Aziz’s story, beyond all borders
Aziz is from Iraq, but presently lives in France. “Have you ever stopped to think what it would mean if one day, all of a sudden, you are deprived of everything: family, home, dreams…. What would you do?” he asked the other youth at the Genfest, in Manila.
«Before I tell you my story, I want to ask you a question. Think with me for a moment. Has it ever crossed your mind that in any moment: you could lose everything? Suddenly, without warning, in a single day: you lose the home you grew up in, your best friends, your family, your dreams.
Like most 18-year-olds, I lived a normal life: a house with a family, the opportunity to go to school and enjoyed sports and other activities. However, one day, everything collapsed. A terrorist group arrived in my village. After the withdrawal of the armed forces, the resistance didn’t last long and my village surrendered to these invaders. On the 6th of August, we had to leave the village with whatever clothes we were wearing because we were given a choice: to become a Muslim and pay these people a ransom or be beheaded…
Everything seemed like an action movie where I couldn’t tell the difference between what had actually happened and what I had imagined in my head. Right before leaving our home, my mom went down on her knees and started praying to God that we might still have a house to come back to in the future (just to let you know, our home was one of the very few of the houses that wasn’t bombarded or set on fire!). I cannot begin to describe to you the crowds of refugees: distress of the people walking away from their livelihood, the tears, the look on the soldiers’ faces, seeing families sleeping on the road. The journey to Arbil that normally would’ve taken us half an hour took us 12 hours.
We then headed for Dohuk where we stayed for around two months… It was a very painful time because we waited for weeks — desperate to return to our city. However, this was just a dream as my city was still occupied by these terrorists.
I realised that if I remained rooted in my suffering, nothing would change and I wouldn’t be able to move forward f I just gave up. I identified with Jesus Christ nailed on the cross as I went through this difficult moment and I recalled His cry to the Father asking: “Why have You forsaken Me?” I felt helpless — as He was helpless…Abandoned — as He was abandoned. Alone — as He was alone. So I entrusted myself to Him and decided to live the present moment fully, thinking that if I was able to put a smile on my neighbour’s face, I would be making a change despite everything that has happened to me.
With us was the Yazidi community, who needed more help than us, because the terrorist group had not allowed them to flee. They had killed the men and raped the women and those who’d managed to escape had become so desperate. I tried to forget my own pains in order to console them.
After two months of exile, my parents chose to come to France because the country welcomed us. We arrived on October 26, 2014. Strangers from everywhere accommodated and helped us in so many ways! In these moments I really felt like God Himself worked through these kind people and made my parents feel better. In the beginning was really difficult for them since they had high ranking positions at their workplaces in Iraq, but here in France they had to adjust to what we say more ‘normal jobs,’ and learning French was more difficult for them.
So here I am now in front of you – A young person for a united world! – Now, I am able to speak this new language and I got my baccalaureate degree… here I am in university as well! With a firm belief that as young people, we have enormous potential to be the change we want to see in this world. I understand very clearly now that through sharing my experience with other people, I would be able to concretely share God’s Love in very difficult moments».