After fleeing ISIS, a young Syriac Orthodox man talks to Aid to the Church in Need.

Wissam Ablahad (26) is a Syriac Orthodox young man who lives with his parents and two siblings in the township of Ba’ashiqah, on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. Wissam and his family, like many thousands of Christian families who live on the Nineveh Plains, fled the 2014 ISIS invasion of the region and spent several years living in Erbil, Kurdistan. He spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Everyone here knows that August 6, 2014, was a dark and painful day in Iraqi Christian history: we were subjected to violence, persecution, and forced displacement at the hands of ISIS. Those who could not escape remained in its grip. My family and I were lucky. We fled, leaving our possessions and money behind. We clung to our faith and asked Jesus for help.

Our first stop was a hosting station in Kurdistan. We stayed there until we could find a more suitable place to live; we later moved to Erbil so I could finish my studies. In 2017, I graduated from the University of Mosul—which had a facility in Erbil—with a degree in Business Administration.

Hope still exists for us. Terrorists were expelled from the Nineveh Plains, so we were able to return to our home despite the damage done to it. In any case, we could not have stayed in Kurdistan, where the cost of living is too high and we could not find steady employment there.