed the defeat of the murderous terror group, many Christians who inhabit formerly ISIS-occupied territory are still suffering.
The historical cities of Nineveh and Mosul are still very much feeling the effects of the ISIS occupation. Not only does the returning Christian community have to deal with the inevitable emotional and physical scars of such an experience, but many remain missing even after ISIS retreated.
“Our local partners report that more than 60 Christians from the Nineveh Plain and Mosul are still missing since the liberation of the area at the end of 2016 and the summer of 2017,” Christian persecution charity Open Doors stated on its website.
Many have returned to their hometown without their parents. It is a mix of emotions—elation that the terrorists have been pushed out, but heartache at the loss of those dearest to them.
Open Doors shared the heartbreaking story of a young man who returned to Mosul to find his parents’ home completely demolished:
“While 100,000 Christians fled the city in one night when Islamic State militants captured and took control of the city in June 2014, his elderly parents stayed in their home. Mosul’s entire population was given a 24-hour ultimatum to either convert to ISIS’s radical brand of Islam or face beheading.”
The young man later found out that his parents managed to escape before the militants had a chance to get to them—but after a little more than three years, he still has absolutely no idea where they are. He told Open Doors, however, that he has been granted fragments of information that serve as glimmers of hope in his search for his beloved parents.
On a recent trip to Mosul, he spoke to a taxi driver who informed him that he remembered having an elderly couple in his car—a couple who were stuck in Mosul and desperate to escape.
“Through tears, the woman told the driver that she had daughters and a son,” Open Doors notes.
After hearing this, the young man experienced a surge in optimism that his parents may still be alive. The taxi driver, however, is still completely clueless as to where the couple might be.
The young man’s parents, Adeeb Khedhir Qreshat and Najeeba Poules Hanna, are among three members of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul still missing since the ISIS invasion. Father Zakariyah told Open Doors that the third person is a middle-aged man named Nathem Sabty, who was living in Qaraqosh with his wife and children when the Islamic militants invaded.
“He moved with his family to Qaraqosh because of the persecution of Christians in Mosul the years after 2003,” the priest said.
When Islamic State came to the village in 2014, Nathem told his family, “Go, and I will follow you later.”
Tragically, Nathem didn’t manage to escape after his family fled, and is still missing.
“Their family members are eager to hear anything,” Father Zakariyah told Open Doors. “Since the liberation of the Nineveh plain and Mosul in 2016 and 2017, many have tried to find out about them, but we still have no information. We know nothing about their situations.”
Despite being treated horrifically by violent ISIS militants, many Christians have sought to forgive those who have persecuted them.
“We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us,” Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil declared in a recent talk hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. “We forgive them in the name of Christ.”
Please continue to pray for these families, that the Lord would fill them with hope despite their excruciatingly difficult circumstances.
(H/T: Open Doors USA)