Christmas was extra special for 13-year-old Noeh and his family this year. Like thousands of other Iraqi Christians, his family of eight had to flee Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. This Christmas is the first they spent back in their hometown of Karemles, east of Mosul.
Noeh’s Christmas wish was that he and “all the other Christian children in Iraq will get to celebrate Christmas in peace and not be afraid.”
Late one night in 2014, priests knocked on doors warning that ISIS was coming. Noeh’s family spent hours on a dust-choked road, clogged with others in flight, listening to gunfire. They lived in a camp for internally displaced people near Erbil, in the Kurdistan region, for three years.
They returned to Karemles this summer. Noeh said he was very happy to go home again, but when he saw the rubble and destruction everywhere and his own house burned out he was “heartbroken.” In spite all they’ve endured, his family and many other returning Iraqis are hopefully looking forward and asking for help to rebuild in their homeland.
They want to live in peace and dignity and, as Noeh put it, “for life to go back to normal.”
That hope for the future brought Noeh and his father, Haitham to the United States earlier this month to deliver an Open Doors Petition to the United Nations. More than 800,000 people signed the “Hope for the Middle East” petition on behalf of the Middle East’s persecuted Christians. They also met and shared their story with leaders in Washington, D.C., including Vice President Mike Pence.