End of Christianity in the Cradle of Christendom?: A Report from Northern Iraq after ISIS
(Fmr. Cong Frank Wolf and David Eubank, August 16, 2017)
Transcript available below
Watch David Eubank’s Speaker Playlist
Watch Frank Wolf’s Speaker Playlist
About the speaker
David Eubank, former U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces officer and founder of the Free Burma Rangers, discussed his time spent on the front lines of the battle against ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, and will urge the Trump administration to continue help in that region along the following lines.
Robert R. Reilly:
We have two very distinguished speakers who are recently returned from northern Iraq to report on what they have seen there, and they have slides on what they have seen. And the first speaker is well known to all of you, Congressman Frank Wolf, who is a champion on the issue of the right to religious freedom and the right to conscience, who sponsored during his terms in Congress so much legislation on this issue, including the very well-known act on religious freedom. He is currently occupying the Wilson Chair on religious freedom at Baylor University and has joined the 21st century Wilberforce Initiative as a distinguished Senior Fellow. I invite you to Frank’s article in at 21Wilberforce on their website, ‘speak freedom alert’, that has a title that tells you a lot. I am sure he will tell us more about that during his remarks.
Now our second speaker is David Eubank, who is a former US Army Ranger and Special Forces officer and the founder of the Free Burma Rangers. There is plenty of literature from Dave out on a table on his group, and there is 21Wilberforce literature also out there I believe. Frank to talk about what you are doing there now, I will not spend any further time since we do have two speakers, so please join me in welcoming them as they address the topic of, “End of Christianity in the Cradle of Christendom: A report from northern Iraq after Isis.”
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Bob Reilly and Westminster for having this event. Bob has been a big supporter. When we brought Sister Diana Momeka over, Bob helped with housing. And so I want to thank you for all of the efforts. I also want to thank Randall Everrett. Is Randall here? Randall Everett is the president of the 21st Century Wilberforce, the group that I work for. Randall was the one who got us started on this effort because when I joined, he decided to take that group. We went to this region in January of 2015, so I thank Randall for that effort and for the work he has done with regard to the 21st Century Wilberforce group, working on this, on Nigeria, and many other areas.
As we all know that Congress, the House and Senate, called this genocide. It was a unanimous vote. There were no negative votes. And shortly thereafter to his credit Secretary Kerry then called it a genocide. The statement that Secretary Tillerson made yesterday was very powerful. There was no if or buts. He called it genocide for both Christians, Yazidis, and others, and laid out I think a very good program. And so let me just thank Secretary Tillerson for his speech yesterday, bringing this administration on the same page with regard to what is taking place with Christians and Yazidis and others. There is more biblical activity that has taken place in Iraq than any other country of the world other than Israel.
My first trip there was in 2003. We were in a town called Nazarea. The marine said have you been to this spot and they took me to Ur. Ur, they said, this was David’s village. And I climbed a ziggurat, which was 2200 years BC. Abraham is from there. Ezekiel is buried there. Jacob spent twenty years. The twelve tribes of Israel were all born for there. Daniel lived in Babylon for his whole life and is buried there. Ezekiel is buried there. Naham is buried there. ISIS blew up Jonah’s tomb. Everywhere we went on this trip we saw biblical activity, so there are more biblical activities there than almost any other country of the world other than in Israel.
In 2003, there were one and a half million Christians, one and a half million Christians. Today, the number is two hundred, two hundred fifty thousand, maybe three hundred thousand, and two people we spoke to said it may actually be as low as a hundred fifty thousand. Many or most have have left.
Those who remain are sometimes involuntary nomads in their own land. They want to stay. They are looking for the West to sort of embrace them, to speak out, and yet they really have not seen the church in the West nor they have seen the Western governments really put their money if you will where the mouth is. Rhetoric and words mean one thing, but support is something they have not seen.
There is a phrase, as many of you experts know, in the Middle East that says first the Saturday people, and then the Sunday people. The Saturday people are the Jewish community. In 1948, the Jewish population of Iraq was a hundred and fifty thousand. In fact, the finance minister of Iraq was Jewish. When we were there the last time on the trip, when Randall and I were there together, I said how many Jewish people are left? They said maybe ten. It may be as low as four individuals.
And in Egypt you see the same thing. In Egypt in 1948, the Jewish community was eighty thousand. Well, we were there a couple years ago. We met with the leader of the Jewish community. She said Mr. Wolf, there are twenty of us. We are all older, elderly individuals, and soon we will all be gone. Now, we understand after the meeting we had yesterday, maybe the Jewish community in Israel is roughly around ten or twelve individuals. We see the same thing taking place now to the Christian community in Iraq.
These are my own personal views. We were in Sinjar City. We were in Sinjar Mountain. You may have seen three years ago at this time the relief that was dropped to Yazidis that were up on the mountain. We went to Bartella. We went to Qaraqosh. We went to Nimrod in the Bible. We saw what ISIS has done to the city of Nimrod. We went Irbil. We went to Dohuk. Marty Hudson got us in to Mosul. We visited a church in Mosul and talked to some of the people. We talked to Christians. We talked to Yazidis, Assyrians, Chaldeans, the Catholic community.
We talked to the international community, the UN. We talk to our embassy. We talked to Kurdistan Regional Government officials. We then went into IDP camps and talk to real people about what was going on in their lives. There were many, many sad stories.
