A Palestinian among Iraqi Refugees

By Salim Anfous

During the past two years, I have had the honor to visit the Syrian refugees in Jordan several times. They have fled from Syria to Jordan because of the war that has been raging for the past five years. During our visits with the team, we had the opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters and feel their pain, because we as Palestinians have experienced the same kind of pain.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of 2015, I had the opportunity to visit a totally different group of refugees; Iraqi Christians who have fled from the direct religious persecution by ISIS. These refugees lacked the needed support and assistance even more than the others, since they were more recently displaced.

At the end of each visit that we did with the team, I was always surprised by the vast amount of love that they carry in their hearts. Through these Iraqis, I have learned the most powerful lesson of my life. I was humbled to behold the forgiveness and love that these refugees hold, even towards those who have persecuted and hurt them.

We heard many difficult and very painful stories of poverty, pain and degradation. These stories were even more profound as we thought about the drastic change of life that most of the refugees experienced. Many of them were originally very rich—ninety percent of them came from Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Their stories were all very similar: they all had to flee and leave everything in less than 10 hours. Most of them have lost contact with their families and friends, and some of them have lost family members or even their children.

I wish I could recount all the touching stories that we heard, but I will talk about the impact of these stories in myself and in the hearts of the team. We were deeply moved to hear that even after everything they lost; even after they were forced to leave their homes and their lands, and went through the most difficult living conditions, they continued to believe that without our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no freedom or joy. They continued to praise the Lord. It was so encouraging to see them blessed by God with joy in their hearts.

We live in a world in which hope is often very far from the eyes of those who are searching for it. The killing, the pain, the persecution and the lack of justice have become ubiquitous in this world. However, as I behold the spirit of hope, love and joy in the Iraqi Christians, I am unable to say anything else. My only prayer is that I would also learn to live with such a spirit; as it is the only way to overcome the pain of these days, and in tragedy to maintain hope.