BEIRUT (CNS) – The memory of that brutal June evening in his home near Mosul, Iraq, brought 48-year-old Joseph, now a refugee in Lebanon, to tears.
“These people know no limits of humanity, decency, or respect for human life,” he said of the Islamic State fighters.
Meeting with Catholic News Service Aug. 8 at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center in Beirut, he and other Catholic Iraqi refugees asked that their real names not be used to protect their identities as they shared the traumatic experiences that led to their exodus.
Joseph recalled how his wife and their teenage son, Bachar, were in their living room. Two other children were asleep around 10 p.m. when there was an explosion-like crash. In an instant, four militants barged into the house, guns aimed at the heads of father and son.
“Give us your gold and valuables,” he said they demanded.
Filled with fear, Joseph’s wife tried to calmly gather all jewelry she had. One of the militants, noticing Bachar’s cross, ripped off the chain in a rage and started to beat the boy, accusing the family of withholding their gold.
“What’s for sure is they (the terrorists) are not all Iraqis. The ones with the beards are not Iraqis,” Joseph said.
After ransacking the home for other valuables, the terrorists warned they would return in 48 hours. Their ultimatum: The family must convert to Islam, pay the Islamic jizya tax, or be killed.