‘Thank God we are alive’: Iraqi Christians hold on to faith in face of ISIS persecution

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Andre Mitchell Reuters
Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from ISIS militants in Mosul, pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Erbil on Sept. 6, 2014.
Imagine yourself having to leave your home and all your belongings in the dead of night to escape from the hands of extremist militants. Imagine having to endure eight to 10 hours of walking in the dark as you seek refuge.

This situation has become prevalent among thousands Iraqi Christians being persecuted and threatened by the jihadist organisation Islamic State. Despite their hardship and the constant threat of danger, they are still thankful to God for keeping them safe and alive.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda bore witness to the strong faith of these persecuted Christians in Iraq. He supervises an archdiocese in Erbil located in northern Iraq, where over 100,000 Christians have fled to escape from ISIS capture, slavery or death.

“People come and tell their stories of persecution and how they were really terrified, having to walk eight to 10 hours during the night,” the Iraqi archbishop continued. “In the end, they would tell you, ‘Thank God we are alive. Nushkur Allah. We thank God for everything.’ That’s the phrase they end with. That’s strengthening, in a way,” Warda shared.

The Iraqi archbishop admitted that even him could not fully understand what God is doing in the face of extreme suffering being experienced by Christians in Iraq.

“I don’t understand what He is doing when I look at what has happened in the region. I quarrel with Him every day,” Warda said.

Nevertheless, he thanked Catholic organisations such as Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need, which are extending humanitarian aid to the persecuted Christians.

“(God) did it in a way that a state could not really offer to its citizens in such a situation. He did it through the church and through the generousity of so many people,” the archbishop said.