Battle for Mosul, Iraq Drives Civilians to Camps

December 22, 2016

Partially destroyed building in Iraq.
Islamic State militants have destroyed much of Mosul and surrounding towns as the effort to drive them out continues.

A 25-year-old Muslim woman's father, an Iraqi army officer, was killed when the Islamic State (ISIS) seized Mosul in June 2014. Her nightmare was only beginning.

Nofa* told her ordeal to Iraqi Christian workers at a camp where many of the more than 100,000 people displaced by the three-month military campaign to retake the historic, northern Iraqi city from ISIS have taken refuge. A pharmacology graduate, two years ago Nofa was dreaming of owning her own pharmacy as she remained with her mother in Mosul, mourning the loss of her father.

"Their great tragedy intensified when ISIS soldiers entered her house and raped her for two days," said the director of the indigenous ministry providing them aid. "Afterward she lived through the worst two years. She hated everything about Islam, seeing ISIS' actions as the embodiment of the history of the Muslims."

Members of the ministry team had occasion to tell Nofa about the sacrifice of Christ as they provided aid to her and her mother. Officials at the Iraqi- and U.N.-run camps deny entry to aid groups as part of a tight security system, so the workers must pass the relief items and the gospel through a chain-link fence.

"Once we told her about Christ, she raised up her hands to heaven and said with tears, 'Lord, I accept you and surrender myself totally to you; please pick me up from my sufferings,'" the indigenous missionary said.

His team of Iraqi missionaries has encountered many women who suffered similar atrocities among the displaced. In the course of sharing the message of Christ's forgiveness, team members have taught many abused women about the need to forgive, and that the healing process begins with forgiving those who harmed them, he said.

ISIS also targeted Christians in Mosul, which had large Assyrian and Armenian populations. A refugee in Jordan told an indigenous ministry worker that ISIS militants in Mosul took over the house where he and his parents were living, ordering them to convert to Islam and join them or pay the jizya (tax on non-Muslims) of $300 per person. Carlos* refused to convert or pay the tax. The ISIS militants took him to a location he did not know and hung him upside down by one leg.

"They tortured me by electric shock, beat me with sticks stuck with nails and bound me with barbed wire," Carlos said. "They put salt on my wounds. I was shouting from the intense pain."

The torture continued until he appeared in court, where a judge told him that he had to become a Muslim to save his life.

"I refused and said, 'If I die, I will die proud, because I am a Christian,'" he said. "The judge responded, 'You will be shot and executed on Sept. 26."

On that date in 2014, they took him to the outskirts of Mosul, but before the execution the militant in charge went to a corner to call a superior. He returned saying he had orders to leave the Christian there. Kicking and hitting Carlos, ISIS members threw him from a car, the young man said.

Native believers delivering aid to refugees.
Indigenous missionaries pass relief items through fences to people displaced from Mosul, Iraq.

"I tried to walk, but after a while, my bleeding wounds caused me to fall down and pass out," he said.

He regained consciousness in a hospital in Kirkuk.

"In Iraq, they could not treat my leg and told me it needed to be amputated," he said. "But then I went to Spain, and my leg was treated in the Spanish hospital through an organization. Thank God I can walk now, but I have nothing to live on here in Jordan."

The indigenous missionary in Iraq, who heads the ministry there assisted by Christian Aid Mission, said those fleeing Mosul in 2014 included many Christians, while those leaving now are mostly Sunni Muslims. The number of displaced people since the effort to retake Mosul began on Oct. 17 has exceeded the capacity of two camps the government put in place outside the metropolitan area, he said.

"There are very little resources, and there are children suffering cold and who have no clothes," he said. "There are families living in the open in the intensity of this bitter cold in northern Iraq. There are families living on one meal a day, and sometimes one every two days."

The ministry is able to locally purchase and distribute blankets, food, medicine, infant formula, diapers, clothes and clean water, and workers also pass mattresses and electric heaters over the fences. Many of the displaced have lived through terrifying trauma. Children arrive without any idea where their parents or siblings are. Women arrive not knowing the whereabouts or fate of their husbands.

In these horrific circumstances, the indigenous missionary said he saw the hand of the Lord working vigorously for the salvation of souls, using every ordinary gesture, word and prayer to attract souls to salvation.

"Through the distribution of aid from behind the fence, we were recently able to talk to about 80 people about Christ," he said. "A large number of them expressed great interest and requested a Bible, but with confidentiality, because the majority are still in a state of horror from ISIS. A number of them asked the Lord into their hearts and prayed the salvation prayer, and many women sought spiritual and physical healing from Christ."

The ministry team has found many children whom ISIS militants had brainwashed with its violent ideology. The Christian workers have taught them to love others, live in peace and accept everyone, he said.

They have also shared Christ with military personnel. After providing audio Bibles to a colonel in an Iraqi force charged with fighting ISIS in the Nineveh Valley, the officer gathered his soldiers around the indigenous missionaries to listen to their message.

"After we delivered the message of salvation, all the solders asked the Lord into their hearts, loudly repeating the prayer after us, and at the end the colonel told the soldiers that he had prayed that prayer and had asked Jesus to enter his heart," the ministry leader said. "He said, 'I have a strange feeling now I never felt in my life – I can't explain it, but I am sure the Lord did something to me.'"

The Iraqi army now controls nearly a third of Mosul as the battles rage on, and the number of displaced is growing by the thousands every day, he said. The needs far outstrip the aid, but the group shares what little it has.

"The harvest is plentiful, and there is much work to be done," he said. "We need very much your help and your prayers."

* (names changed for security reasons)

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444IRAQ. Thank you!