Mimi was four years old when she and her family had to flee Islamic extremists in Nineveh Plains, Iraq. Thanks to Open Doors supporters like you, a microloan means her family are able to stay in Iraq.
Mimi doesn’t really remember one of the most important moments of her life. She’s 12 now, but was only four years old when so-called Islamic State (IS) invaded her Christian community in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq. At the time, all she really understood was that her family were scared.
"I think I will keep remembering that moment until I die." Nadia
“When I woke up, I saw my grandfather and Nana. They were scared,” she says. “I asked grandpa: ‘What is wrong?’ They didn’t say anything.”
Nadia, Mimi’s mother, remembers it much more vividly. “At about 2am, the extremists of IS entered the village,” she says. “It’s been many years now and these voices are still in my ears, I think I will keep remembering that moment until I die.
“I saw their faces, they were terrifying. They were all dressed in black, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is great’] from their cars. They were pushing people forward with their rifles.”
The family had to make a quick decision. They fled their home and their village, getting in the car with whatever they could grab. Nadia has horrible memories of Mimi and her other children crying and screaming. “They asked for food and water, but there was none,” she remembers. It was one of her worst moments as a mother.
"They asked for food and water, but there was none." Nadia
But, like any parent, she wanted to shield Mimi from the worst of what was happening. After nine hours, they found a safe place to stay. What Mimi remembers is the feeling of security there. “We sat down, and Nana put some cartoons on TV so that we wouldn’t be scared,” says Mimi. “Nana and my grandpa and my mother were talking to each other. Later my father came to be with us as well. That made me very happy.”
Mimi’s story is an example of how Christian children are often caught up in persecution that affects their whole family. This sort of violence influences the direction of her whole life. It threatened her upbringing in a Christian community, her education, her friends and her opportunities to grow up in peace and security in the place her family know and love.
When IS were defeated in 2017, it looked safe for the family to the Nineveh Plain. In terms of violence, it was much safer. But the destruction caused by these extremists has a long aftermath. The economy and stability of the region were severely undermined, and it seemed impossible for Mimi’s patents to make ends meet. Her grandparents had already made the difficult decision to leave the country.
Help wasn’t forthcoming from the government. Officials even questioned why Christians would remain in Iraq, and gave no support to these communities. In fact, militias have been known to steal and use Christians' land for years without facing punishment.
But Mimi’s family really wanted to stay. They know how important it is that Christians stay in Iraq – to keep being a light of Christ to their communities.
“It is my country. I can’t express this in words,” says Nadia. “We love this place. Surely, I hold on to my place. And I love to live in this place.”
Your prayers and gifts mean that the family can do just that. Local Open Doors partners were able to give them a microloan, so they could start a business and earn a living.
"It is my country. We love this place." Nadia
“We wanted to live in Iraq, but we saw no opportunities. We seriously contemplated emigration,” Nadia says. “Then we heard about the microloans and got the plan to start a farm. If God wants it, He will bless us to make it a success.”
Thanks to Open Doors supporters like you, Mimi now has a future in Iraq. The family now run a farm – with sheep and goats and, Mimi’s favourite, chickens.
“I have 45 chickens!” she says proudly. “The chicken that I like the most is Loulou because my father brought her to me when she was a little chick, and I raised her myself. At 7 o’clock in the morning, I take the eggs from them. And in the afternoon, at 4 o’clock, I also take their eggs.”
Mimi’s family sell the eggs, and also livestock, and God has blessed the farm so much that they can sustain themselves and also help others around them. As well as offering employment to several locals, who can then support their families, they give away fertilised eggs. That means other vulnerable people, including people from the persecuted Yezedi group, can raise chicks to provide eggs for their own families.
"When someone wants some little chicks, I give them to him so that he would raise them." Mimi
“When someone wants some little chicks, I give them to him so that he would raise them, and they would become like my chickens,” explains Mimi. “If someone loves to have chickens, I would give him, so that he would have chickens like me.”
“There is a lot of poverty,” says Nadia. “There are people who do not have money to buy dinner and food, and they have children, like the shepherd that is working here, he has eight children. Now he has a house to live in, and monthly pay. Now, he can surely have a decent life.”
This courageous family of believers want to stay in their country, but that doesn’t mean that life is now easy. On the contrary, discrimination and persecution against Christians are on the rise. Nadia tries to hide it from Mimi while she’s so young, but she experiences this persecution every day.
“It is true that IS is not in Iraq right now, but it implanted an idea that, as Christians, we have more freedom than we should, and that we are not respectful people. We don’t have a full freedom. Our freedom is limited when it comes to everything.
"I love Iraq, because it is my country." Mimi
“I am now persecuted in my own country. I am persecuted because I am a Christian. Once they hear the word ‘Christian’ the bullying would start. I want to say, ‘Just like Iraq is your land, it is my land also. I was born in this place, and it is not your right to address me in this manner.’ Of course, we can’t talk back – but we respond in a different way, when we stay in this country, and we rebuild and we do everything we can, so that life would go on.”
Mimi also wants to stay in Iraq. “I love Iraq, because it is my country, and I was born in it. I don’t want to leave. When IS came and they attacked Iraq, I was sad about Iraq and asked why did they do this? I want to stay here with my chickens.
"I love Jesus," she adds. "I love Him so much, because He sacrificed Himself for our sake."
Despite everything, Nadia shows extraordinary grace: “I forgive those who harmed us because that is what Jesus asks of us. And surely enough, when God wants to enlighten the heart of a person, He will, no matter what he has done.”
She also emphasises that the Iraqi Christians need the worldwide church: “The Christians that remained here are but a few, for sure. But we hope that life will get better if awareness is created about our situation and if we are supported by other Christians. God says that we should always have hope, and that He is always present.”
With your support, 276 families are currently benefiting from microloans in Iraq – as well as the people they’re able to support with employment and generosity. Many more have already been paid off. Your prayers and gifts mean many Christian families have been able to stay in Iraq – but the ongoing situation means that many other families still need this help today, in order to stay.
With your support and your prayers, those who want to stay and be the salt and light of Iraq will have the means to do so.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.