The image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach was everywhere in September; it was all over social media, the cover story in the papers, and headline news on the telly. That image shocked us all. We know horror and tragedy are constantly played out, but this was right in our faces; the refugee crisis now had a face, a name, and it was no longer something we could ignore.
The grim reality is that Aylan Kurdi is not the only 3 year old to have lost his life to the conflict in the Middle East. There are thousands of children, like him, innocent victims of war and brutal injustice and their stories also deserve our attention. Sadly it’s too late to help Aylan Kurdi, but there’s still time to help those trapped inside Iraq and Syria; children who have had their lives put on pause and those who have had their childhood ripped from them.
I heard a heartbreaking story of another 3 year old…
In August 2014 Christine was snatched from the arms of her mum by Islamic State fighters. Her home town in northern Iraq on the Ninevah Plain (where Christians have lived for centuries) was taken over by Islamic State fighters who ‘cleansed’ the town of its Christian community literally overnight.
Ayda, Christine’s mum, remembers having Christine ripped from her arms. The family were ordered onto a bus. She replays the horrifying moments in her mind, pain etched across her face: “Then one of the IS came and inspected the people on the bus. He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.”
Ayda ran after the man, begging him to return her daughter, but he did not listen. Christine was taken into a building.
He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.
Ayda pleaded and cried for the return of her daughter, but he would not listen. Suddenly an older, heavily-bearded man stepped out of the building, carrying Christine in his arms. He appeared to be the leader of the group. Christine was crying. Ayda was crying too, still begging for her return.
“The man 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,” recalls Ayda.
At gunpoint, Ayda was forced by another IS fighter to get onto the bus again.
“From the cruel look in the eyes of the man, I realized that I had no other option but to go back. And so I did. The man holding Christine then walked away with her. That was the last time I saw her.”
Then the bus drove off.
Christine is now 4 and sadly there is no good news, there is no happy ending. Christine’s mum and dad are receiving regular support from Open doors through the church and local partners and the family have asked us to tell Christine’s story.
“Please tell everyone to pray for Christine and for us, as we are living in the hope that someday Christine will come back.”
For me persecution in Iraq and Syria has a face, and a name – Christine’s. And I can’t ignore it. There are so many stories like hers. You might feel totally overwhelmed reading Christine’s story, but use your thoughts and emotions to pray and cry out to God – the God who sees and the God who hears.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.