An Iraqi monk has spoken of how his experiences of life under invasion by the US and by Islamic State have brought him closer to Jesus.

Raeed, an Assyrian Catholic monk from Qaraqosh, once Iraq’s largest Christian town, has set up a temporary monastery in a displacement camp in Erbil. However, he told World Watch Monitor that his calling to serve had been deepened by his experiences of tragedy earlier in life.

He had been travelling in a taxi with a fellow monk and others when the car was crushed by a US tank. The others, including his friend, were all killed and Raeed was left in a coma. He woke to find himself the only survivor.

The incident challenged his faith, but in the end deepened it. “It brought me back to my calling. I’d promised to obey Jesus, and He said ‘Whoever follows Jesus should not look back,'” he said.

Another challenge came when he was forced to flee Qaraqosh as Islamic State invaded in August 2014.

“The sound of honking car horns disturbed the silence of our prayer room. Beyond the street noise, there was the sound of explosions,” he said.

He joined the convoy of refugees and fled to Erbil, where he set up a church in a Portakabin. It is now so busy people have to stand in the doorway during services.

He says he never expected a refugee camp to be his place of service but he accepts it as his calling. He works in the camp alongside a group of nuns, even conducting services in the place of absent priests.

“But I don’t have to be anything supernatural,” he says, “I just have to be here with the people in the church because God needs me to be here…It is all about Jesus. Jesus is the core, He is the Rock we build on. And whatever might happen, our Rock will never disappear. He will always be here.”

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