As he drove across the bridge, slowly following other cars, the scene unfolding around the pastor was complete chaos.
In the distance he could hear mortar rounds hitting their targets as hundreds of other displaced people streamed by one side of his car with whatever they could carry on their backs and hold in their arms. On the other side, terrified Iraqi soldiers were sprinting across the bridge as they stripped off their uniforms and threw their weapons to the ground.
The Islamic State (ISIS) had taken Mosul, and everyone was fleeing for their lives.
Inside the car, the pastor’s two sons were lying flat on the backseat to avoid being shot. As alternating waves of anger, fear and grief swept over him, the pastor drove on, clutching the steering wheel of his car, tears streaming down his face.
“That night was the most afraid I have ever been in my life,” said the pastor, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “Even now when I remember it, I think, ‘How did I do it?’ Only with the Lord, with His help.”
On June 4, after pushing through parts of northeast Syria and northeast Iraq, the Islamic extremist ISIS invaded Mosul, taking it over in five days and sending all Christians, along with anyone else who didn’t agree with its ideology, fleeing for their lives. Two months later, ISIS pushed further south to the cities of Qaraqosh, Karemlesh and Bartella – setting off another wave of displaced people.
The pastor was one of the tens of thousands of those who lost their homes and most, if not all, of their belongings in the process. Most fled to the town of Erbil.
“You have your life, you have your house, you have your memories, you have your country or city, you have your friends – everything, and then in one hour, you lose everything,” the evangelical pastor said. “You have to start from zero. But I can say for myself, my church and my friends – Jesus in our lives has made it able for us to continue. But it is not easy.”
Half a year after losing everything, with their lives still in disarray and the first generation of camp children being born, displaced Christians are asking where their place is in the world. Should they wait out the bloodbath in the Middle East, or should they abandon a region that some say betrayed them long ago and seek out a new life elsewhere?
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SOURCE: Morning Star News