SECRET CHILDREN – THE HIDDEN VICTIMS OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
The letter in the mailbox contained a simple, chilling message: Yusuf and his family were ‘Christian dogs’. They must leave Baghdad within 24 hours, or their house would be blown up.
It was no idle threat. Most Christian families in Baghdad had already fled north, or if they had the means, left Iraq for good. Stay and the consequences were terrible: teenagers kidnapped, fathers murdered, women and children abused. So Yusuf started to pack.
His daughter Leah insisted on packing her children’s Bible. He tried to dissuade her. “You know that the road we’re going to take is very dangerous, with lots of checkpoints. If terrorists stop us and check our luggage, this Bible might cause us great difficulties.” Confiscation at the least. They might even murder them all. But it was Leah’s most treasured possession. So in the end he agreed, on condition that Leah kept praying.
The journey was long and tiring. There were several armed checkpoints. But, thankfully, no terrorists. Together with Leah’s Bible, they made it safely to a village in northern Iraq, where some relatives had settled.
A happy ending then? In some ways. With the help of Open Doors, Leah and her family are slowly rebuilding their lives. Her father was given a loan to start a shop, and business has been so good that he has already paid it back. But for Leah the wound is still raw.
She has had to leave the only home she has ever known. She has lost many of the things that children rely on: her friends, her bedroom and also her old school. In her new school Leah must speak Kurdish – not the Arabic she is used to.
But at least she is not alone. Many of her classmates have similar stories to tell. They all carry the emotional scars of living through threats, kidnappings, deadly violence and abuse.
With Open Doors’ support, a counselling team is helping her to deal with the trauma: she attends special children’s sessions to talk about and process all that she has seen and heard.
Her future remains uncertain. Will she stay in her homeland? Or will she, like so many other Christians, leave Iraq? Right now – with a new home, new town, new school – the firm ground under her feet has been swept away.
She has, however, one solid rock: her treasured children’s Bible.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY ...
Many Christian children around the world are forced to become refugees. Thousands end up living in refugee camps, far from home. Others have to move to different regions, different countries even, in order to be safe. The situation is acute in Iraq, where thousands of Christians have fled to northern Iraq, Syria or Jordan.
Around the world the secret children are displaced …
And in many, many other places.
RESPONSE - HOW YOU CAN HELP
Open Doors is meeting the needs of displaced children in Iraq through trauma counselling, emergency relief and income-generation loans to kick-start small businesses that provide for whole families. In Iraq and many other countries Open Doors produces special children’s Bibles, highly valued by children and parents.
Through the Secret Children campaign we aim to transform the lives of 10,000 children.
Financial support will help us to provide children with Bibles, schools and medical aid; train and resource teachers; support trauma counselling; and help protect children from the storm of persecution.
To read more of the stories of the secret children and to make a donation go to www.opendoorsuk.org/inspiremag
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