We have a report here. I think there should be enough that everyone can take one, but one Christian woman was sold twenty times by ISIS, twenty times. It was painful to even listen. I had to leave the meeting in the middle of the meeting. Twenty times and now she is almost a prisoner in this one room, not being able to go back to her own community.
We met with in an IDP camp a Christian from Mosul. He said you cannot go back. We met with another Christian family. He was a lab tech technician. His father was on the floor, dying under a blanket. He is afraid to go back and yet they want to go back because their faith is very, very strong.
But they want to see what will the West do. In every meeting when we said what can we do? The number one issue that they asked for in addition to prayer was protection, protection, protection, protection. They wanted security, they wanted to be able to return home, they want to be able to have somebody to protect them. They wanted security when they go back.
So where are we now? We talked to Yazidis and I will not go into it, it is in the report. We went into the religious community. We talked to Bubba Shareast, the head, the religious leader of the Yazidis. We talked to the political leadership of the Yazidis. We talked to everybody that we possibly could. Marty got us into places. Other people there got is into places that quite frankly not many other people have seen except maybe for David Eubank.
What are the recommendations in order to save Christianity, and as Bob said, in the cradle of Christendom? There are several. One, we need a quick passage of Congressman Smith and Anna Eshoo’s bill, HR 390, so when the Senate comes back, it quickly passes that. That puts money that is currently available up front. It gives the State Department and different agencies and USAID the ability of the money to do something.
Secondly, I think this may be the most important recommendation; I believe we need fresh eyes on the target. In 2005, when I went to Iraq with Dan Scanlon, my chief of staff, we were in Tikrit. We were in a hospital. We had guys guarding us and every time they went in a room, they put an AK-47 into the room and into the patients’ faces, and finally I said this is crazy, we are not doing well here. And I came back and put together a proposal for what they called the Iraq Study Group. It was the Baker Hamilton Commission. We need an Iraq Study Group number two made up of maybe people like General Petraeus and General Garner and how ever many others would know to come and look to see what do we do at this moment.
And in addition to that I think you need fresh leadership. Not that I am criticizing those that are currently there that have run this program, but if you have been involved in something over and over and over and it has not worked, when somebody tells you you have to change it, you are reluctant to change it. And the reason you need fresh eyes is sometimes I am working on something at home and I cannot quite get it right, and my wife will say well, what about this, and she sees it differently because it is fresh eyes. We need fresh eyes on the target and we need a new leadership, a top leader to come in for a year or two, maybe a retired military general, maybe somebody like that the State Department has to work directly with Secretary Tillerson and the State Department to be their man, to do everything he or she could do to save Christianity and the Yazidis there.
Next, we need to deal with the security issue, and I think there are people that are smarter than I am, but one of the issues that came up over and over is just put a base here. They said Mr. Wolf that we have a base here, a training base, training police, training military right here in Qaraqosh, right here in Bartella, right here on the Nineveh Plains. So to have a U.S. or an international training base where there are Westerners there to train the Iraqis on human rights, on religious freedom, to train them on military, to train them on policing. I think that will go a long way and most of them felt that that would go a long way too.
Number four is I think we need to hire some contractors who will go out beyond the wire. They are going to the villages and go. This is not meant as criticism of the American Embassy because there was an attack on the American Embassy. You may remember there was a bomb that was set off there, but the American Embassy is locked down for security reasons. The American Embassy only goes to the hotel to meet delegations. The American embassy only goes to the UN compound. You need to go out beyond the wire, and so I think to have contractors for half retired military, who understand, who are willing to go out have a big force, do not need the bulletproof cars, do not need a chase cars, are willing to go in among the people to find out what is needed.
I remember Dr. Graham. Franklin Graham put an event on a couple months ago with persecuted people from all over the world, and the number one thing they said is be with us, come be with us. Eat with us, drink tea with us, listen to us, find out what we are thinking, and so you cannot be in an Embassy in Baghdad or a consul in Irbil or somewhere in Washington. You have to be out among the people. That is why Samaritan’s Purse, the World Vision, and many other groups do such a good job because they are with the people, so I think we need some contractors who will go out beyond the wire and go and be with people, come back, and be the eyes with the recommendations as to what we do.
Next, I think it is an opportunity to use our influence on the KRG to respect human rights and religious freedom, and to do some things that they are not doing. I am sympathetic to the Kurds to a certain degree, but there are some things they are not doing. And they are not doing very well in these areas. And we have more power at this time to exert, to influence them if you will to do certain things. So I think we should use that that opportunity.
We are very appreciative of the Kurds. The Kurds lost 1700 people fighting ISIS. The Kurds had 10,000 men wounded, so I am thankful for the Kurds for what they have done, but there is an opportunity to make sure they respect human rights and religious freedom for Christians and Yazidis.
Next, I did not know this very much, but in almost all the meetings we went to, people talked about the land bridge or the Iranian Crescent. We would go through checkpoints and it would be by Iranian militia, some paid for by the Iranian government. Iran is trying to get a land bridge to go from Iran through Iraq, and Baghdad right now is heavily Shia, and go from there into Syria. And we know that Hezbollah and Iran are working with Assad, and from there to go to a Mediterranean port. That way you can bring men, and supplies, and weapons, and equipment from Tehran into Iraq, into Syria to the Mediterranean, to Hezbollah. I believe this is to put a direct threat against Israel, but also a direct threat against the Western government, and a direct threat against our own government.
