The plight of Christians in the Middle East was the focus of an educational and fundraising event in Denver on Friday, in which two Christian refugees from a city near Mosul told of their escape from Islamic State militants.
The Sept. 18 Assembly of Hope and Mercy was hosted by Regis University.
A young Iraqi woman recounted her Aug. 14, 2014 escape from Bakhdida, 20 miles southeast of Mosul, when Kurdish troops defending the town from Islamic State attack abruptly withdrew.
Fearing a massacre, the Christians fled on foot; many, like her father, without money or identification. As they walked all the next day to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, more than 40 miles away, the temperature hit 115 degrees.
“It was the road of death, face to face with death,” she said. An ambulance approached those in flight, a welcomed sight, but it contained Islamic State militants who opened fire.
When the refugees did arrive in Erbil they had to sleep out in the open, on streets and in public places.
The young woman pleaded “You, the people of freedom, save my friends, especially the little girls and those who are sex slaves” to the Islamic State.
She said girls used to dream of getting an education.
“Now, they dream of any man who will present himself for marriage and has a passport, so they can get out … and make it to the land of safety … I ask you, save us.”
Another Iraqi refugee from Bakhdida, a married woman with children, said, “Here in America, I’m in a country that can save me; it’s a secure country that can protect me and protect my children … in Iraq there’s no more place (for Christians), we can’t survive, we can’t live. My wish and my only request that I can bring my husband and two children who are in the camp in Beirut … because I hope my daughter (who wears leg braces) can receive treatment in the United States.”
According to the refugee, when the Islamic State overtook Bakhdida, the forces were not only foreigners, but included Sunni inhabitants of the city. She maintained that this imperils the future of Christianity in Iraq.
The educational event was sponsored by Save Christians in the Middle East, a group of religious, business, and community partners whose goal is to provide immediate support to these endangered Christians.
By Tom Uebbing