Update September 2016: Open Doors have heard from the family that Christine is living with a Christian ladiy who was kidnapped by Islamic State (IS). The lady was forced into marriage with an IS-fighter and managed to take Christine under her care. The family urge us to pray for her return.
Open Doors met with Adya and her husband Khader in their cramped porta-cabin, a typical living situation for the thousands of Iraqi families displaced by the violence. They are currently living here with their daughter Basma and son Chris. When we spoke with Ayda she spoke with a distinct sadness, blankly staring forward. Khader is blind and for the most part remained quiet during our visit.
We found out from the family that their eldest son was about to get married, and the family was preparing for the 15 July wedding date. But it did not take long before Adya said with a choked voice, “My biggest joy would be when my child Christine would be returning to us.”
Ayda and her family were living in the city of Qaraqosh, when it was overrun by the militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State last year on 6 August.
Due to Khader’s blindness, they stayed behind with other the Christians who were too old or sick to run. Adya sent her three other children off together so they could escape but kept Christine by her side as she was too young to be without her mother.
For two weeks they remained sheltered in their home until the 22 August, when the militants rounded up the final Christians still living in the city. They did this by promising the Christians a ‘medical check-up’. Everyone was instructed to gather at the local medical centre and to bring their possessions with them.
It soon became apparent that there was no intention of showing mercy and the ‘check-up’ they were told of was actually a body search to ensure they had not hidden their belongings. They were brought here so the militants could rob them of anything they had left.
Ayda described the situation inside as chaotic. IS fighters walked up and down the line of Christians and several times pointed in her direction. Aware the men were talking about her, Adya held her 3 year old, dark-haired Christine close to her.
After any items they had brought with them – including spare clothing, jewellery and ID cards – were taken, they were ordered outside to a waiting bus. The bus’ windows were caked with dirt so they could not see in.
They were forced onto the bus and one of the militants, who the others referred to as Fadel, began to walk the isle inspecting each of them.
Adya recalls, “He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.”
Adya begged Fadel to hand Christine back but he did not listen. She followed him, fighting her way off the bus, begging for Christine to be returned. Without looking back, Fadel walked back into the building they had just come out of. Barred from entry and refusing to board the bus, Adya begged for her daughter Christine.
Moments later, the leader of the group, who the others called ‘the prince’, stepped out of the building holding Christine, who was distraught.
“The prince did not say a word, but only looked at me and made a despising gesture with his arms like he was saying, ‘Get out of my eyes’.” Ayda was forced at gunpoint, by another IS fighter, to get back onto the bus. “From the cruel look in the eyes of the prince, I realised that I had no other option but to go back. And so I did.”
As the bus drove off, Adya was able to see through a gap in the dirt covered windows, “The man holding Christine then walked away with her. That was the last time I saw her.”
Eventually the bus was stopped at a bridge crossing that IS was using as a checkpoint. Everyone on the bus was told to cross the river and forced not to use the bridge. Crossing the river with some difficulty, they began the journey to the camp where they now live.
A year later, and Christine has not seen by her mother. Christine’s fourth birthday was 18 July and was spent somewhere without the family who loves her. Attempting to get word on where or how she is is difficult. The only available channel is through people smugglers, but little information is forthcoming.
As the family prepared for their son’s wedding, the absence of Christine was sorely felt.
The porta-cabin they are living in is about to get even fuller. Their son and new daughter-in-law will move in after the wedding, having nowhere else to go, filling what little space was left. Like other families in this camp, Adya and Khader are receiving regular support from Open Doors through the church and local partners, in the form of parcels with food, items for cleaning and hygiene products.
Despite the situation, the help they are receiving and the support they have from the church is invaluable. Adya said, “Please tell everyone to pray for Christine and for us, as we are living in the hope that someday Christine will come back.”
- Praise God for the marriage of Adya and Khader’s son and daughter-in-law. Pray for the family as they adjust to the living arrangements.
- Pray for the family to be comforted in this time of unknowing, that they would be able to continue having their hope renewed in God.
- Pray for the men who are holding Christine that they would be kind to her and that she would be returned safely.
If you want to help families like Adya and Khader’s, please give to the ministry of Open Doors so we can continue to support them and other Christians suffering for their faith in Jesus.
Follow our blog for the latest stories, Like our Facebook page for updates and subscribe to our prayer watch to pray with us.
Sources: Open Doors, *BBC: 7 August 2014.