Jesus in Mosul: A meeting with the Shia Militia
(Part 3 of 3)
18 December 2016
Mosul, Northern Iraq
While we were working with the Kurds and before we were invited to help bring food for people in Mosul we were told, “You Free Burma Rangers may be able to work in Kurdistan and pray with people there but in Mosul its completely different. There is no place for Jesus stuff in Mosul because God is not there. It is a violent, extremist place, it is not your place.”
We believe He led us to Mosul and our prayer is to be His ambassadors. In spite of our own weaknesses and sins we saw Jesus there and saw the hunger of people for Him. Here are some short stories. This one is the third in a three part series. The first story had the background and contact to all three and is included at the end of this story below.
“A Meeting with the Shia Militia”
While the Iraqi Army is leading the fight against ISIS, an assortment of Shia militias have also taken an important role in the struggle. Some of the militias are supported by Iran and have anti-American sentiments.
On our way out of Mosul one day we ran into a Shia militia checkpoint. They had their own assortment of red, black, and green flags and looked at me with suspicion as I approached them. “Why are you coming this way?” they asked, as we were traveling on a route that we usually did not take out of Mosul. I told them that two weeks earlier I had been on a rescue of Iraqi soldiers who were moving relief supplies. The soldiers were ambushed by ISIS and their vehicle had been destroyed by an RPG. They’d all been shot, but they escaped into the ditch where they fought back and called for help as the enemy approached. We got there in time to hold off the ISIS attack and rescue them. I said I wanted to see what that place looked like in daylight. ISIS had been driven out of the area a week earlier so now I had an opportunity to visit it.
The Shia militia commander said, “You didn’t know it, but during that night while you were trying to rescue the soldiers, we were on the other side of ISIS trying to help you and were part of the force that pushed ISIS out.” We talked together and I prayed with them. As I went back to my truck I felt God nudge me to give them a Jesus film. I hesitated because I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of fanatic, so I prayed, “Really, God, I don’t want to be afraid of man, but I want to be respectful and loving.” I then felt assurance to give them the video. I walked back to the militia commander and said, “I want to give you a film about my leader, Jesus. If you don’t like it you can throw it away.” The commander said, “No, no. I love Jesus.” Then he kissed the dvd and then placed it on his eyes and said, “He is my eyes”, and then on his head and said, “He is my head. Thank you for this!”
The Iraqi Army now has a foothold in Eastern and Southeastern Mosul. The city itself comprises of over one million people, and stretches from the plains of Nineveh to the Tigris River and the low hills of the west. The eastern side of the city is relatively modern but densely packed with two to three story concrete buildings. Across the Tigris to the west is the old city where even more densely packed buildings of concrete and mud wind in a twisting labyrinth of streets and alleys. This is the first major city that ISIS took during their conquest of parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The people of Mosul are predominantly Sunni and many support ISIS due to injustices they felt from the post-2003 Shia-rule in Iraq.
One day, in a corner of Southeast Mosul, our team including our ethnic medics and cameramen from Burma, as well as two Yazidis and a Kurd, were taking in baby formula, food and medicine for distribution in areas recently liberated from ISIS. Even though ISIS has been pushed out of these neighborhoods they still hold most of the city and are often only one building or one block away from the Iraqi forces. As we began to hand out the food, ISIS attacked us with rifles, machine-guns and mortars. The Iraqi Army held them off and as bullets flew over our heads and smacked into walls. We continued to pray with the locals give out food. Families would dash from their houses, get the food and medical care, and then run back inside. Many have decided to stay in this war zone because they are afraid of what will happen to them if they flee to a refugee camp. They are also afraid they will lose their homes and possessions if they choose to depart.
The Iraqi Army now is pushing ISIS back block-by-block in bloody street battles. To do this they have employed the use of tanks, armored cars, Humvees and coalition air support. But the the Iraqi Army’s strongest weapon in this fight are the brave men who risk their lives daily to fight for the liberation of Mosul and its population. This is not just a sacrifice for Iraq, but for the whole world.
During ISIS attacks Iraqi soldiers have shielded civilians and exposed themselves to direct firek. ISIS launches their assaults from a network of tunnels, rat holes, suicide vehicles and IED’s. They continue to attack night and day with heavily armored vehicles full of explosives, which they detonate into Iraqi positions and into civilian-concentrated areas. ISIS soldiers attacks on foot through doors, windows and alleyways, pouring down fire on the Iraqi soldiers. They do not spare those distributing food, and they especially do not make a distinction for the civilians who receive it. In seven of the ten distributions we have done so far, we came under direct attack from ISIS. Despite this, people continue to come to our food distributions because they need to eat and there was no other way of getting it.
The Iraqi soldiers have done a courageous job of holding back attacking forces and taking care of civilians. This has been wonderful to watch as many of the Iraqi Army soldiers are Shia, and most of the population is Sunni.
All of those we met were grateful for our food and help. However we do know that some of them still support ISIS and that many of them are wary to trust us. On some occasions after receiving their rations, the small group of civilians who support ISIS would call them from their phones so ISIS would know where we were and attack us. One time two men placed a land mine on the road we used in order to kill us on our way out after a distribution. The Iraqi Army caught them in the act and stopped the attack. We knew this going in, but we prayed and felt this was the door God wanted us to go through in order to share his love in their time of need and to develop new relationships.
Thank you for praying for us. We don’t know what will happen to the people in these stories, or anyone else we meet on our missions, but we want to stand with them, hold them in our hearts and love them. There are two more stories coming. Thank you for sending us to Kurdistan and Iraq. We believe the word of God does not return empty.
God bless you,
Dave, family and the Free Burma/Kurd/Nuba/Iraqi Rangers
Free The Oppressed