Former U.S. Counterterror Officers Help 149 Iraqi Christians Escape Islamic State

ABC 20/20 / screenshot
ABC 20/20 / screenshot

Nearly 150 Iraqi Christian refugees, including 62 children, are no longer facing devastating persecution in their homeland at the hands of the murderous Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), thanks to an American husband and wife who helped them flee to Europe, ABC News reports.

“Joseph and Michele Assad, former U.S. counter-terrorism officers, helped arrange for 25 families, 149 refugees in all including 62 children, to board a privately-chartered plane in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Dec. 10, and land in Kosice, Slovakia, where they will be granted asylum within a month,” reveals ABC News.

“We are so proud of Slovakia,” Michele Assad told ABC News’s 20/20. “They were very courageous to make this decision and it wasn’t an easy one to make, yet they did… We hope other countries will have similar courage.”

The Assad couple was contracted by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Mercury One’s Nazarene Fund raised more than $12 million to make the evacuation and resettlement of the 149 refugees a reality.

During the past four months, Mr. and Mrs. Assad have reportedly been working to develop a close relationship with Father Douglas Bazi of the Mar Elia Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq.

“We are rescuing people that are at their most vulnerable, and Christians happen to be part of this group that is the most vulnerable,” Joseph Assad said. “Muslims have other Muslim nations that they can turn to. They can go to other Arab countries. They can resettle there. Christians are having a much more difficult time resettling in some of these Arab countries.”

ABC News points out, “The Assads were managing the risky plan of getting the refugees out of Iraq and finding a country that would grant them asylum so they can start their lives over.”

“It is very nerve-wracking because, I mean, you want everything to go right,” Joseph Assad said. “There’s a lot of logistics. There are buses. There’s luggage. There are airports… coordinating with the authorities.”

Mr. Assad and his family came to the United States from Egypt, fleeing religious persecution, reports ABC News.

“Motivated by their own Christian faith and the suffering they have seen, the Assads have made saving the Mar Elia refugees their personal mission,” notes the report.

“It’s about giving these people a chance, like somebody took a chance on me,” Mr. Assad told ABC News. “Giving these children hope… allowing these people to leave with dignity.”

Mr. Assad said that “at least a dozen countries” refused to take the Iraqi Christian refugees before Slovakia, a predominantly Catholic country, agreed to open its doors.

Some Iraqi Christians, namely Assyrians from Iraq’s Nineveh province, have taken up arms to defend their homeland against ISIS and other jihadists.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has refused to provide much needed military assistance to the Christian Assyrian Army—Dwekh Nawsha—which has been fighting to keep ISIS out of their homeland.

“We are losing not only the Assyrian people, we are losing the Christianity,” Assyrian Army Cmdr. Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana told Breitbart News.

The Assyrian Army has implored the Obama administration to provide them with military assistance and training to no avail.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians are reportedly facing what witnesses and analysts have described as genocide at the hands of ISIS and other jihadist groups.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s White House is being accused of ignoring Christian genocide in the Middle East.

Christianity adherents in Iraq have been singled out by jihadist groups, tortured, and faced with the barbaric choice of converting to Islam or being slaughtered.

Many who have resisted ISIS’s command have reportedly had their limbs cut off or have even been crucified.

Christian Freedom International (CFI), a persecution watchdog, warned in September that statistics suggest a Christian is martyred by ISIS and other terrorist groups for their faith every five minutes.

“Islamic State Militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” reportedly said Jim Jacobson, CFI’s president. “Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced out of their homes following the rise of ISIS.

“Many ended up in refugee camps, carrying little but their most prized possessions,” notes ABC News. “About 560 refugees ended up at the Mar Elia Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq.”


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