Iraqi girl who “captured millions of hearts” urges Christians to pray, bring hope to refugee children
A refugee girl who fled so-called Islamic State (IS) but captured the hearts of millions on TV and social media with a message of hope and forgiveness is calling on Christians to take action on World Refugee Day, 20 June.
“Please, please, don’t forget the world’s children,” said 13-year-old Myriam, an Iraqi Christian who became an internet sensation when she forgave IS militants for driving her family and thousands of Christians out of their homes in Iraq.
Five years after IS overran the Nineveh valley – the only Christian-majority area of Iraq and a home to followers of Christ since the first century – Myriam and her family are now back home in the largest Christian town of Qaraqosh.
A new SAT-7 documentary, Sequel of Hope, is being released for World Refugee Day (20 June), and shows the destruction left by IS and the faith of the Christian community as it prepared for and celebrated Easter this April.
“I know what it’s like to think you will never see your home or your friends again,” said Myriam. “People forget quickly, but as Christians we must remember in our prayers and in our compassion all the children around the world who are suffering because of war and often because they are Christians.”
Myriam was only nine years old when Christian broadcaster SAT-7 interviewed her at a refugee camp in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Her family fled there just before Christmas 2014 as ISIS swept through the country, terrorising the Christian population. “I will only ask God to forgive them,” Myriam said at the time, adding that she forgave the ISIS fighters herself. She later sang a beautiful worship song.
The video of Myriam forgiving ISIS went viral, reaching millions of viewers around the world – with reporters asking how she could forgive the terrorists. Myriam said she found comfort and strength in watching SAT-7’s children’s TV shows in the camp – programmes that helped her grow in her faith and extend forgiveness to ISIS.
In the programme (www.sat7uk.org/sequel-of-hope), Myriam, now 13, says her family’s home was “protected by the hand of God.” IS destroyed much of her hometown, but Myriam’s house remained standing.
But after living as a refugee for four years, she says, “It’s not about the house. It’s about seeing what God is doing for you. God is always protecting you and you can count on Him.”
In her saddest moments, knowing that believers around the world were praying for her and other Iraqi Christians – and being able to watch SAT-7’s children’s programmes – kept her hope alive, Myriam said.
World Refugee Day Highlights Children’s Courage
With more than 50 million people around the world uprooted from their homes by conflict – including an estimated 31 million children – World Refugee Day spotlights their “strength, courage, and resilience,” says the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
SAT-7 beams Christian programmes into homes across the Middle East and North Africa on Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish channels, encouraging believers, bringing attention to the plight of suffering Christians, and sharing the Gospel with those from non-Christian backgrounds who are curious about Christianity.
“Myriam’s story captured millions of hearts,” said the network’s CEO Rita El-Mounayer, who grew up in war-torn Lebanon and – like Myriam – found a refuge from war in watching TV. “If we want to change the Middle East, we must focus on the children. They have all this pain, all this brokenness and hurt, but God is using SAT-7 to bring a message of reconciliation and peace.”