A teenage boy has recently described the physical abuse and difficulties he and his mother endured at the hands of Islamic State militants who forced them to convert to Islam and study the Quran.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need in Erbil, Iraq, 55-year-old widow Jandark Behnam Mansour Nassi and her 16-year-old son Ismail shared their painful experiences when ISIS overtook their home village of Bartella in August 2014. The teen said the extremists imprisoned him and he witnessed how a woman whose hands and feet were tied was stoned to death.
Ismail, who was 14 years old at the time, recalled how ISIS militants threatened to shoot him dead if he did not convert to Islam. His mother said the terrorists hit them if they refused to embraced Islam.
"I was put in the prison of Bartella. One day a Shi'a [Muslim] was shot right in front of me. The terrorists told me: 'If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well,'" Ismail told ACN. "That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians."
Converting to Islam was painful for Ismail, especially because he did not want to do it. He was later sent to a "correctional camp" where the extremists attempted to force him into marrying at 15 years old.
Aside from that, Ismail and his mother were forced to study the Quran. The militants hit him when they saw his crucifix around his neck and when he could not answer questions from the Islamic book. His mother, on the other hand, was "stung with long needles" when she failed to study the Quran.
"My son was forced by Daesh to practise Islam and I was tortured for not knowing anything about Islam and the Quran," the widow said.
"Yes, I am embarrassed for having had to profess Islam," Ismail interjected.
Ismail and his mother were later rescued by anti-ISIS forces when they made a run for freedom. They later moved to Erbil in the Kurdish Autonomous Region.
After ISIS was driven out of Bartella, Christians were once again able to enter their church for the first time in more than two years. The believers were overcome with their emotions as they witnessed the devastation of St. George's Church as they worshipped, Christian Today reported last month.
Despite the situation, Samaritan's Purse executive director Simon Barrington said the Iraqi Christians were singing about hope when he visited the area. He said the returning Christians are praying that God will rebuild the church and that they could all return to Bartella to recreate their community.