Iraq (MNN) — One year ago, ISIS forces attacked the Ninewa province in Northern Iraq. As the extremists rampaged through the area, they targeted religious communities–especially the Yazidis, a branch of Islam that combines teachings from the Quran and the Bible with oral tradition.
Hundreds of Yazidi men were killed, and even more men, women, and children were kidnapped and enslaved. At least 200,000 people escaped to Mount Sinjar, holding out until their seemingly inevitable massacre.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, if it weren’t for a series of U.S. air strikes against ISIS forces followed by an attack by the Kurdish military forces, the trapped Yazidis would have been killed, either by ISIS militants or starvation.
Now, on the one-year anniversary, Greg Musselman of Voice of the Martyrs Canada says its still “a horrible situation.”
“We had the opportunity of meeting some of the Yizidi people when we were in Northern Iraq and Kurdistan. You hear their stories, and not only have they lost all of their material possessions but some of them had family members that were kidnapped, were killed,” he says.
According to Musselman, the Yazidis are still one of the most at-risk groups targeted by ISIS, even a year after the Mt. Sinjar attack. However, he says the attack was a memorable one because it woke the world up to the intentions of ISIS.
“It’s a situation where people really realized around the world how evil and how violent and what a problem ISIS has, not only in that part of the world but all throughout the rest of Iraq, Syria, other neighboring countries, and even beyond that.”
So now that world leaders have been alerted, what can be done? Musselman says the first priority is the refugees.
“We’re seeing in the United States bumping up the number of refugees that can come from places like we’ve been talking about here and also in Syria and Northern Iraq and all through the country.”
He also says that refugees coming in will need all the help they can get. “Not only are they gonna need to get to safety, but then you think about the counseling and the trauma that these people have faced…. They need help.”
Musselman says that’s where the Church comes in. “The body of Christ, even in their desperate situation, can be reaching out to these people with the love of Jesus–whether they’re Muslims or Yazidis, or whichever different form of Islam…. We [can’t] forget about them…. We do need to be caring about them.
“At times, we can get very overwhelmed with the number of people and the situation, but one by one we can help the. I think that that’s what we need to be as a Christian community.” Musselman wants to make sure churches are “opening up our doors and our countries to help these people and support them.”
He thinks that helping the Yazidi refugees “shows that we do have compassion and we’re not just concerned about ourselves and the situations that are going on in our own countries.”
Not only can believers help “with their very practical needs whether it be just a place to live or food,” but churches can also “make sure the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to go forward.”
Musselman closes by saying the refugees “don’t need to know it comes from Voice of the Martyrs or whatever other ministry it is. But they need to see the love of Jesus because ultimately, that’s all that matters.”
He also asks churches to remember the missionaries that have been sent to give aid and guidance to Yazidis, fellow believers, and other groups tormented by ISIS. “We really need to lift them up in prayer and continue to give them the tools so that they can help.”