The barrel of a gun against her head.
This was the response Sana received from an Islamic State fighter when she begged to remain with her family. He refused.
She never saw them again.
Image: An old picture of Sana’s family. (not the image mentioned below)
One of Sana’s most cherished possessions is a single photo. It’s a photo of her family attending church – Sana, her husband, and their three children, Tania, Tony, and Issa. The photo was taken before the Islamic State entered the family’s home city of Qaraqosh. It’s the last picture Sana has of them together.
Like many survivors of extremism, Sana has kept the story of her family to herself for a long time. But now, by finally telling her story, she hopes that one day, she might find her family again.
When ISIS Invaded
Image: A church ruined by the occupation of ISIS, Iraq.
Sana’s life changed the morning of 7 August 2014.
“We were all sleeping when I heard sounds. The sounds of people shouting. Because my husband was sick, I woke up my oldest son, Tony, and we listened together. ‘Qaraqosh is ours now’ they shouted on the streets.
“We prayed a lot together and promised each other to stay together. That was our comfort, that we had each other.
But it didn’t stay that way.
Soon, IS summoned the family to a hospital, where a group of men ordered them onto buses and began separating the men and women.
“They were dressed in black and carried weapons. They were scary. They shouted and they weren’t friendly to us.
“My oldest son, Tony was very nervous and worried about me. But when he asked the Islamic State men what they would do to me, they pointed a gun at him.
“That was a difficult moment for us. My boys were scared. We’d never been separated from each other. Issa, my youngest son, was so scared. The last thing he said to me was, ‘Where are you going, mum?’
“I asked one of the fighters, ‘Please tell me, where are you taking my husband?’ But he put his gun on my head and he said, ‘Either you shut up or I’ll shoot you in the head.’”
That was the last time Sana saw her husband and sons.
A Place To Find Hope
Image: Sana in her home, Iraq.
Sana’s story is just one of many. Countless others in places like Iraq have been separated from their loved ones because of their faith. Now alone, many have no one to turn to and struggle to support themselves.
Local pastor, Father Ammar, said, “People like Sana need the full support of the Church. They need someone to be close to them, to listen to their needs.
“They need someone to help them to find hope for the future.”
In response to the devastating violence and persecution, local churches in Iraq have chosen to become ‘Centres of Hope’, providing practical, emotional, and spiritual support to persecuted Christians.
Now, believers like Sana have safe places to go to meet other believers, receive biblical and trauma training, get legal aid, and even receive grants for income-generating projects.
With the help of Open Doors’ supporters, these centres are restoring hope to persecuted Christians like Sana, helping them to follow Jesus with perseverance and hope.