In Iraq and Syria, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. These are our brothers and sisters who are risking their lives just to worship Jesus. If they are captured, execution at the hands of brutal terrorist is almost certain. Their death will often be broadcast around the internet recruit other violent extremists.
Before the wars, Syria was a place of open practice for Christians. They were a protected minority, who had little fear of of retaliation. Now they have fled to refugee camps. They keep their faith private outside of their church communities out of fear of violence.
Yet, in the face of this horror, they remain dedicated to Christ.
Almost 5 million people, including 2.3 million children, have fled their homes. Many families lost their jobs and resources, and children who were students are now wage earners, trying to provide for their families’ food and shelter.
It’s a risky life. Human trafficking abounds. Kidnappers sell boys as future hitmen, girls as slaves. Some traffickers specialize in harvesting the organs of young people for the benefit of wounded Islamic State soldiers. There is also the scary possibility of recruitment by the Islamic State
Ahamad is part of a group of families who left everything behind in Syria, and ran towards an uncertain future. Within the last year or two they left Islam and are now following Jesus. Many of the children work out of necessity. Others work because school is not a good option.
When asked why she is not going to school, eleven-year-old Zinab said, “Schools are expensive, and the ones that are free make you learn the Qur’an. I don’t like to learn the Qur’an, for I became a Christian. I met Jesus. He is in my heart and I learned His love.”
Hassan said he wouldn’t go to school even if he didn’t have to work. “I’m a Christian and I love Jesus. I don’t want to learn the Qur’an.”
These young believers do not want to compromise their new, but fervent faith.
There is also the very real difficulty of the children’s sense of identity. In Islamic countries, identification cards display the religion the holder was born into, and it cannot be changed. If a person’s card says Muslim, they are Muslim in the eyes of the law and must study Islam in school. This can be extremely challenging for children and youth who once were Muslim but are now following Jesus.
One youth expresses the inner turmoil she experiences: “I am a believing Christian, but my ID says I am Muslim. When I go to school, I wear Islamic attire and learn Islamic religion. I am living in two characters. It is my wish to live like my other Christian brothers and sisters… I want to be free… I love you, Lord Jesus.”