The last recommendation is that different groups you need to come together. When you sit down with them, sometimes they have differences of opinions. As is often said, two heads are better than one. When one falls down, the other can help him up. The Christians, and Yazidis, and the other religious minorities need to come together with unified positions, not on everything, but on some fundamental things. And then the diaspora, which is here in the United States and other other places, needs to be with those who are on the ground, but there needs to be a unity on some of the more fundamental issues.
The last thing – and then I am going to share some quick slides – Dave can do this. I am both optimistic and I am pessimistic. There were a lot of people heading home. I love my home. I love to get to my own house. They were heading home. You could see these trucks. I know we are going to have these slides, but the trucks on the roads with furniture piled high, going back to Qaraqosh, going back to Bartella, not too many going back to Mosul, but going back to other places.
So if we in the United States do some bold things, if we bring in some new leadership, if we get the new USAID director Mark Greene, who is a fine guy, to begin to fund, if there is an office of a special coordinator to kind of tie up, to make sure that World Vision is working with the right groups and Samaritan’s Purse, I think we can literally save Christianity in the cradle of Christendom, and in the process to also help the Yazidis, to save the Yazidis to be able to live in peace.
If we do not do this, I believe – and this is the controversial point – I believe if we do not do this by the end of this year, I think we will have seen the end because every group we met with was always thinking of going abroad. They said they are getting calls from the relatives in Australia and Canada who say hey, life is good, come on out. And with the Christian community, education is very important, so when school ends, they are going to leave. And so now they are looking to see what does the United States do? So by being bold, putting new leadership in, passing Chris Smith and Anna Eshoo’s bill, putting the things with regard to protection, a training base, and things like that, I believe we can save Christianity in the cradle of Christendom.
And so the message is to the church: many of the Christians feel they have been forgotten by the church in the West. As we talk about refugees helping, it is important that we help those who want to stay also. It is fine to help a refugee who comes here, that is what this country does well, but let us also help the refugees that want to stay so that we can save Christianity in the cradle of Christendom, so that they will be there for years and years to come. I think it is good for them, I think it is good for the West, and I think it is the right thing to do.
There are many passages in the Bible where Jesus tells us over and over and over what the obligations are, and I think we in the church in the West ought to be in the leadership to provide that with a new administration. I think we have that opportunity. David, if you would just run through these quickly.
This is St. Mary’s Church in Qaraqosh. These were Bibles that were all burned. That was a statute that was broken. Upon every place there was a religious symbol, they hacked it apart. They wrote ISIS symbols on all the church symbols. Every cross you will see they broke off. Even a cross that was in the concrete, they chipped it apart.
This is a direct confrontation against Christianity. This is in a church in Saint Mary’s. You see the destruction there. Go ahead, Dave. This is the St. George Church in Bartella. Here you see the cross again. Symbols are a target. They use target practice in that church. They used it, lined it up, they shot. They stood way back in a courtyard and they fired, and they used that as target practice. That is where Sister Diana, who Bob had here about a year ago, has her church. That was her convent. This is the ISIS banner that they hung in Bartella in Iraq, which was a Christian city.
This was the church we visited in Mosul. This was a Muslim family. There were several Muslim families that were living in that Christian Church. They were glad America was here and knew what to do. This is Old Testament, ancient Nimrod. You can go on YouTube. You can see when Isis blew it up, they then put it on YouTube, and you can see them bowing it up. It destroyed that. That was the Tree of Life, and all of this goes back. This is an Old Testament Assyrian king in 2 Kings. It is all there, you will see the next slide. We can go to the next slide.
This was his summer castle if you will. The biblical history there is so rich. This was in Sinjar city where all the Yazidis left, and as they were coming up the mountains, clothing was all over and that was put up by somebody, but almost nobody has been returned to Sinjar. This is ruins. This is in Sinjar city. Underneath all of the the homes there are tunnels. We went through some tunnels that ISIS had built in Sinjar city, which was a Yazidi city.
This is a Yazidi family returning home. This is Sinjar mountain; beautiful, but you can see clothing all over. Most of the families are now living on top of Sinjar Mountain, which is very cold in the winter, but they live in tents, and they are waiting for a relief, waiting for help. This was bombing and destruction you can see going up the road. They fled out of this city and with regard to that, thank you very much for coming. Dave Eubank has done amazing things.
Thank you, sir. I am David Eubank. I am with the Free Burma Rangers. For the last twenty plus years we have been working in Burma in the conflict areas. We have seventy ethnic relief teams there, but the last three years we were invited into Iraq and Syria to help people under attack by ISIS.
So tonight, mostly I want to give glory to God and thank God. He changes hearts. That is the best policy of all and it is a supernatural one, and that is what is going to change the Middle East. It is what changes us. And he did two things for me that is sure. He changed my heart to love the Iraqis. I did not even know who they were. I was a soldier, Ranger Special Forces officer, and I fell in love with the Iraqis. That is the power of Jesus.
Second, I do not hate ISIS. I got shot there. Some of my best friends were killed there. My translator was killed. I saw many children shot in the head. Some people I held in my arms and they were shot in my arms, and I do not hate them. I do not hate ISIS. I can pray for them and that is Jesus only. That was not me. If I can say nothing else tonight, that is what is going to change, and that is what has changed the world.
But I am doing none of this alone. We bring our medics and other people from Burma to help, and I want to say that the U.S. government has done a great job with air support and supporting the Iraqis. The Iraqi army itself is very brave. They have paid a high cost. And my family goes with me. You guys come on up.
