Peacemaker Fridays: Mosul Residents Save Their Christian Neighbors From ISIS

For Christians, living under ISIS was essentially a death sentence. But for at least these two Christians in Mosul, their Muslim neighbor’s choice to love anyway saved them from almost-certain death. These are the peacemakers.

Shortly after establishing their so-called ‘caliphate’ in Mosul in 2014, ISIS announced that all Christians in the city would be executed unless they converted to ISIS’s radical and violent version of Islam, left the city, or paid a very expensive tax.

Most chose to flee. But not everyone had that option.

Like the widow in poor health, with no family, and no money for the tax. Her only option was to lie about her faith, or be killed. Reluctantly, she publicly claimed to be Muslim, while still practicing her Christian faith at home.

When ISIS showed up to see why she hadn’t been attending prayers, she thought her life was over. But then, her Muslim neighbors chimed in: “She prays with us,” they said. If ISIS found out they lied, all of them would’ve been executed.

For three years, they risked their lives to save hers. They chose to put their lives on the line. Every. Single. Time.

Hussam Jalil Al-Kahwatchy is an Iraqi war veteran from Mosul, wheelchair-bound due to his war injuries. He’s also a Christian. Hussam physically couldn’t flee, he didn’t have money to pay ISIS’s “protection” tax, and he was unwilling to convert.

His neighbor, a Muslim, heard that ISIS was coming for Hussam. His neighbor could have done nothing. Or he could’ve simply warned Hussam and washed his hands of the matter. But instead, he hid Hussam in the back of his car at 4:00 am and drove him past all the ISIS checkpoints to safety.

At each checkpoint, Hussam’s Muslim neighbor risked his life for him. He was willing to lay down his life for his friend. And there is no greater love than that.

These are peacemakers.

Their unwavering commitment to risky love—their dogged determination to love the ones that no one else will love and go where no one else will go—that is a commitment to peace. To wholeness. To love.

These are wonderfully inspiring stories. But don’t let them stop there. Let these stories sink in and change you. Let these stories lead you to action.

Are you willing to love people the way these beautiful souls in Mosul did? Are you really? Does that include those of a completely different religion, nationality, identity, or background? Where do you start? What does that look like in your world?

Your neighbors probably aren’t in danger of being murdered by terrorists, but it’s likely that some people in your community regularly face bigotry and prejudice. There’s a good chance that some of your friends and neighbors are at risk of being harassed, discriminated against, or verbally assaulted. It happens all the time. Everywhere.

And if those peacemakers in Mosul could risk being executed by ISIS to stand in the gap for others—even though they have profound disagreements or differences with the people they stood up for—surely we can stand up against prejudice when we see it or hear it.

Surely we can say something when a loved one makes an insensitive joke about people from another culture. Or disparages LGBTQ people. Or says harsh things about undocumented people. Or makes prejudiced comments about Muslims or people of color.

Even when you have significant differences—different beliefs, values, or political views— with those bearing the brunt of bigotry, I hope you’ll call it out when you see it this week. And I hope you’ll say it with love, with the wholeness of everyone in mind.

Ask yourself: What are you willing to risk for peace? And for whom are you willing to risk it?

Peacemaker Friday is published weekly to share stories of people unmaking violence around the world. Be inspired. Take Action.