GIRL WHO FORGAVE ISIS CANNOT WAIT TO GO HOME

Almost two years after a SAT-7 interview with a ten-year-old displaced Iraqi girl went viral on the internet; the same girl told the channel she cannot wait to go home to Qaraqosh when the liberation of the Mosul area is completed.

Myriam and her family spoke from the Erbil suburb of Ankawa at the end of a week in which excitement had soared among the tens of thousands of displaced Christians there. Hundreds had gathered to celebrate outside the Mar Elias church after news that Iraqi coalition troops were retaking Christian villages previously overrun by so-called Islamic State (IS).

SAT-7 KIDS presenter Essam Nagy first spoke to Myriam in December 2014 during a reporting visit to Erbil. Myriam’s words of forgiveness for Islamic State (IS), who had driven her family to flee first from Qaraqosh and then from Mosul, drew attention and praise from Middle East news sites as well as sites in the West.

On the 21 October episode, Essam spoke to Myriam and her family live on the children’s program Why is That? A day after Bartella, a Christian town close to Qaraqosh had been retaken, he asked how they were feeling like their dreams of returning home drew closer.

Surely I am happy and joyful to return home and see my friends who didn’t leave,” Myriam said. “I’ll get to see them again. I’ll see my home and my country again, the place that I love.”

Waleed, Myriam’s father, explained, “There are no words to express how we feel. But we say in Iraqi, Wenseh, which is the feeling we have when we are home. It doesn’t matter if [we are living] amidst destruction.”

Waleed compared the excitement the Christians are feeling already in Ankawa with the joy they will have when they return home: “If they are that joyful in Ankawa, then how will it be when 40,000 persons return to their homes? Imagine the joy we will feel!”

Myriam’s mother, Alice, said, “When we left Qaraqosh my daughters asked me why I didn’t take some soil from Qaraqosh or Baghdeida [its Syriac name] where we lived. This touched my heart, and I wished we could return and see and smell the soil of the land. What is most important to us is returning home to see our families. Then my daughters can once again see their country.”

Zomorrod, Myriam’s younger sister, explained why they had wanted their mother to collect some soil from their home town: “We wanted to remember Baghdeida and never forget it.”

Essam commented on the “abundant peace” he always noticed in Waleed’s heart and asked if this would grow when he returned home.

Waleed said no: “Peace is the peace of Jesus and not worldly peace,” he said. “Peace isn’t in a house or the land.  Even in a fire, you can have the peace of Jesus. As long as we have it, we will be stronger than those who threw us out. When you love Jesus, no one can conquer you.”

At the close of the interview, the whole family sang the worship song, How Joyful is the Day, which went viral on the original interview with Myriam.

Father Thabet, a priest from Mosul, spoke to SAT-7’s Bridges programme at the weekend. He said, “It is great that the liberation comes at this time after two years have passed, but our joy will be complete when everyone is back home safe and secure.”

However, he stressed that a lot needed to be done before the people could be encouraged to go home. “We need to make sure the liberation process is final, and the area is secure, and the path to return is safe as well as adjust the infrastructure and stabilise the economic situation.”

“We want to double our prayers to have stability in Mosul, so it becomes better than it was.”

Further information
Myriam’s family originally fled to the city of Mosul with most of the Christian population of Qaraqosh, 20 miles to the south-east. All but a few families of Mosul’s Christians fled the city when Islamic State overran it in July 2014. Last Tuesday (18 October) the first reports came that Kurdish troops had entered Qaraqosh and the nearby Christian town of Karamlash. On Saturday (22 October) government-allied troops retook the centre of Qaraqosh, but on 26 October they were still meeting resistance from scattered IS units in the town.

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