Oh, hi, my name is Suuzanne. I just turned fifteen, and when we go on our mission trips, I help my mom with her kids program and I help give food and water. And when we were in Burma, I helped lead the horse and meal teams.
Hello, my name is Peter Eubank and I am eleven years old. And when I am on the mission trips with my family, my mom started the Good Life Club program, which is an organization to help children and I help with that.
Hi, my name is Sahale. I am sixteen years old and I am an assistant videographer in Kurdistan, Iraq, and Syria. And in Burma I helped lead the horse and meal teams with Suuzanne because that is the only way you can transport food and medicine we need to get to the surrounding villages. Thank you all for coming.
I am Karen Eubank and just thankful to be here with you all. It is so encouraging to be on the field in a place that is desperate, but very rich in a different kind of way, and to go through the joys and trials with people there, and then to come back and find you are not alone, and you all care about this, and are so interested. And there are so many amazing, dedicated, competent people, working on behalf of them in amazing ways through our government and through the whole population, the community of churches and friends alike.
Good Life Club
The kids program that they are talking about is just called the Good Life Club, and in a nutshell that has been inspiring to me as well because in the beginning of our time in Burma, I was faced with this group of kids, a whole village of kids in a desperate situation, and I thought Lord, I cannot take care of all these kids. I could not even take care of one of them. And Jesus said you are right, introduce them to me and I will give them abundant life, and so that has been a real mainstay for my life, to offer that introduction because I do not know what Jesus can do in people’s lives, but it is not just true for kids in Burma, it is true for my friends here as well because we all have difficulties we are going through and we all want something abundant.
So the kids program works itself out into songs, and games, and skits, and lots of fun things that would just give them tools for courage in their body and spirit. And so we have lots of people that join with us and we are never alone. So thank you again for being with us tonight and for all you do as you leave this place tonight and then the future.
We have gone as the family since they have been born, and the people in Burma would say as soon as our kids are born, bring them with us and you know there are families in every conflict area. And when I first went to Kurdistan with my kids, the Kurdish Defense Minister said oh, you brought your kids, your most precious thing. We will give you our most precious thing, our country, and that has been true in Sudan, it has been true in Burma because we are all in this world together. Everybody counts.
And so generally we try to keep them out of direct fire and back where people are fleeing but where they can help, but they have been a great blessing. And this is not really what I planned to do. I hope it is okay. Why do not you came here, honey?
When we first got involved in Kurdistan about three years ago, when we were invited there, at that point if you will remember, ISIS had been stopped about 23 kilometers from Irbil. They were pushed up right below Sinjar. They actually had ninety percent of Sinjar town. And so my family would be up on the hill and I would be down at the front line with my medics.
And up in another place called Beshikah, there is a monastery, Marmati, St. Matthews Monastery has been there since 400 AD. And there was a village below it and about a mile in front was ISIS. You could see their flags, and they would shell and shoot, and the Kurds were holding the back, but the Christian monasteries were up on this hill.
We were there also, and on one Sunday we walked up the hill to the monastery and after church, which is Syrian Orthodox, a woman was singing this song, and it was a beautiful song. And so I videotaped it, and my daughter learned it on a trip to Syria, which is another story, and it is in Arabic, but the words are this: “Jesus set me free. Jesus set me free. He gave his life for me. Jesus set me free.” And I want Sahale to sing it in Arabic because the congressman is talking about how these are some of the last Christians left in the Middle East, and this woman is singing this. And we are there for the Christians, we are there for the Muslims, we are there for everybody, but if this is our family that is there, and so I would like for you to sing that song, honey.
While we were first with the Kurds, and then when the Kurds started the counterattack against ISIS in October of last year, we were with them as well, and they pushed out and made a new de facto border. And the referendum is going to be following up on that. And I agree with the congressman, this is a good time to show our support to the Kurds. They have a right to their own country.
However, they need to take the time to include everybody. And Christians and Yazidis are very much caught in the middle between the Iraqis and the Kurds right now, so I think we have a good position as friends with the Kurds to thank them and support them, but also encourage them to take the steps necessary not only for the freedom for the Christians and Yazidis, but for good relations with the Iraqis.
As we were in Kurdistan, ISIS was defeated by November in Kurdistan. And we felt God opened the door for us to help the Iraqis, and like I told you my heart was changed working the Iraqis. Starting in Mosul in November all the way till June we were with them. And my wife and kids were back at the Kazi collection point, handing out food and water, taking care of patients. And myself and my team were at the front, and we faced ISIS a lot in that time.
The brigade I supported started with 105 BMP, that is armored track vehicle with about a ten-man crew. We had eight when the battle was over, and we lost almost all our tanks. One of the battalions I was with at the end of this mission, which was June about two months ago, we had 27 men left, and that is a price the Iraqi army has paid. The Americans are providing air support, but all the hard fighting is done by the Iraqis, and they are brave.
And one thing that struck me the most about the Iraqis is that these are mostly Shia soldiers. They had risked their lives to save Sunni families who are running. Mostly Sunni families at the end were ISIS families. And I asked them why did you give your life because some of them died saving other Sunni families. They said if we do not save them, we will be fighting forever in Iraq. And so one thing we try to encourage our government, the U.S. government, to do is stay close to the Iraqi army. They know the cost and they have I think the right idea on how to go forward.
