Dalia(Photo: Open Doors UK)
Each day this week Christian Today is sharing stories of persecuted Christian women who have found strength in Christ to face incredible hardships. Today we share the story of Dalia, who is finding courage in God’s word despite the dangers of living in Iraq:
Dalia’s bags are always packed.
She remembers all too clearly the night in August 2014 when she and her family had to flee their home in the Nineveh Plains. After taking Mosul, the jihadist group Islamic State had driven Dalia and her family out of their town, along with thousands of other Christians.
Dalia is one of the women which anti-persecution charity Open Doors UK & Ireland is honouring by celebrating the way they have faced persecution with courage.
“I remember being so anxious,” said Dalia, a mother of three. “We left our house that we had spent years building and ran into the unknown, with not much more than the clothes on our back.
“In the refugee camp people asked me why I was smiling. I told them that we might have lost all our earthly possessions, but we still had Jesus and no one could take that away from us.
“The Bible says that those who believe in Jesus will be persecuted, and we know that very well,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean these events didn’t affect me – I was crying the whole way to Duhok when we fled.
“But the persecution made me cling to God even more.”
After spending years away, violently exiled from the area she grew up in, Dalia and her husband felt called to move back to the Nineveh Plains to encourage fellow Christians and build up the church again as a centre of hope. And despite the dangers Dalia is now bravely organising and leading Bible studies for other women.
Her town was a terrifying place to move back to when she returned in late 2017. The place of her childhood memories was deserted, its burned houses daubed with Islamic State slogans.
“Even inside my own house, I felt like a stranger, as if I didn’t belong to this place,” said Dalia. “It was excruciatingly painful.
She added: “Our bags are always packed, just in case we have to flee again.
“I am very strict with my children – I urge them to be careful. My daughter studies in Mosul, where kidnaps and explosions often happen. It’s scary.
“But it’s going to church and meeting God that gives me hope. I pray a lot and when I do it leads me to the Lord.
“Whenever I feel sad, oppressed or hurt, I cry out to God and receive a feeling of serenity in my heart.
“I always remember the words of the apostle Paul and repeat them in my head: ‘I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength'”.
As part of Open Doors’ Rise with Courage week, the charity is sharing stories of inspirational Christian women who have been courageous in the face of persecution.