Locked in a Room: Part 2
By Claire Evans
In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.
04/08/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Ali kept his faith hidden from his family for years. During that time, Iraq’s Christian population decreased rapidly, and there were no other Christians that he could develop relationships with. Today, Ali’s faith would still be a secret, had he not tried preventing an honor killing. When the family realized that Ali was a Christian, they came against him immediately with the full force of the tribe. He fled. The tribe visited every airport, checked multiple buses, and shared a public notice giving any Iraqi permission to kill Ali for his conversion. He was homeless, jobless, and isolated from every aspect of society. Though ICC relocated him to a safe location, it took Ali nearly a year before he was confident to leave his house. During that time, anxiety attacks were a common occurrence, as he often thought he recognized faces on the streets.
Looking back on this experience, Ali says that “I think the isolation could be for good even for MBBs in many ways. It could be evangelism in a practical way in times of crisis when people’s hearts would be more open to any spiritual words. But it also could be for bad if the parents found out something, fleeing is impossible.”
Ahmed had a similar experience. He converted to Christianity in Mosul during the height of ISIS’s control over the city. Their open genocide against Christians kept Ahmed hiding indoors. He remembers, “(I’ve) seen people thrown from a tower by ISIS. I’ve seen lots of slaughtering.”
No one could know that he left Islam, and ISIS forced everyone to comply with their own strict interpretation. He kept it a secret throughout the whole occupation of Mosul but told his mother afterward. “When I went back to Mosul, I started talking to my mom as she is old, and I wanted to save her,” explains Ahmed. “That’s how my family knew about my conversion.” When the family responded harshly, he went into hiding in the only other place available for a Mosul citizen: a camp for internally displaced persons.
These camps wear the hallmarks of a ghetto. High wire surrounds the facility; movement is monitored. Everyone lives inside tents of canvas packed closely together; sound travels easily. Ahmed moved into this camp with his two young sons. He wanted his sons to grow in their Christian faith, but talking about it even while at “home” posed a security risk. ISIS was likely in the camp, but it was impossible to know who all had pledged allegiance to the terrorists. Ahmed had no way of knowing who was listening to family conversations. The stress forced the family into a type of self-isolation from each other.
Ahmed, Ali, Mary, and Mohammad—each of these individuals ICC helped rescue. For some, it was through relocation. For others, it was through the provisions of basic supplies, like beds and blankets. The church in the Middle East is growing rapidly through converts, and they know what it means to be condemned to a life of isolation for no other reason than having become Christian.
For those who find themselves temporarily isolated because of the virus, these converts offer their own words of advice for how to persevere and spiritually grow during this time.
As one Iraqi says, “When I came to know Christ many years ago, I was growing on my faith through attending services and listening to the word of God. But due to life and business, I couldn’t read and listen to the word of God. This epidemic helped me to go back. Even I am worried about the future of (Iraq), but I believe in the blood of Christ.”
“God knows our needs and responds to us very quickly. I met with God many years ago, and he isn’t changed,” encourages an Egyptian MBB.
Today, the world may look like chaos from the shelter of home. But it is an environment many MBBs already have some kind of experience with. An Iraqi pastor offers his own advice for these days, “It is time to talk to people through internet. I can’t stop doing discipleship with MBBs. Quarantine gives me chance to give them more homework and more bible studies. By the time when the quarantine is over, they will be ready to go to the world as faithful Christians.”