While we were there we saw ISIS killing families, maybe a family or two a week inadvertently, but by June of this year they began a slaughter of families. And a fatwa came out from the from ISIS, especially the Chechen ISIS from Russia, these are Muslims from Russia who came to join ISIS, who are very sophisticated, very good at what they are doing, antiaircraft systems, antitank systems. There were on the first bridge in Northwest Mosul, wiping out anybody who tried to come, but when families began to leave, they sent out a fatwa, which was this: any family that leaves – even your own child – kill them, do not let them fall in the hands of the Iraqis.
And so I want to show you a clip. We were helping people. You all may have seen this. Alright, on this street there are about seventy dead people. These are all dead bodies. We saw this and it was about one or two little kids still alive, hiding in their mother’s hijab, the black covering and we saw one man alive, and we prayed, ‘How can we help them?’ because this street was totally controlled by ISIS. They had already destroyed armored vehicles and many, many people. We prayed and I contacted the Americans.
I am an ex-Special Forces guy. There are a few of you all in here. Thank God for our military. For anybody who doubts the courage of our military, you know courage is not just facing bullets. For a lot of us that would be the easy thing. It is risking your reputation and your job, is it not? That is the tough one. And talking to this American general, he says okay, talk to the Kurds and the Iraqis. We have got to do this right, so the Iraqis and Americans coordinated. They dropped this smoke, 93 rounds of smoke. ISIS is right behind this wall on all the higher buildings. And then an Iraqi tank group who volunteered to go out. These are two volunteers that came with us. And the guy who filmed this is from Burma, my pastor named Mun Kee. And he is filming this whole thing.
I am running out to get this girl, okay? So, we got that girl out. That was I believe the power of God. That was the Americans dropping smoke when we needed it. That was the Iraqi tank team risking their lives to go help and our team helping. After that we got that girl out and we went back to Kazik collection point, I called my wife and said honey, I got a little kid, the only one not shot, but she cannot speak, she has been hiding with her dead mother, she is going to need a mom. So, after we had given her an IV and given her a lot of water, we handed over to Karen. I just found out this week that she has been reunited with the only living member of her family, an aunt. And it is the first time I saw her smile. I am sorry I do not have the photos of her smiling, but she is okay.
But the next day in the same ISIS compound, but now more in their area, we were told there are more people alive, and a woman who has been shot in the hip and has a compound fracture saw through the cracks outside where you rescued that girl, and [she] said please rescue me, there are five of us here alive. I was like no way, we cannot get inside their compound, inside ISIS’ compound, and get anybody out, we will all die.
I want to make this point really clear. The first day: God’s power, the American smoke, and the Iraqi tank, I made the plan, I led the mission. The second day, an Iraqi private named Zuhair, he made the plan, he led it. In fact, he told me when I was terrified (that is the only word I could choose), [and I told him], I am not going to go there, man, we are all going to die. And he said, I will go by myself and die. I will not leave anyone alive in there. He said you are Special Forces [and] you guys can do anything. I was like, man, this is not a movie. I am also fifty-six. I cannot do kung fu flips or anything.
But we prayed. And one thing I loved about the Iraqis [was that] everyone I met believes in God, and so we could pray together, him a Muslim, me a Christian, and say God, what should we do? Well, the Iraqi army would not let him go, we prayed again, and the Iraqi commander said, okay, you get eight hours off. Anybody wants free time? You get eight hours. And so, one lieutenant, two sergeants subordinated themselves to this private, and so did I and four of my team. We went. We were pulling people out, and ISIS was very close to us.
And I know this is not probably supposed to be a religious talk. I do not know how else to say it, but we were inside an ISIS building. [We could] hear them talking outside. There were two hundred of them. These were Chechens with ZSU-23s, anti-tank, machine guns, everything. And [this was at] a blown-up Pepsi factory, so there was a lot of noise. And I thought, oh god, you have got to be kidding me. But that is when I remembered the power of prayer. And I know people like you all were praying, so I said, “In Jesus name, ISIS, you cannot hear us. Demons must be stopped. Satan get away. We got to do this.”
I did it on a shred of faith, and we went in there, we rescued four people.
And then there was a woman right there. She is behind the truck [in this picture with four other shot people. [This was] her third day [since] she had been shot. [She had had] no water [for] three days. And she looked at me and said (with just her mouth because she could not make a noise) help me. And I thought no way, if we step out there, the four people we are trying to save are going to die [and] we are all going to die. But then I prayed.
Remember God can do anything, and I want to say this, God can do anything, including what needs to be done, sir, about U.S. policy. Even though people may tell us no, no, we cannot do this, if God is in it, it can be done. And so, I just prayed, lord, help us. And I prayed with Zuhair, and he looked up and he looked at the wiring, [and] he said “that.” We could not make noise. We cut the wiring down. We tied it. It is a little girl. She ran it out twenty meters, ISIS shooting at her, because they could see her through it, to this lady. She tied around her wrist, and the way her angle was [positioned meant that] ISIS could not hit her, and they cannot see her. Go ahead and show that now.
So, we are just dragging her. All of these are dead bodies. This guy in a wheelchair right there is dead, shot. As we got her closer, she is saying God is great, thank you God, and thank you, you guys did not leave me. I do not know how you count rescues, but we ended up doing seven of them. And some journalist asked me, you guys specialize in rescues? I said no way, man. You do not want to do a real one because you are probably going to die.
