Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being decimated by ISIS and other terror groups, who are forcing them to flee, convert, or face instant, brutal death. This month, we introduce you to some of these brave Christians as we launch our new initiative to Rescue the Persecuted.
It is hard not to gasp in shock when you meet 17-year-old Yousif. It is even harder not to burst into tears when his mother, who asked to remain anonymous, tells his story.
The family lived in a Christian section of Baghdad, Iraq. Many of the wealthiest Christian residents left after the Iran-Iraq war and sold their homes to Muslims. Eventually, Christians became the minority.
Yousif’s father owned a restaurant. He was forced to close it when Muslims refused to buy from him. He opened another restaurant in a different location and again was threatened by the Muslims.
“They told us that if we didn’t leave they would burn my husband alive,” says Yousif’s mother. “I told my husband to ignore them. We had nowhere to go, this was our home.”
This fateful decision changed their lives forever.
On the evening of May 23, 2016, Yousif closed up his father’s store and headed home. Unbeknownst to him, someone had cut the gas pipe on his mini-bike. Yousif walked the bike home, thinking there was a problem with the motor. When he got home, he tried to fix it.
“I looked out the window and saw three guys standing around Yousif’s bike. I thought they were some friends helping him,” cries his mother.
A few minutes later, she heard a horrible scream that will always haunt her. “It was Yousif. I ran outside and saw that he was burning,” she sobs. “The boys were not friends. They had thrown oil on Yousif and lit him on fire. They told Yosef that he was a Christian and didn’t deserve to be burned with clean oil.”
Yousif’s mother tried desperately to put the fire out. By the time an ambulance came and took him to the hospital, Yousif’s body was covered in third-degree burns.
Soon after, they heard that the men who attacked Yousif were looking for him at the hospital, so they snuck him out and moved him to a friend’s house in a neighboring town. They paid a nurse $200 a day to check on him and paid for five different operations. “After seven months, we had no money left, and Yousif was still seriously scarred,” his mother said.
On November 25, 2016, the family left their home behind and flew to Jordan. They were taken in by Father Khalil Jaar. (Father Khalil Jaar is one of The Fellowship's brave partners on the ground caring for these refugees.) Friends gave them use of a run-down, one-room apartment while they wait to be resettled.
Yousef, who is a handsome teen, is badly scarred from his neck to his chest and stomach. He is also deeply emotionally scarred. Other than a computer course he takes at Father Khalil’s school, Yousif does not leave the house. He is embarrassed by the way he looks. He sits in a beat-up arm chair with a small hand mirror sitting on the window ledge next to him.
“He picks this mirror up and looks at himself all day long,” says his mother in tears. “I try to tell him that everything will be OK, but his pain is killing me inside.”
“We have lost everything,” Yousif’s mother says. “I want to leave the Middle East and start our lives over in a better place. I want my Yousif to heal and have a chance for a better life.”