KURDISTAN – No country has suffered more under ISIS than Iraq. The terror group killed hundreds of thousands of religious and ethnic minorities during its four-year rule over parts of the country.
However, their bloody reign had an unexpected impact, turning some Muslims to Jesus.
Iraq will never be the same after ISIS. Sectarian divisions are more deeply felt across the country now than ever before.
But there’s another, more positive effect ISIS has created. The unspeakable cruelty and outright barbarism displayed by the radical sect has caused some Muslims to actually question the roots of their own faith, causing them to seek something better.
Pastor Grady Pickett of Faith Fellowship came to northern Iraq with his family nine years ago.
“Since ISIS, there’s been a lot of talk of ‘what is a Muslim, is this Islam, is this Salafism, what is this?’ And some…a lot of people are like, ‘I don’t want it anymore.’ that’s what they are saying. They don’t know what they are, but they’re not that,” Pickett told CBN News.
Friday in the Arab world is like Sunday in America – it’s their holy day. Three years ago, Grady Pickett and his wife started an English-speaking church here in Erbil. It caters mostly to expats, but they’ve also seen a surprising number of former Muslims attending.
“They all have amazing stories…Muslim background believers…many from Iran, many are having dreams and visions of Jesus, and we’re just seeing that more and more now…but there’s an openness, especially with the young people, with social media they have windows to the whole world, and they’re willing to hear something new,” Pickett says.
Mustafa Habat was once a radical jihadist himself. “I was a radical Muslim, a Salafist Muslim, very radical, and I was fighting,” he says. “Just when you are a Muslim, you are a human. Others, they aren’t even human.”
But the atrocities being committed by the Islamic State made him rethink his devotion to Islam.
“I became an atheist because I don’t know who is God? These words that say the Koran that God say…that Muslims say God told to us, it did not change myself. It’s not important to me. But when I was an atheist, my life was terrible. I was alone. In this world full of crime, full of bad things, I am alone,” Mustafa says.
But then, Mustafa’s professor at the university introduced him to Jesus.
“But when I see Christian persons, full of love, when I went to University I see my teacher, Tracy and she gives me some facts about the Bible, and I found the love,” he says.
Tracy Marie Fenson invited Mustafa to visit her church. “I’m from England and I’ve lived in Kurdistan for two years. I work for the university of Kurdistan, I’ve created the first ever holistic arts center in the Middle East,” she explains.
“The people who come to this church are from all over the world. It’s the great commission. The living, breathing great commission,” Tracy says.
And Mustafa found a place to call home. “I love God, I love Jesus, and this church helped me to find love, to know who I am. Now I found my beautiful God,” he says.