But that could have been done without the Iraqis. The Iraqi General we worked with, General Mustafa, the day I left was in June. He said this to me – he is Muslim, and first he made fun of us. The first week I had a hard time, and he is looking at us all the time like who are you guys, you know. He had worked under Saddam Hussein. He was a Sunni General, and he said, tell the Americans, we love you, please love us, and I want to thank you for showing us what it means to follow Jesus. You are willing to give your life for us, Iraqis. We would do the same for you. And we watched them do that.
When Congressman Wolf talked about fresh eyes, I believe that is what we need. We have great eyes out there, and our military has done a great job, but we need fresh, aggressive, loving eyes, someone who can coordinate all these activities. We are going to be there in the Middle East. We have no choice. We can run back here and hide, [but] that would be wrong. One, it will not work. They will come to us. Second, what a waste of our lives. God has given us so much. We are not going to lose happiness helping those people. And we can do it, it is possible. We cannot solve every problem, but we can do some things.
One thing I like [is something] Colonel North told me, Col. Oliver North, the other day. He said Dave, we want to cooperate, not dominate, but to cooperate you have got to be there as you said, sir, and so whoever these new guys are, which some of you all may be able to think about, could lead the effort to be one with these Iraqis and maybe even Syria, we may have to do both of these.
Another initiative you talked about was contractors, and I think the issue there was many people in our government do not have the freedom to go out and be with these people. And if you are not with those people, you do not know them, [so] you are not going to care as much [and] you are probably going to be more afraid. Once you are with somebody, your fear kind of goes away, you start loving somebody. I always tell my teams if you are afraid, ask God for love because you are not going to be afraid with love. You do not have to think you are a hero, you can do heroic things out of love.
This is my real thing, sir, I think it has got to come from the president. The only way you are going to change the policy [is] if the president United States says, okay, from now on you at every embassy and every military installation, you will decide your own risk assessment and you will go out and meet people, and if you get killed or one of your guys gets killed, we are not going to fire anybody. The buck is going to stop with me. We are going to engage, and that is where I think it needs to come from. Otherwise, the biggest fear, I think, is not that people are going to do, [it is that] people are afraid to lose their jobs. That is my feeling, and so if that does not happen, then we are going to have to have contractors or somebody who can go out and engage. In the meantime, there are people like Samaritan’s Purse.
There are many NGOs that work behind the frontline or near the frontline [or] some [that are] in the frontline that will be very happy (I know we would) to have a direct line of engagement with our government to help in any way we could. We cannot do the powerful things that the American government can do, but we can help, so I agree with that.
I am trying to follow your outline, sir. The Hashd al-Shaabi are the militias that have stood up. I think in one sense they are like any militias that would grow up in America if we were overrun. There would be some good ones, there would be some bad ones. We worked only with the good ones by the grace of God. I always approach them like this. God sent me. Number two, I am an American. Number three, sorry for anything wrong we have done to your country. We are here at your service. I always became friends with them, and so there are many of these militias that could be our friends.
However, just as if we had a militia situation in America, there would be some that would be downright evil, and if you had a foreign influence like Iran, they would not just be evil, they would have an agenda to drive. And if we think we should be invested in Iraq, they know they have to be, and so right now, it is an unavoidable contest. And I do not think it needs to be one that you have got to win with bullets. I think you can win it with love, but you cannot have love without presence, and so I want to support you, sir, in all your suggestions, and I think I would like to stop here, except for one little story.
One of my drivers in the Humvee I had was a Muslim named Muhammad. In April, he gave his life to Jesus. The next day, he went to Samaritan’s Purse hospital. He said oh, there is lots of the Jesus people here. And a month after that, on May 4 of this year, the unit I was with launched an attack in northwest Mosul, and we ran into a buzzsaw. We lost four BMPs right away. We lost two tanks [and] thirty guys [were] killed. Civilians start running, ISIS starts gunning them down. We try to help the civilians. Our guys start getting shot.
My Humvee got shot to pieces until it could not even move, lost power [and] transmission. The guy in the machine gun hatch had to come inside, and my driver Muhammad said I will go for help. I said no way, man. Let us get a tank in here to help us. He jumped out, ran through a hail of fire, a real hail of fire, got another Humvee, came back.
Meanwhile, there were civilians who had been shot. we pulled him into our Humvee. One little girl, about nine years old, [had been] shot in the eye. Her father, shot twice, [was] shot again as I lifted him up. He is bleeding to death. We were trying to stop the bleeding. My medics are inside the Humvee. [The] Humvee cannot move. We are in between three buildings. They are firing us up. Muhammad drives back to the new Humvee, parks on the safe side, but in the meantime, ISIS has moved [around] on that side because they are closing in for the kill.
And Muhammad jumps out of his new Humvee, our Humvee door opens, my translator Shaheen steps out. Some of you all know [him], like Chris, you met him. He was shot dead. He did not die then. He was shot in the stomach, fell down. We could not transload the wounded people. Muhammad grabbed Shaheen, [and he] was shot eight times. This is the new Christian. [He was shot] eight times: one, two, three, four [shots from an] M-16. How he lived, I do not know. [He was shot] five, six, seven, eight [times in these places. He] did not fall down. He picked up Shaheen, dragged him into the Humvee.
And if there is a word, greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, it is that because here is a Muslim (he was a Muslim). Here is an Iraqi helping a Yazidi. Shaheen was a Yazidi, and actually Shaheen hated the Iraqis, and he gave his life though that day to save Iraqi family members. Shaheen died ten days later in the hospital, my translator, a Yazidi guy. Muhammad, I called two weeks later. That was ten o’clock in the morning, that was the beginning the battle.
