It was a hot afternoon in Mosul. When Amer* turned on his mobile phone, it seemed to explode with messages and missed calls.
“Haven’t you heard? You are a Christian. If you don’t leave Mosul by 12 midday you will be killed unless you convert.”
Amer’s heart raced. It was 11.30 am.
It was June 2014 in Mosul, Amer’s hometown. Islamic State, then known as ISIS, had swiftly taken over his city. Christian houses were marked with an ‘N’ for Nasrani – meaning Christian, and scores of Christians left the city right away.
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Thankfully Amer’s wife and four children were away on holidays when Islamic State conquered the city, and were safe.
Amer hadn’t left right away, he had experienced this before and wasn’t easily scared away. He grew up in Mosul and had noticed the tension increase. He was used to it.
“It wasn’t the buildings that changed, nothing you could see,” recalls Amer, “what changed was what lived in people’s hearts. Everyone was influenced by the constant wars. Around me I heard Christians being threatened to convert [to Islam] or leave Mosul. This was long before 2014,” says Amer.
“Around me I heard Christians being threatened to convert [to Islam] or leave Mosul. This was long before 2014.”
What Amer didn’t realise was the scale of these threats had increased in just a matter of days. He had missed the advertisement that was put on every mosque – calling Christians to convert, pay a high tax (known as jizya) or be killed. He didn’t see any of the announcements on TV.
His phone was off, so he missed all the calls that came in on his mobile phone. He nearly missed the chance to get out alive.
Amer had to make a choice, and he only had 30 minutes. He quickly read the messages on his phone. ‘Convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed’ the messages said. His Christian friends had warned him that paying the tax wasn’t a realistic option. It’s convert, or be killed.
Amer didn’t need long to think about his decision. “I don’t believe in Islam and I would never say I do. I am a Christian and I’d rather leave my house to terrorists then lie about my faith.”
There was just one option, one option and 30 minutes to do it – he left everything behind and fled the city for his life.
In the most nerve-racking 30 minutes of his life. Amer grabbed some documents, money and his mobile phone, jumped in his car and started the engine with shaking hands.
“I was afraid, yes certainly. But it was a huge relief that my family was already out, that they were safe. The only thing I had to do was make sure that they didn’t lose their husband and father.”
During the ride out of the city, Amer’s mind kept spinning with thoughts. “A friend had told me that the fighters at the checkpoints had become crueller by the day, taking everything from the refugees. They even took their cars and made them walk in the burning hot sun to the next Kurdish city.”
Approaching the checkpoint Amer made up his mind. He was alone. He could take risks. They had his house, his shop. He would not let his car be taken as well by these monsters. Knowing the Mosul area inside out, he took the bumpy and dusty roads leading around the checkpoint.
How he managed, he doesn’t know. But Amer didn’t see any Islamic State fighters on his way. He didn’t pass an Islamic State checkpoint. With his heart beating in his chest, his car still with him, he arrived in the next Kurdish city. He had made it. His kids still had a father, his wife still had a husband. “God saved me. He is the one who led me through safely.”
He had made it. His kids still had a father, his wife still had a husband. “God saved me. He is the one who led me through safely.”
Amer is now rebuilding his life in a city in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. He was reunited with his wife and four children and received food packages from Open Doors’ partner. He received a loan to open a music shop in his new city.
*Name changed for security purposes.
Please pray for Amer and other Christians currently displaced in Iraq.
- Pray that they would continue trusting God even in the uncertainty.
- Pray that those who forced Christians to leave including Islamic State as groups earlier than them, would come to know Jesus as Lord. Pray for God’s justice to be done.