Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State say they are not angry with God

© Aid to the Church in Need

An Iraqi Christian who has been on the run from Islamic State (IS) since June says that she and the hundreds of other refugees in Ankawa, Kurdistan, are not angry at God.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Suheila, an elderly Christian woman forced by IS to flee Mosul, said: "We've lost everything. The worst thing is that we don't know when or whether we will be able to return to our homeland.

"But none of us is angry at God. Fortunately we are all still alive."

Last summer Suheila had to run for her life, along with tens of thousands of other Christians. She first sought shelter in Qaraqosh, but in August was forced to flee again when IS advanced. Now she lives in a sports club in Ankawa. "This is a really big improvement," she says, "I am grateful for it. But in general, of course, this is no life."

When Suheila and the other refugees arrived in Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, four months ago, there was nowhere for them to go. Many of them had to sleep on the pavement and under bushes. The local church has been doing what it can to help them.

© Aid to the Church in Need

Father Daniel Alkhari, a young Chaldean priest who works in a refugee camp in Ankawa where more than 800 Christians are living, spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about their refugee crisis. "When the people arrived here they were totally traumatised," he said. "It wasn't easy for the people to cope with the fact that they suddenly had nothing and had to live in tents.

"The children in particular were suffering under the situation," Father Daniel continued. "They saw their mothers crying and their fathers yelling. Then we began to structure the everyday routine to give the children something different to think about."

The first school for Christian refugee children in Ankawa welcomed students to its classes in December, and seven other schools spread throughout Iraqi Kurdistan are due to open soon. This will enable more than 7,000 children to start going to school again.

Suheila's words to a group of European visitors in Ankawa were, "Thank you, thank you, thank you. May God make things easy for you in your lives."