This is Part 4 of a 5-part series of stories told from the perspective of refugee children. The stories are based off the lives of actual refugee children, but names and some details have been changed for privacy. The mission of Abba’s House is to welcome children like these into our care. Scripture quotations are NIV.
My father was raised in the Iraqi countryside in a large, boisterous Christian family. His childhood was idyllic and peaceful. I, however, was born into unrest. After Saddam Hussein was assassinated in 2006, the government put severe restrictions on freedoms, and citizens became fearful. My family really wanted to stay in Iraq, but there were rumors of ISIS militant groups raiding nearby towns. In the summer of 2014, the adults in my town planned a quiet nighttime escape. I was so little, all I can remember are the sounds of thousands of feet shuffling through the grass and dirt in a panic.
The day after we left, ISIS militants arrived at my town and found it deserted. We were well on our way to Kyrgyzstan, where we spent one long month there in a refugee camp.
Next we traveled to Turkey and stayed for one year in a rundown camp. We could not afford to wait for immigration papers in Turkey so we boarded a simple, wooden paddleboat with 60 adults and children to cross the Aegean Sea for a Greek island. What should have been a quick jaunt ended up taking half a day as our boat began to sink halfway across the passage! My dad started praying fervently. One of the men on board used his cell phone to contact the police for help, and, thankfully, they rescued us.
When we finally arrived, a woman appeared from nowhere and gave us food. My parents say they don’t know who she was, but I think she was an angel.
The next few weeks took us through Eastern Europe, and we finally resettled in Austria. Through this long and dangerous journey, I sensed both my earthly and my Heavenly Father holding onto my hand.
Facts about Iraqi refugees:
- Conflict in the Middle East has produced refugees from Iraq for decades.
- About 3 million Iraqis are displaced within their own country; 220,000 are refugees in other countries, while about 300,000 Syrians are actually displaced in Iraq.
- Currently many Iraqis resettled in Houston are coming on Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for having served with the U.S. government or military.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. –Psalm 91:11