A Widow In A Heartbeat

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By Carlos Aguilera | 3 April 2017
The very first person I met inside a refugee camp was a woman by the name of Rahana.* Rahana was from Mosul and she fled when Islamic State gained control.

Rahana told me of the day her life completely changed. She was at home with her family, watching state news on TV about the Islamic State's progress toward Mosul. She told me that the report said that the Islamic State were two weeks away. When Rahana and her family heard the news, they were afraid but still felt a sense of calm, knowing they had enough time to prepare and leave. Little did they know, the Islamic State had paid the state news to misreport their progress. They were not two weeks away. They were two hours.  

That day, the Islamic State took over the region and went through town after town destroying everything they could.

When the Islamic State came to her part of Mosul, Rahana and her family were called from their home. All men, women and children were forced to line up on the street. Women and children on one side. Men on the other. Then came the questions.

The women were asked if they were Nazarenes (followers of Jesus).

"Yes." Rahana answered. She told me she answered truthfully because she wanted to give glory to her saviour.

"Are you married?" they asked.

"Yes." she said. Because she wanted to give honour to her husband.

"Point him out."

The man who had questioned her walked over to the man she had pointed to. Without saying a word, he shot Rahana's husband in the head. Rahana became a widow in a heartbeat.

Every other woman in that camp shared the same story with me. Many of them had become widows at the hands of the Islamic State. When we were getting ready to leave camp, I broke protocol and went back and asked Rahana what I could pray for (it's not normal in that culture for a man to ask a woman if he could pray for her.) I had already assumed what she would say; "Pray for me so that I might get out of here,' or, 'Pray that my family can get more food to eat, and clothes to wear.' But she didn't ask for any of that.

Rahana's response was one of the hardest things I've ever been asked to pray for.

"Pray for ISIS," she said. "No bomb will ever change their hearts."

I walked away, wrestling with her words. I knew that I was not strong enough to pray that prayer. I still don't know if I am.

Rahana now lives in Amman, Jordan. The photo below (Rahana is wearing the yellow t-shirt) is from inside the refugee camp where Rahana, her family, and other displaced families live. It's an abandoned church building that Open Doors' partners now use to house refugees. Each ‘room’ is the size of a double mattress and is shared by an entire family. There are 24 families living here in total. They all share a single bathroom.

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*Name changed for security purposes

This post was written by Carlos Aguilera, an Open Doors Australia worker, when he was in Jordan running for the Muskathlon