Relaymedia

Among Iraqi Christian Refugees Displaced By ISIS, 'None Are Angry at God'

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2015 04:25 PM EST

Iraqis Displaced by Terrorism ISIS
Since rising to power, the Islamic State has displaced thousands of religious minorities throughout Iraq and Syria in an attempt to establish a caliphate throughout the region.  Reuters/Rodi Said

An elderly Iraqi Christian woman who fled her home after Islamic State militants invaded last June, has said that she and the hundreds of other refugees in Ankawa, Kurdistan, are not angry at God for their situtation.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Suheila, who fled Mosul after IS militants threatened her with conversion or death, said, "We've lost everything. The worst thing is that we don't know when or whether we will be able to return to our homeland.

She added, "But none of us is angry at God. Fortunately we are all still alive."

Last summer, in the grueling heat, Suheila fled to Qaraqosh along with tens of thousands of other Christians, to Qaraqosh. However, just a few months later, the elderly woman was once again displaced after ISIS invaded that city, as well.

After arriving in Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, Suheila and the other refugees had nowhere to go. Many of them were forced to sleep on the pavement and under bushes.

Today, Suheil is grateful to live in a sports club in Ankawa. "This is a really big improvement," she says, "I am grateful for it. But in general, of course, this is no life."

Father Daniel Alkhari, a young Chaldean priest who works in a refugee camp in Ankawa where more than 800 Christians are living, said that the local church is doing all it can to help those displaced.

"When the people arrived here they were totally traumatized," he told Aid to the Church in Need. "It wasn't easy for the people to cope with the fact that they suddenly had nothing and had to live in tents.

 

Yazidi Children - Iraq Crisis ISIS
ISIS has killed hundreds of Yazidi children and buried others alive (Reuters)

"The children in particular were suffering under the situation," Father Alkhari continued. "They saw their mothers crying and their fathers yelling. Then we began to structure the everyday routine to give the children something different to think about."

 

In December, Ankawa opened the first school for Christian refugee children. Within the next few months, seven other schools are set to open throughout Kurdistan, enabling over 7,000 children to attend.

"A child is like a flower, we can shape them," Father Alkhari said. "We have to take care of them now; otherwise the next generation of ISIS could come from these children."

The priest added that he will continue to encourage Iraqi children to forgive the militants who have turned their lives upside-down, as Christ forgave those who persecuted Him.

"Through all their sadness and depression, they wanted revenge. I knew I needed to build a new environment for them," he said, "I just keep telling the kids you have to forgive. Forgiveness will lead us to so many paths."