Hamidah leaning next to grave

Who We ServeHamidah in Iraq

At 5 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2008, Hamidah heard gunshots coming from just across the street. Living in Mosul, Iraq, it had become a familiar sound. This time, however, something seemed different. Hamidah immediately felt sorrow for the victim’s mother.

A few minutes later, a neighbor yelled her name.

“Your son has been killed!” the woman cried out. “Zaid has been killed.”

Today, Hamidah still mourns her son’s death. She wears all black clothing every day. While sharing her story with a VOM worker in northern Iraq, she rarely spoke of her son without crying.

“I’m wearing black and I will keep wearing it as long as there is sadness in my heart,” she said.

Fourteen-year-old Zaid had just received a new cellphone from his aunt and had run across the street to show his friends.

Five minutes later, a car pulled up and three Muslim men stepped out.

“Are you a Christian?” one of them asked, pushing the other two boys aside.

Before Zaid could finish saying “Yes,” one of the men raised his pistol and shot Zaid three times. The men then jumped back in their car and sped away.

Hamidah, her husband, “Ibrahim,” and their three older sons were stunned. Although they were the only Christian family in their neighborhood, they had always gotten along well with their Muslim neighbors. They had never experienced any persecution before.

“My heart, it was burning,” Hamidah recalled, wiping her tears. “We are very merciful people. This was a huge thing that had happened to us. Why?”

Fearing the rest of the family could be targeted, Hamidah and Ibrahim buried their son near Ibrahim’s family home instead of holding the Christian burial in Mosul.

After the funeral, the couple moved to Telskuf, a predominantly Christian town eight miles northeast of Mosul. Their three older sons left the country, believing they might be targeted next.

“We lost all of them,” Hamidah said of her sons. “I had a full house in Mosul. Now it’s just the two of us.”

Hamidah and Ibrahim lived in Telskuf until August 2014, leaving the city just days before it, too, was overrun by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS). They had heard stories of the Islamist group’s brutal treatment of Christians in Mosul, so they left Telskuf when they heard ISIS was approaching.

The couple then returned to the area where Zaid was buried, but they continued to receive updates on their home in Telskuf from a Muslim neighbor. The neighbor eventually reported that ISIS had taken everything from their house. Islamic extremists had already taken their sons from them, and now they had taken their home and belongings, too.

If Zaid were alive today he would be 22 years old, but his mother remembers him as the boy who loved playing soccer, kept a cross in his pocket and placed handwritten prayers in his wallet. Hamidah is proud of the courage her son displayed as the gunman asked him, “Are you a Christian?”

“He was a Christian,” Hamidah said, crying. “He would never deny his faith. We will stay as Christians. That is our faith.”

Despite the suffering they have caused, Hamidah forgives her son’s killers.

“God will judge them, not me,” she said. “I forgive them. If they greet me, I will greet them back.”

Hamidah and Ibrahim, along with more than 130 other Christian families who have been displaced by ISIS, receive support from a VOM partner in northern Iraq. Through VOM’s Families of Martyrs Fund, displaced Christians have received food, personal care items and Bibles.

Hamidah takes comfort in knowing that God understands her suffering.

“Jesus has sustained us,” she said. “When people lose a child they can go crazy, but Jesus has sustained me in this situation and strengthened me.”

Hamidah said she is most at peace when she is praying with friends and worshiping God. His presence helps her set aside her grief.

“I laugh sometimes, but it’s rare,” she said. “I’m often distracted by thinking about him. He’s with Jesus … but I miss him.”