NASIR QABU serves in the Nineveh Plains Guards, an armed unit affiliated with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Kurdistan. Mr. Qabu (37) lives with his wife Sonya Abada (30) and two children—Angel who is 7, and Christian, who is 9—in Qaraqosh, Iraq. Like most of the Christians in this town on the Nineveh Plains, the Qabu family is Syriac-Catholic. They recently returned to their home after living in exile in Erbil, Kurdistan. Mr. Qabu tells his story:
“Once the Iraqi forces regained control of this area, I returned to see the extent of devastation and destruction. In my house, I found clothes and water bottles belonging to ISIS members, proof that they lived in our home. It was very painful to discover; I burned all that belonged to them and began fixing the place up to the point that the family could live here again.
“I am not an educated man; I have never been to school in my life and I do not know how to read and write—but I believe that God exists and is active in our lives. I became very confident of that now that we have returned to our home, which was something we did not dare to hope. We need not fear for the future: God is always there for us; he is our Savior from all torment and sin.”
“It is my wish to remain in this land, despite all the difficult circumstances and disadvantages we have to deal with. I do not want to leave this place because never did we experience more difficulties than during the three years we spent in forced displacement. I pray to God to realize this dream and to preserve my family, protect us and keep us safe.”
Sonya Abada, Mrs. Qabu, has a different perspective. She says:
“I worry that it will be very hard to generate a new future in a land that was raped by terrorist organizations several times. First, there was Saddam Hussein’s regime, which suppressed freedom, democracy, freedom of expression and human dignity.
“Then we got the thieves, killers, and criminals of ISIS, out to deprive us of our rights and looting our possessions; we were the vulnerable prey of monsters. They slaughtered people under the banner of Islam, proclaiming that ‘God is great!’ As if God would order the killing of innocent people and the intimidation of children, and the displacement of so many.
“After all this hardship, we have returned to our land—and we don’t know what awaits us next. As for me, I do not want anything from this life except to see my children get a good education and to live in a nice calm atmosphere with real friends and colleagues. I want my children to get college degrees so that they can get good positions and build their future. I do have hope and trust in God to calm things down and create the conditions that will allow us to live in peace. But it will be difficult.
The couple’s young daughter, Angel, who gets catechism lessons at St. Paul’s House in the city of Qaraqosh, recalls her time in Kurdistan:
“We were living in the city of Ankawa during the period of forced displacement. I liked the city a lot because there were many gardens and parks—and games. I spent most of my time there without feeling lonely or resentful.
“My ambition in life is to complete my studies so that I can decide what to do and where to go. Right now I go to catechism class every morning, and every day we learn something new and discover who God is. Jesus Christ is Savior for us always—and that is why we believe that security and peace will return.”
As Angel turned away to attend to her stuffed animal, Mr. Qabu concluded:
“We do not hate this country. We do not aspire to a bigger home. We want the freedom to live in dignity, safety, and peace—to enjoy a happy life, if only for our children who were raised in such difficult and painful circumstances. We pray every day and look for God to protect our children and to always care for them and their future.”
—Ragheb Elias Karash