Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)
no crossAfter Islamic State militants forced them to flee from their homes two years ago, Iraqi Christians now living in refugee camps are still committed to stay in their war-torn country and help rebuild it, despite the terrorist group’s remaining threat.
“[Christians are] really recognized for reconciliation,” Open Doors’ Zoe Smith told Premier UK. “They’ve been referred to as the glue that holds society together in the Middle East.”
The Christian organization dedicated to serving the persecuted Church around the world over the past 50 years says that much news has been made about the exodus from Iraq at the hands of ISIS, but the Christians determined to stay are the uncelebrated heroes of their faith.
“We’ve been telling the persecution side for a long time, but we’ve not been telling so loudly the story of those who have chosen to stay,” Smith continued.
Many Iraqi Christians consider their resolve to stay as nothing less than a duty and an honor to continue the legacy of their ancestors Christian faith.
“I want my fellow Iraqis to know that we are not guests in Iraq,” one devoted Iraqi Christian explained to Open Doors. “Our ancestors built this country. Treat me as a sister, not as a guest.”
Working together with Middle East Concern and the University of East London, Open doors is scheduled to launch a report titled “Hope for the Middle East” in the British Parliament on October 12, documenting the findings collected from eight months of consulting local church leaders from Iraq and Syria.
The report gives recommendations to the government in the United Kingdom on how it can work to effectively act and speak on behalf of the persecuted Church in the Middle East.
“[The document lists] the contributions that Christians have made to the region and look[s] at healthcare, business, culture and welfare across the centuries,” Open Doors explained.
Faith under fire
A bitter anniversary passed on August 6, which marked two years since ISIS attacked Christians the Iraqi city of Qaraqosh and forced its inhabitants to convert to Islam or pay an exorbitant tax.
Still determined to practice his faith and spread God’s Word as one of the three priests ordained in a prefabricated church inside the Iraqi city of Erbil’s Aishty 2 displacement camp, Father Romi Salim Momika shared in an interview with the Catholic News Agency that his ultimate desire is for others to be encouraged in their faith. The priest would like for his ordination to serve as a source of hope for others living in the camp, which is mostly comprised of Syriac Catholics from Qaraqosh who have been refugees for two years after being displaced by ISIS terrorists.
The faith of Momika and other Christian leaders in the area have proven to serve as a powerful testimony to many.
“Around 1,500 people showed up for the ordination service, though the church only has capacity to hold 800,” The Christian Post reports. “The entire camp is home to approximately 5,500 people who were forced to leave their homes when IS gained control of the region.”
Even though ISIS continues to terrorize all not submitting to its control within the region, Momika is committed to stay and serve as a beacon of light for the local refugees, unless his archbishop sends him to another location.
“[My hope is to give these Christian refugees] power, hope and courage to continue their lives and stay with the poor people,” Momika shared.
Facing fear with faith
Despite a recent warning issued just a few months ago that it was likely that the entire Iraqi Christian population would soon be wiped out of Iraq, many Christians’ faith and desire to rebuild remains unfazed … and one Chaldean Catholic is quite aware of the risk:
“We are a people on the brink of extinction,” Juliana Taimoorazy, who is an ethnic Assyrian, told the National Catholic Register in April.
It is feared that if the global Church does not continue and increase its support of Iraqi Christians amidst persecution at the hands of ISIS, believers in the beleaguered nation will continue to struggle and diminish.
“Hundreds of ancient Christian churches and places of worship have been destroyed by IS throughout Iraq and Syria, while millions of people have been forced to flee as refugees, and entire groups have been killed,” The Christian Post’s Brandon Showalter informed. “Large Christian communities have also been emptied, putting an end to thousands of years of history.”