Iraq (MNN) — The saying, “It’s a tough world out there,” is often used to comfort young people learning difficult life lessons. But it’s an understatement for Iraq’s Christian youth.
Increasing violence places Iraq in the #4 slot of the Open Doors USA World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where persecution is the most severe. Islamic terrorist groups are increasing in number. According to an Open Doors source, a Christian is killed, kidnapped, or abused every two or three days in Iraq.
Raja* is a young Iraqi believer living about an hour away from Mosul. She recently shared her story with Open Doors.
“Being a Christian girl in Iraq makes me very vulnerable. Many young Christian women in Iraq get harassed, and I don’t want to be the next victim,” Raja says.
Heavily influenced by Islamic law, Iraq’s society places great significance on the covering of women’s faces and bodies. Those who aren’t draped in material stick out like a sore thumb.
“I always have the feeling that people [are] looking at me because I’m not wearing the covered clothes like the Muslims, so I always try not to provoke,” says Raja. “When they told us to veil at the university, I did.
“Recently, female students that didn’t veil themselves had acid thrown in their face.”
“Where is the safety?” he asks. “Where are those who should protect us?”
Raja and Malik are among the few college-age youth in Iraq able to attend university. According to national and UN studies, conflict has severely limited employment and education opportunities for Iraq’s next generation.
These limitations are making terrorist activity an increasingly attractive and viable option.
In 2009, U.S. Homeland Security released a report profiling the recruitment and radicalization of young people by terrorist groups. It describes “increasing evidence” pointing to the recruitment by terrorist groups of school-aged youth, or those between the ages of 5 and 22.
According to the report, at least 23 of the world’s 42 terrorist groups utilize young people in some capacity, and many prey on young people in vulnerable contexts. The groups offer incentives ranging from financial assistance to a sense of belonging.
Pray for Christian young people whose peers are among the terrorist ranks. Pray for those who see loved ones die at the hands of radicals.
“I sometimes think of the priest that baptized me; he was kidnapped just before we fled to this place,” shares Raja. “It was so awful when we found him dead in the gutter. The extremists did horrible things to him because he didn’t deny Jesus.”
Raja says the priest’s death greatly influenced her faith life. At first, Raja thought she’d be too afraid to proclaim Christ as the Lord of her life.
“But with the thought of the sacrifice of our priest in the back of my head, I started realizing that I never want to deny my faith,” says Raja.
“The pain of death only lasts a minute. After that, I will be with my Savior forever.”