Well, I have got to finish the story. We finally got a tank down to us, blasted away at ISIS, pulled our vehicle out. That was ten in the morning, that was the beginning of the day. He just kept going on and on and on until we left in June, but two weeks later I called Muhammad. I said Muhammad, how are you? He is in the hospital in Baghdad. He said I am very happy. I said how are you happy, man? He said Jesus is in my heart, and so what I found – you know, I prayed that would happen, and I have not seen it happening in droves, but that is God’s business. A friend of mine reminded me, do not be mission focused be kingdom focused, it is God’s business. But I have learned to love the Muslim Iraqis, and I have not told you about Syria. We did [go] there a couple times, but I think I am going to stop right now for questions for the congressman or for myself or comments, but thanks for listening.
Would you please repeat the number of that House Bill that you were talking about at the beginning?
Congressman Frank Wolf:
H.R. 390, so we can all contact our congressional representatives?
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Yes, and it is cosponsored by Congressman Chris Smith in New Jersey, a Republican, and Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California.
Is there any way that these messages that you have given tonight can work their way up to the top of our government? Our Congress needs to hear what you just said, and it has to make its way to the president.
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Well, both David [and] I went up today and briefed staff up on the Hill. As you know, most members are back in their districts now.
Thank you both very much. Is it true what I read in the media and see on YouTube that the Christian hierarchy of the various sects may be encouraging their flocks, their respective flocks, Orthodox or Chaldean or Catholic or whatever, to leave and to leave permanently rather than stay?
Congressman Frank Wolf:
No, I do not think that is true. One priest that we met with on the first trip said help us to stay, but if you are not going to help us to stay, then help us to leave. Do not leave us in this, but no, they desperately [want to stay]. Bishop Wuerl, and all the priests that we met with, and the nuns want their people to stay. They love their country. It is a beautiful country [with a beautiful] history, so no, but a comment, which I thought was very profound, [was] help us to stay, but if you are not going to help us to stay, then help us to leave.
It is accepted that Israel is home for Jews. In many countries in the Muslim world like Saudi Arabia it is a Muslim country. Why can’t we, for example, have a place like Lebanon, you know, a place where [there is] a safe haven for Christians to come to maybe.
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Well, the Christians in Iraq love their country. They want to stay, and so they do not [want to] somehow move to Lebanon as a way of getting out of danger. They want to stay. They love their country. They are highly educated. A number of them are doctors. One gentleman [who we met] in a tent was a PhD in Mosul at the university. Another one in another tent was a lab technician in a hospital in Mosul. They want to stay. They love their country the same way that if we are from the Shenandoah Valley, we love the Shenandoah Valley, so they want to stay, but their frustration is they have not seen the West really do what it said it can do to help them stay, but they love their country, and they want to stay.
Sir, thank you very much, both of you. Do you have thoughts on how to wake up the church to the needs of persecuted Christians in Iraq and other places?
I will do the first part, sir. Prayer because the only that is going to last is a spiritual impulse, not a human impulse. The second is, I would say, be bold, bold in things that Jesus humbled and things of humans and go forth. There is nowhere in the Bible that I can read that says be safe, pull back. This is line, we cannot cross it. It is always go. Go forth to all the nations. Be bold, and so God has blessed our country so much, and I believe [He] will keep blessing it. We obey Him and keep going, and so my message to the church is ask God what to do. He is going to tell you.
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Well, I think there is a way because we have a model. It was in the late 1997, ’98 Chuck Colson (and I wish we had Chuck alive today), Chuck Colson, Cardinal McCarrick, Rabbi Saperstein, David Saperstein, who was the Ambassador of Religious Freedom in the previous administration. He did an outstanding job. They all came together, and it was a group that met to deal with the issue of Sudan. Many churches in those times in the month of November would have a religious freedom Sunday. They would bring in dissidents from China, from Sudan, and the church was alive on fire, if you recall. For some reason it has dissipated, so I think there is a way.
There are so many passages in the Bible, telling the Church what to do to stand with your brother in Christ, those who are in prison as if you are in prison. Look for [them and] read about it, but I think it needs to be [rejuvenated], so we do not have a Coulson, we do not Cardinal McCarrick. Bishop Wuerl is very good. Cardinal Dolan has been very good. Russell Moore has been very good, but if every church had a Sunday where they prayed for the persecuted church and brought people from China, brought in people from Sudan, brought in people from Iraq [that would be even better.
And secondly, adopt churches and adopt Christian communities and families in these places. I think it will wake up the church, but lastly, prayer, but it was done. It was such a powerful movement. That is how the religious freedom bill passed. Chuck Colson used to do prayer points. Cardinal McCarrick would do things. Rabbi Saperstein [did things too]. It all dissipated in mid-2004, 2005, 2006. I think it can be rekindled.
Dr. Randel Everett:
Frank, can I speak to that too just really quickly? I appreciate that question. My wife and I were in İzmir, Turkey three and a half years ago, and we were sitting at a table with a pastor from Syria, and he said they are killing our men, they are raping our women, they are burning our churches, and the church in the West does not care. Why?
I am a pastor in a church in Texas. I would rather be a pastor than anything else. I love the church, it is a great church, but God moved in our heart that we needed to do something. What has to happen to wake up the church in America? And that is the motivation for me to lead and start 21Wilberforce, [thinking about] how do we wake up the church of America?
