Hostility and violence has caused 6 million people to be displaced in Iraq. Now as Iraq is re-establishing control over its territories, families must adjust to a new way of life.
It is difficult to imagine what it must be like for families to have to leave their homes behind, staying in temporary settlements while war and acts of terror bring destruction to their communities. In real life scenarios, these families do not know if they will ever be able to return home or if anything would be left standing if they did. Yet in the midst of the uncertainty, some find strength from their hope for a better future. For Christians, their hope rests in the Lord, who is faithful to His children and will carry them through the conflict, whatever comes their way. In Him their future is secure, and the same God who protected the Israelites from their enemies and saw them through the wilderness thousands of years ago is there for His people today.
A MIRACULOUS RETURN HOME
Myriam, a teenage girl from Qaraqosh, Iraq, was merely 9 years old when her family was forced to leave their home and stay in a refugee camp in Kurdistan. Her faith was strengthened as she was reminded of God’s love watching the SAT-7 KIDS programs in the camp, and she touched the hearts of millions when she shared a message of wanting to forgive ISIS. It was one of her desires to return home and the Lord answered her prayers. Just recently her family was able to return to their original home.
She tells Essam Nagy, a Christian television producer who conducted the first interview with Myriam five years ago, “I’m living now in my home. I can remember all the great memories I had before.” She continues to say, “Our house was protected by the hand of God.“ Many homes did not survive the destruction of ISIS. It truly was a miracle that Myriam’s home was left standing. While much inside was in a state of disrepair, their family Bible was fully intact. It is clear that Myriam’s family has found joy in being able to resume their lives in a familiar place.
Some changes have taken place for the family, however, in the time since returning home. Myriam’s mother Alice now works as an agricultural engineer, helping farmers restore and rebuild their lands that were destroyed. A church the family attends was vandalized by ISIS, and it took the community coming together to restore it. All the churches in the area were torched, left desolate in the attacks. But the people of Qaraqosh, separated from their church families for the past several years, were hungry to come back together as the Body of Christ to express their faith and praise God for His blessings.
Essam asked Alice if she felt safe. She said, “That is something one feels in their spirit. If you are united with God and feel His presence inside, that is the first step towards feeling safe.” Essam reflects in SAT-7’s Sequel of Hope documentary that the peace the family is experiencing today was formed during the hard times.
WAITING FOR A BETTER FUTURE
Many families do not have the ability to return to their homes from before the invasion. Two girls named Bella and Sareel, who also grew up in the time since the ISIS attacks began and have an equally strong faith as Myriam, do not have plans to return to their hometown of Mosul, Iraq. Bella and Sareel are two friends who met four years ago in Iraq. By God’s grace, Bella’s family escaped Mosul one hour before ISIS invaded. Her family temporarily stayed in Kurdistan but decided to go to Jordan to remove themselves further from the conflict. Sareel’s family also ended up taking refuge in Jordan. It was three years before ISIS was driven out of Mosul.
Many refugees hope for the return of things that used to be a normal part of life–like school. Bella and Sareel hope to be granted visas to go to Australia to continue their education, which was interrupted during the attacks. Traveling to another country would give them a fresh start and create new opportunities they wouldn’t find in war-ravaged Mosul. Their faith sustained them through the turmoil around them and it continues to give them hope during this time waiting to get the visas.
PROTECTION FROM GOD
SAT-7 KIDS was Sareel’s favorite channel as she was growing up. She remembers in the midst of the conflict, before going to Jordan, she would dream about Jesus everyday. Sareel says, “Now when I think about the past, all I think about is Jesus.” When asked if she tries to forget Iraq, Sareel is adamant, “No. Never – never. The best memories are in the past.” She pauses. “Because I was always proud that Jesus was with me.”
Regardless of where a person is living in the aftermath of the ISIS invasion, people can take comfort in knowing God will never leave them nor forsake them (Deut. 31:6). Myriam reflects, “It’s not about the place you are living in; it’s about what you feel in your heart, what you see God is doing for you… God is always protecting, and you can count on Him.”
As you recognize the struggles and triumphs of people overcoming hardship today on World Refugee Day, you can take part in prayer and showing support for ministries sharing the hope and love of Christ with people around the world! You can help give hope to MENA refugee families by supporting SAT-7.
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