During a recent interview at Breakaway, an incredible student ministry at Texas A&M University, Jeff Johnson asked me to share the perspective of Christians who have been forced to flee from ISIS. You can watch the entire interview here.
Jeff’s specific question was about the response of Christians who are living in the midst of this ongoing conflict and mass displacement.
All I could say was that I have been stunned by their response! Of course, these displaced Christians are still human, and everyone responds differently to trauma.
Some of those who have been forced to flee are struggling with bitterness and have been hardened by the suffering they have witnessed, or personally experienced.
Others are still in the early stages of grief and nothing seems to make sense to them right now.
But, I have definitely met face-to-face with followers of Jesus who are incredibly joyful — in spite of the suffering. In fact, the more mature believers, those who really have an eternal perspective, are nothing short of inspirational! There is a purity and depth to their faith that is remarkable.
Here is a clear example: A few weeks ago, I met a fourth-year engineering student at Mosul University. He lost every hard-earned college credit and was forced to flee for his life. His university has been completely radicalized. The Mosul University library was specifically targeted by ISIS and volumes from the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers was burned. Some of the oldest works in the Mosul University dated back to 5000 B.C. but they were quickly turned into ashes.
This former engineering student told me that he was given three options: Convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant “jizya” fee, or be killed.
In this one-minute video, you can listen to him share his story in his own words.
God’s grace has been obviously manifested in many of these believer’s lives — there is simply no other explanation for their mature response.
Have you ever wondered how someone could unflinchingly face death for their faith?
I am convinced that the only way anyone can respond well to severe persecution is by the supernatural grace of God.
In the video, you will hear this young man say, “They gave us three choices. The first one is to be a Muslim, the second is to pay, or, if we refuse, they will kill us.” This is exactly what thousands of Christians in the region are reporting.
But, what really struck me as I interviewed this particular young man was the “matter-of-factness” with which he reported these options. In the video you will see him gently nod his head as he says, “Or, they will kill us.”
And then he shrugs slightly, and continues: “It is so difficult. We are Christian. They took all our homes…we lost everything.”
A Christian friend, who was also forced to flee, sits beside him and jumps in to the conversation at this point to assure me with, “But we didn’t lose our faith!”
The young man continues, “We are so proud, because we are still in this faith.”
“We are still in this faith. We lost everything because Jesus deserves it. Jesus deserves all that.”
And then he smiles, with confidence, determination and eternal perspective shining through his eyes.
Are you willing to give up everything to follow Jesus?
Dr. Jason Peters oversees Global Partnerships and travels frequently to meet with our persecuted sisters and brothers. He has ministered in 38 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Sudan, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Jason ministered as a military chaplain for more than 18 years, with assignments at the Pentagon, the US Air Force Academy and as a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. Jason and his wife Kimberly lived overseas for several years, where two of their five children were born.