Churches Open Doors to Refugees Fleeing ISIS
ERBIL, Kurdistan -- Where can you go when you've lost almost everything?
Throughout northern Iraq and Syria, the scourge of ISIS, the Islamic State, has forced thousands and thousands into a life without homes, jobs and family. While they face an uncertain future, churches are helping fill that void with help and hope.
Many of the churches in Erbil opened their doors, literally, to the many Christian refugees fleeing the advance of ISIS. They said they feel it's part of the Church's calling to provide refuge for families like these.
The Kurdsman Church transformed its building into a true sanctuary.
"The building is for the humanity," Pastor Majeed Mohammed, who has opened the doors for both Christians and non-Christians, told CBN News.
"We wanted to show those people we don't care if they are Christians, Yazidis, [or] Muslims. We don't care about that," Mohammed said. "They are human beings and they have been kicked out of their home[s] by ISIS. We wanted to show them that as Christians we love them and are very glad to have them here and save them."
One man led a mini-exodus of several families to the Kurdsman Church.
"On behalf of all the people here, Pastor Majeed is really showing the love of Jesus," he said.
Across town at Ankawa (Assemblies of God) Church, families who are now safe talked about the violent ultimatum they faced.
"We have been told by ISIS if we don't convert to Islam either they will kill us or we will have to leave the city," one refugee told CBN News.
For most, it wasn't a choice at all.
"We prefer to die rather than convert to Islam," he said. "God has created us as Christians so we don't want to convert to Islam. The power of God keeps us and strengthens us to remain as Christians."
Most will never return, like one policeman who escaped with his family and 10-day-old baby.
"I'm already wanted by the Islamic groups over there and secondly I'm a Christian," he said. "As a minority, I'm also wanted by ISIS so we cannot go back there anymore."
Most told CBN News they simply want to leave Iraq.
"This is the only way or the only solution for our problem because we cannot go back to our home and we cannot stay here," he said. "We want to go out, even if they provided international protection. We don't want to keep staying here."
Their long-term fate remains one of the major questions in this humanitarian crisis.