An Iraqi Christian’s desperate struggle for peace

Caught in the middle of a firefight in Baghdad. His nephew killed by a suicide bomber. His sister dying in his arms. 

This is the story of an Iraqi man, born and raised in Baghdad to a Chaldean-Christian family, simply trying to live a regular life—to work a normal job, to be with family, to live in peace—but is instead held captive in a never-ending cycle of violence, chaos and destruction.

It’s a journey that eventually leads him to the doors of The Salvation Army in Southern California.

Note: Identities have been obscured to protect the safety of relatives still in Iraq.

Read the transcript of the video here:

It was like 2006, maybe. There was a lot of militias in Baghdad. They attack Americans all the time. One time happened, I was texting [on my way] home, walking to take a taxi. Several cars stopped on the side with people carrying machine guns. And there was American Army on my side. And the militia, they started like, the gun shots on the Americans. I saw the wall just destroying with the bullets. I like, get paralyzed in my place, just like, frozen. I thought, “This is the end.” One of the people who get shot in his shoulder was just in front of me. He pushed me and he shout in my face, “Run!” And he just like, woke me up. I thank God all the time, because without his grace and without his protection, we’d have been dead from a long time ago. 

Okay, so my name is [———– ]. I was born in Baghdad. I work in medical field, in radiology technology. As a Chaldean, we are a Christian minority, and we want to live in peaceful community. To live, work and support their families.

During Saddam’s regime, we were thinking that Saddam is the problem, and when he go, everything bad will go with him. But like, after Saddam’s regime, so many Islamic parties came into the view, and everyone wants his party to be the ruler. For us, as a Christian, we don’t have a voice over there. So they are fighting each other and we are getting hurt. A lot of pastors get killed, a lot of Christians get killed because they are going to the church. And everybody is killing everybody just to get something from them. Basically, you don’t know who’s your enemy. When you go out, you just pray and ask God to return back in peace. 

We take every day like that. I like working in radiology, but like, you get threats all the time while you are working. So one time, one person, he came into the office and said, “I want to do a brain MRI.” So I told him, “Show me the paper that referring you to us.” He said, “I don’t have, I just want to do the exam.” So I told him, “Okay, but at the end of the day, my employer will ask me, “Why did you did this exam?” He refused to listen. So, he started arguing with me. I called the security and he took him out. 

One of my friends came in and he said that he saw that guy waiting on the side, at the front door. He know them. And he told me, “You are in great danger,” “This guy have a gun, and there is another car waiting down the street, and also they have guns.” “They will not let you go home today.” My heart was like, beating very fast. He told me, “Leave everything now, and come with me through the basement.” So, I escaped from the hospital and I didn’t return, like, for two years. Two of the friends who was working over there, they got killed. One of them, they follow him to his clinic and they kill him over there. And the other one, they kill him in the street. I have to leave everything. 

In 2007, we have another tragedy in my family, also. Another person with the like, explosive belt exploded himself, and my nephew was killed. After her son dies, my sister, she gets into sadness. She had a kidney failure. She died between my arms, in the hospital, where the doctor wasn’t taking care of her. I miss her so much, she was like, a great woman, and…yeah. 

We were never thinking like, to leave Iraq. But after that incident, you feel you are just waiting for the day that you’ve been killed. You can feel the hate between people. It was not the same country I loved. So, from that moment on, I was applying for immigration. 

Eventually, the United States approved visas for him, his mother and his brother. However, the woman he wanted to marry was not included in the visa approval.

When they give me the okay, we were in a good relationship together, and I was seeing her as my future wife, and she was doing the same. Over there, the community, like, it’s not nice not to make it formal, so you have to make it formal. The family, in the beginning, were refusing because, like, “When you leave, we don’t know if you are coming back.” But my wife came in and she said, “I want him.” We did the promises. And after, like, two weeks, I left Iraq. I kept my promise with my wife, like, after getting the green card, I booked a trip back to Iraq. 

They married in northern Iraq, and she soon became pregnant. He then returned to the United States to apply for her visa.

My wife was very excited to come to the United States, but the situation changed. Everything was shut down due to ISIS problem at that time. When she has the pain to deliver, there is no doctor. A nurse help with the delivery, and my son was born with a cord around his neck, and he was about to pass away. They cut it. They tried to give him some oxygen, and he survived. They called me and I heard his voice for the first time. And she’s crying. And I want to go over there, but I can’t, it’s impossible. 

The process took another year until they gave her the visa to come here to the United States. She came on five airplanes. When she came, she was very exhausted. I hugged her for the first time from a long time. She gave me my son. I played with him. Oh, my God. You don’t know, you want to cry, you want to laugh, you want to hold him, you know…And now we are a five person family. And we are feeling happy every day because we believe, we believe 100 percent that God is here and he’s taking care of us. 

His family now attends church at The Salvation Army.

We went to The Salvation Army in the very beginning because we didn’t have enough food and enough materials for living. So, they give us a supply with food, and they said that I can come in every month to get some food for my family, and that continued until I got my first job.

His mother lives at The Salvation Army’s Silvercrest senior residence.

This community is very good because they are helping and supporting the old people. And there is a lot of ladies at her age, like her friends.

Yeah, I feel happy also. I get the citizenship in 2015, and now I’m a citizen, and as a country they welcome us, and they give us this opportunity to have a new home and to be able to work in a safe community. I have my family and new friends. I will say, God bless America. 

In my heart, I feel happy to give this message to everyone: feel happy with everything that God gives you, even if it’s a little, no matter if you are living in peace or war, if you are living in a small house or in a big mansion, because that can vanish in one minute. We cannot predict it. The only thing we can make sure that we have is salvation. And I hope that Jesus’ message reaches to everybody to have salvation, because that is what is more important to me than any other things. 

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