Ten Year Old Girl Shares How Displacement from Qaraqosh Changed Her Childhood
A ten year old Christian girl from Qaraqosh named Helda shares the story of the night her family fled their home when ISIS suddenly overran her town, and how the experience radically changed her family’s lives. She has now returned home and is attending school, but like so many children who experienced displacement, she is unsure about her future. This uncertainty makes it difficult to begin new hobbies and friendships. The lack of stability has forced Iraq’s Christian children to grow up fast, robbing them of the opportunity of childhood. The consequences of this will continue long after ISIS.
01/19/2018 Iraq (Catholic News Agency) – Ten-year old Helda Khalid Jacob Hindi, a fifth-grader, is not at a loss for words. She is passionate about her life, her future, and that of her loved ones. Helda and her family—mom, dad and a younger brother—recently moved back to Qaraqosh on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains after spending three years in exile in Kurdistan.
She remembers vividly the night of Aug. 6, 2014, when ISIS overran her town and Christian families had to flee overnight.
She says: “Alarm bells rang out in our streets – we had to escape the living hell of violence and terrorism. I went along, crying, with no hope of ever returning to my town, my school; with no hope of ever seeing my friends again. We had no idea how long we would be displaced from our beloved city. The days passed and we lived in torment and tragedy until we got used to it.”
Eventually a new school was built for displaced children and Helda and her family began a new life. She remembers: “I was sad, clinging to hope of returning to my old school; but I made new friends. And today, by God’s grace, we have returned to our town and I am back in my old school among my old friends.”
Life in exile has been hard, perhaps particularly for a proud girl like Helda, who says: “we felt humiliated when we were receiving humanitarian aid, because we didn’t think that the day would come when we would become like beggars, oppressed people, with no power or strength.”
“We had only God and we never stopped believing in his power and his mercy for all those hurting in Iraq and around the world. Whenever we approach him in prayer and faith, we feel joy and confidence without end. My family, friends and relatives never felt that God was far away from us. As far as I can see into the past, God has been with me always. God is with me everywhere and I make sure to always keep nearby some pictures of Jesus Christ and a Bible.”
Helda proclaims she has her own ideas about her country. She explains: “Sometimes I want to stay in Iraq because it is my home, my beloved country. Sometimes I want to leave, especially when I see photographs and videos of terrorism striking innocent civilians. My heart cannot bear those horrifying scenes, but when I feel scared, I ask God to save me.”
“Frankly I’m not really sure about my future here in Iraq. I would want to go abroad with my family if we have to continue suffering war and persecution; how long it will take for us to finally be safe and secure? My message to the West is to do as much as possible to support Christians in Iraq because they are close to extinction. Help us. Have compassion, and you will be rewarded by the one who is in heaven.”
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