And let me just give you a resource. The Baptist churches in Texas asked us to provide resources for them, so the weekend of November 3, 4, and 5, they are trying to get all of their churches, 5500 churches, to emphasize standing with the persecuted church on that Sunday, and so Dave Eubanks and his family are going to be with us in Texas, but we have created a website that will be live next week. It is live now, but we are still populating it. It will be ready next week. It is Speak Freedom Texas,
It has nothing to do with geographies. It is that they are the ones who asked us for this. And on SpeakFreedomTexas.org, we have sample sermons, and so you can take one of these sermons and anglicize them or catholicize them or whatever, but we have four sample sermons. We have 25 illustrations of people that we have met who are in these persecuted churches or persecuted areas, and most of them are Christians, but we have some that are Muslims who have faced religious persecution. We have videos that can be used. We have Sunday School lessons that can be used. We have prayer guides. We have a prayer guide for children, a children’s prayer guide, so they know how to pray for the persecuted church, and then we have some very specific things that your church can do.
We even have a little thing called Build Freedom Shelter where Habitat for Humanity asked us to give an example of a shelter that they live in in these IDP camps, so we got the exact stats of a shelter in Nigeria, and so a church can build this little shelter. They are doing it. Some of them have done it. It costs $200 hundred dollars to build, and then we populate it with storyboarding on the inside. And then the children go through. All the different ones go through these houses and have something to really visualize what whole families are living in in a lot of these IDP camps, so that is a resource. We hope that people regardless of where they live or what their denomination is might find this a helpful resource.
Could you give a few of your thoughts on cooperation with the Greek Orthodox, the Lebanese Orthodox, the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Russians, the Orthodox? [What are] your thoughts because they are a powerful [branch of Christianity]. All the numbers [are large]. What, in fact, is happening?
I do not know the answer to that all, so I am going to hand mic the over to you, sir. I think it is a great idea, but you are going to do better at this than me.
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Well, the Orthodox Church is active with regard to some in Greece, and some in [other places], but I think everyone really ought to be involved. Franklin Graham did a very powerful program in July. He was at the Mayflower. He brought in Greek Orthodox. Every denomination, every denomination, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and they all came to Washington to work, four to five hundred people. It was the first summit they have ever had, and they all told the story, so it was the beginning of the cooperation, and Franklin Graham helped.
I assume they are going to do another one. They were all there, [including] from Russia the Patriarch. Was anybody there? The Patriarch was there from Russia. Cardinal Wuerl was there. Cardinal Wuerl spoke. I think Russell Moore was there from the Southern Baptist [Convention]. Everyone was there, and it was in July of this year, so a lot is being done, and Franklin Graham pulled that group together. It did not get very much press, but they were all there. They took the whole hotel, that is how many [people attended], I think 500-700 people from 137 countries around the world.
Robert R. Reilly:
If I may just make a comment, Frank, the Westminster Institute, of course, is housed here with Barnabas Aid, which is an organization that helps persecuted Christians, and it is also in the field in some of these places. [They] brought together a group of bishops and ministers from the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria, to work on the kind of cooperation we are talking about. The biggest problem they faced you just touched upon. In Franklin Graham’s gathering, that they did not get much publicity, and one of the messages to these bishops and others was that you arrange amongst yourselves to raise the profile of what you are going through, so that it does get that kind of publicity and attention that would call forth a larger response from Europe. Do you have [anything to add]?
Congressman Frank Wolf:
No, I think you have to do that. I was disappointed. I mean here [is] Franklin Graham and, you know, the hospital, I saw one little thing about the hospital. It was the most impressive thing I have ever seen. I do not know if Franklin Graham or Samaritan’s Purse wants to be talked a lot about. You know, you want to do somethings and not take credit for them, but they have different programs, different colored tapes for different injuries, and one is the black tape if somebody is dying. No one dies alone. Little children who are dying, they stay with them, they comb their hair, they pray with them, they rub their arms, so when they are dead, they have somebody there.
What Samaritan’s Purse is doing in that hospital – I do not think anybody from our government has been in the hospital. It is incredible, and you know, there are no Christians. There are Christian men, and women, and nurses. They are volunteers from all over America. Everyone who is being treated is a Muslim, and yet for some reason the paper did not even cover this. It is probably one of the most impressive stories coming out of the region, but you know, that is why they I think all the churches have [to work together].
Everything that takes place in culture is downstream to the political process, and I think you have got to get this in current, and the politicians have got to begin to understand that your churches care deeply, but why did Franklin Graham’s group get [together] every leader, and what Franklin Graham is doing, Google the hospital that he has. It is just outside [Erbil]. It is a rough neighborhood, and they have been there for months, and they have got just a little coverage [in the press]. Have you been in the hospital?
Yes, sir. When we were fighting in east Mosul, that was the preferred place we take our casualties to. And all of the Iraqis called it the American Hospital, where people love you and take care of you. It was the number one place, if you can get your people there, on the east side. And I went there a couple times. I took Muhammad there, and he is like oh, this is a Jesus place, and that was when he was still a Muslim.
Robert R. Reilly:
I want to thank Congressman Wolf and Dave Eubank. I must tell you that their presentations, and let us say their characters, makes a lot of sense of what an Iraqi said as the American troops began leaving. An Iraqi [was asked], well, now that the American troops are leaving, what do you think of them? And his response was you are better than your movies. That is because they met people like Dave Eubank and, of course, Congressman Wolf because what they see there that they do not see in the movies is the finest character of America and our country. God bless you both. Thank you. Thank you all for coming.