Christianity came to Iraq's Nineveh Plain shortly after Christ's death and resurrection. But ISIS did its best to wipe the modern-day descendants of those ancient Christians off the face of the earth. Now a father and son who survived that genocide have come to America to put a face on those who've been terrorized and persecuted.
Imagine you're a pre-teen and ISIS troops are about to invade your town. You're well aware they'll likely kill you and most everyone you know. That's just the situation eight members of the Binoo family faced one night in 2014.
"We were all afraid as we heard that ISIS was heading toward our town," Noeh Binoo recalled. "We were all scared."
Priests Risked All to Warn Everyone
Kristin Wright, director of advocacy for the ministry Open Doors USA told CBN News the Iraqi troops who'd been protecting Noeh's town of Karamles hurriedly retreated before ISIS. But as they fled, they didn't warn the townspeople they were deserting them. Christians there survived only because priests in the town's Chaldean church went door to door and warned everyone in the night to quickly evacuate.
"Of course we were very scared as I grabbed all my family together, try to put them all quickly in the car and head outside the town,' Noeh's father, Haitam Binoo, told CBN News.
As the town's residents raced away in whatever transportation they could find, the priests were the last to leave Karamles as the ISIS invaders arrived.
Gunfire crackled around them and bullets flew as the Christians raced through the night.
The Binoo family then faced three years in a refugee camp just a few dozen miles from where ISIS was on its genocidal rampage, terrorizing, torturing, enslaving and murdering just about anyone who did not believe or submit to their particular radical brand of Islam.
Now with ISIS' recent defeat, the Binoo family has been able to return, but only to find most of their home ransacked and gutted by flames.
"We were very happy as we returned to our hometown," Haitam Binoo said. "But at the same time, it's hard to see our house burned along with other people's."
In fact, almost 100 homes in Karamles were burned to the ground.
"I was going back to my home and I saw it all burned," Noeh said. "I felt very sad because it was brand-new; we'd just built it. And it's all burned."
Noeh's Small Gift
All the toys, games and gadgets of his youth were destroyed or lay charred on the floor of what had been Noeh's room. As he's been touring America, he's given some people a small gift of burned marbles from what had been his prized marble collection. It's a poignant symbol of the lost innocence of youth, stolen away by cruel ISIS fighters.
The Binoo family could have lost their lives. They did lose most of their worldly possessions and spent years in a refugee camp.
"It makes us stronger in our faith," the elder Binoo said.
That's the message father and son have brought during their time in America, which included a visit to the White House, meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
Met w/ 12-yr old Noeh from Iraq. ISIS destroyed his home & he fled leaving everything behind. When they returned, their town was burnt to the ground. The plight of Noeh & thousands of others like him is why @POTUS ordered us to directly aid the persecuted. Help is on the way! pic.twitter.com/v5skBC5Ys3
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) December 14, 2017
Wright says American Christians could learn a thing or two from their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ she's met all over the world.
"I've absolutely had my heart broken at seeing the pain of what Christians have endured," she said. "But I've also been absolutely stunned at the joy that they have in the midst of it and the strength that they have found."
"So I think that there is hope in the midst of despair, even for Christians in the Middle East right now," Wright continued. "And that's why they need our prayers and action more than ever before."
Critics sometimes call out Christians meeting every crisis with prayer, but Wright says prayers really matter.
"Personally when I've been to Iraq. I've met with church leaders who told me they could feel the prayers of Christians around the world," she recalled.
"So prayer is definitely important," Wright added. "But I wouldn't stop there."
She said giving to help people like Noeh through ministries like Open Doors is always appreciated. The costs are high, because the work is immense.
"We're currently rebuilding homes along the Nineveh Plain as Christians are moving back," Wright explained.
Noeh told CBN News he'd like Christians outside of Iraq to keep praying for his family and his people.
"And we as well pray for them to live in peace in their homes," he said.
Noeh is ready to restart life in his hometown upon the Nineveh Plain. It's a region where Christians still speak Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.
He's still deciding on his future profession there.
"Either a soccer player or a teacher," Noeh said with a big smile.