“We had a big house and lots of olive groves,” Iktimal recalls. “One year, the harvest gave us enough to buy two houses. We also had a driving school with about 50 cars. We had a very good life. We had no idea that our stable life would end.
Iktimal and his family were very well off. Some would even call them rich. She and her husband had six children, then aged between two and 16, and lived in a village near Idlib, Syria. Their comfortable middle-class life changed overnight.
could help a believer get support and guidance after trauma to heal from his persecution.
MY GIFT OF HOPE
Armed militias began shelling the area and threatening the people living there, particularly targeting his village because of the Christian population. “They wanted money; they said that my husband and my son would be taken away and that we would never see them again,” says Iktimal. “My stepfather was 90 years old at the time. The militia didn’t even care; they just threatened everyone.
And then an incident happened that confirmed to Iktimal and her husband that threats should be taken seriously.
“One day they killed one of our cousins and we were so scared that they killed my husband too. We fled the village. We escaped early in the morning, around 3am. I remember looking at our house thinking that we would never see it again.
Finding hope at the center
About 20 Christians from the village of Iktimal were killed. Her family stayed with relatives for a few months but could not afford to find their own home. When people at a hope center run by Open Doors partners in Latakia saw the situation, they rushed to support Iktimal’s family with a house and more.
“I experience the love of God as the church stands with us.” Iktimal
“They helped us with everything, with mattresses, blankets, gas,” says Iktimal. “They also gave us a monthly food package, clothes, stationery for the children. When they saw our need, they helped. I did not expect that. I feel the love of God as the church stands with us.
Hope Centers are places (often church buildings) where the local church can support its community practically and spiritually. Activities and provision differ by context, but often include lifesaving food and medical aid, Bible study and discipleship, training, income-generating projects and trauma care. They operate through donations and prayers from Open Doors supporters.
Thanks to this center of hope, Iktimal received emotional, psychological and spiritual support. “They prayed with us, they listened to our story, they stood by our side,” Iktimal says. “God was with us. He sent these people to support us, they were like angels. Their love brought us closer to Jesus; they taught us the love of God.
“Extremists live in our house”
could provide a vital package of food, clothing and blankets to a persecuted Christian struggling to survive the harsh winter.
MY GIFT OF HOPE
Of course, his village misses Iktimal. “We miss everything there – our house, my parents’ house, the church they destroyed.” Today, the village is still in the hands of extremist groups. “There is no security there. If we came back now, they would kill us. The extremists live in our house. Where the extremists wanted to kill us, the church here loved us. It’s like being risen from the dead.
As Iktimal says, “For God, nothing is impossible.” She still hopes that she and her family will one day be able to return home. But, in the meantime, she is receiving much-needed practical and spiritual support from the Hope Center – and contributing in return. Iktimal now has a job at the Center of Hope, helping with children’s ministry.
“When all the doors closed for us, we found this place and started loving life again.” Iktimal
“I work on the bus that picks the kids up from their homes and brings the kids back safely after they’ve participated in the activities,” she says. “Education in schools in Syria is very bad. No parent can afford the extra lessons school children need – and the Hope Center offers extra lessons for free. Its very important.
Iktimal knows how crucial hope centers remain in providing life-saving support. “The Center gives joy and peace,” she says. “When all the doors closed for us, we found this place and started loving life again.”
You can keep hope alive for many more families in Syria and Iraq today through your prayers and support. Thank you for everything you did during the Hope for the Middle East campaign so far.