In the Shadow of ISIS
By Claire Evans
06/26/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Today, though the threat of ISIS has been mostly eradicated, MBBs in Iraq still live in danger among their Muslim families and neighbors. Ahmed and his family were in immediate danger when ISIS invaded their homeland. ICC was able to relocate them to a safer environment where they can worship openly with other believers without fear of death.
ISIS invaded Mosul, Iraq in 2014. They pushed out 35,000 Christians who fled in the night. In the aftermath, the Muslim invaders came in contact with hundreds of thousands of Bibles and Christian books, and God’s Word never returns void! This was the start of Mosul’s Muslim-background believer population.
No one knows how many MBBs are in Mosul, but they are there, living in secret among the ruins of the past, hoping for a future. The artifacts of Christianity left behind, the brutality of ISIS, and the shame of some of the ISIS fighters are the fertilizer which has caused the Gospel to bloom in the hearts of many Muslims there.
Ahmed is an elderly single parent with two young boys who lived through the worst of ISIS’s occupation of Mosul. As an uneducated man, his job options were always limited. He served tea for guests at a local hotel—never realizing that Mosul’s worst guests were at the door. When ISIS swept into Mosul, everything changed. The violence shocked Ahmed.
“[I’ve] seen people thrown from a tower by ISIS; I’ve seen lots of slaughtering,” he remembered. “But what shocked me is when ISIS slaughtered a young man who cursed Mohammed, but they released another who cursed God. At this point, I started thinking and asking the question: is Mohammed bigger or greater than God himself? Someone came on his horse with a big sword and slaughtered the young man!”
The violence and turmoil left Ahmed in a state of confusion as he tried to understand what he was seeing.
All of the violence, hatred, and destruction were being done in the name of Islam. His worldview was crumbling around him, and he didn’t know where to turn.
One day, Ahmed passed by Mosul’s famous Clock Church. The militants had tried to destroy it, but a Bible lay in the ruins. Whether it was forgotten or overlooked mattered little. Ahmed brought it home. With that simple action, Ahmed was living under a potential death sentence for himself and his boys.
Ahmed began studying the Bible and listening to Christian broadcasting. It was incredibly dangerous. Ahmed and his boys converted to Christianity, but no one could ever know and they kept their faith hidden.
If they were found out, ISIS would quickly and publicly murder them as apostates.
A Church in Hiding
Liberation eventually came for the city as a whole—but not for Mosul’s hidden MBBs. With ISIS out of the city, Ahmed hoped that his extended family could finally know about his conversion. He boldly told his mother, but was harshly rejected.
“She is old, and I wanted to [see] her saved,” explained Ahmed. “That’s how my family discovered my conversion. I stayed at home for almost a year before they kicked me and my sons out after midnight in winter. It was heavily raining.”
Liberation wasn’t supposed to mean exile, but that’s what happened. Ahmed and his boys fled into a displacement camp, but it was like walking back into the hands of ISIS.
High barbed wire trapped people inside the camp where it was impossible to distinguish between ISIS and the innocent. Sound traveled easily between tents of cloth and the conversations he heard made it readily apparent that they were still in danger.
The Most Valuable Mission
That’s when ICC received the call.
Ahmed secretly told an aid worker that he was a Christian and in danger. The aid worker had seen Ahmed’s faith, knew it was sincere, and asked ICC to help him.
“I believe this work is the most valuable,” said ICC’s field team member. So many Christians had left Iraq, helping new converts live safely in their homeland is crucially important for the Church’s future. After securely verifying Ahmed’s story, we moved the family into a safe location. For the first time, they were openly surrounded by other Christians. Today, Ahmed is living publicly as a Christian without fearing ISIS. Life is still hard, but he is eager to apply himself evangelically.
Ahmed’s story shows how hope persists for the places destroyed by ISIS. Iraq’s converts are hidden figures, but slowly they are coming out of the shadows. As one local pastor said, “I feel myself monitoring the situation and meeting individual converts every day. Probably within the next five or 10 years, we may see a converts’ church.”
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