A group of elderly women were spared by ISIS, and when found later by a group from Aid to the Church in Need, they recounted their story of encounter with the frightening militants. They had been spared for some reason, and that despite their testament of firm faith in the face of death.
For four days, they locked themselves in their home, not daring to venture out. “Prayer sustained us,” said Victoria. But they needed food for the body as well as food for the soul and when supplies ran dangerously low they went in search of water and other basics.
Inevitably they ran into IS forces. Explaining their situation, they asked for help and to their surprise IS gave them water even after they refused a request to abandon their faith.
A few days later, IS found them in their homes and rounded them up at St Barbara’s shrine just on the edge of Caramles. There were about a dozen of them there, the last remaining Christian inhabitants of the village.
“You must convert,” IS forces told them. “Our faith can promise you paradise,” they added.
Victoria and Gazella responded: “We believe that if we show love and kindness, forgiveness and mercy we can bring about the kingdom of God on earth as well as in heaven. Paradise is about love. If you want to kill us for our faith then we are prepared to die here and now.”
IS forces had no answer. The dozen Christians, who included many elderly and infirm, were let go. One of them had a battered car. Other transport was also arranged and they made it to safety.
Perhaps Victoria and Gazella knew that at their age, there was little to lose by dying. Perhaps the soldiers were sated by blood and weary of the whole operation. One would hope that ISIS sees that our faith is worth dying for, worth defending.
Victoria and Gazelle are still neighbours. But they no longer live in two homes side by side but two mattresses in a room they rent courtesy of the Church in Ainkawa, near Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq.
While highlighting their courage and resolve, I have left out their beautiful effect on the writer. For that, you'll need to read the whole article. And you'll learn a lovely word in Arabic.