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December 14, 2016

Wilberforce A!ert: A Wartime Miracle

War is a horrifying prospect – a chaotic scenario in which the threat of death is pervasive. Yet, even in the midst of war, unexpected miracles remind us that our God is an “ever-present help in time of need.”

One such event took place in Kirkuk – an Iraqi city that was recently declared “liberated” from ISIS. Unfortunately, some ISIS fighters had remained hidden there after their fellow terrorists were either killed or expelled. 

As Newsweek reported,

“The attack in Kirkuk, an oil-rich city located 100 miles southeast of Mosul, was initiated … by sleeper cells who joined forces with infiltrating ISIS fighters. They captured several buildings and engaged in gun battles with Iraqi forces, who eventually defeated them … ”

At 4 am on October 21, in a dormitory-style house, seven college girls were harshly awakened by the sound of four men breaking down their door and heading toward their bedroom.

The panicked young women grabbed their cellphones and blankets and hurriedly crawled under one of the beds. They froze in place, listening in dazed silence. It didn’t take them long to realize that the home invaders were ISIS terrorists.

They could hear gunfire in the streets outside along with urgent shouts and explosions. Their quiet neighborhood had become a warzone.

The girls offered up silent prayers, stifled their tears, and texted their families. They also SMS’d three Dominican nuns who lived next door.

And they waited, barely breathing. 

The nuns, who were also hiding, admonished them to keep still, remain calm and pray.

But suddenly, the bedroom door burst open, and two critically wounded ISIS fighters were carried inside. One was hurriedly placed on a nearby bed.

The other, groaning in pain, was laid out on the same bed that hid the girls. He was bleeding profusely and his blood began to drip through the mattress and onto the girls’ trembling bodies.

Minutes turned to hours. The girls suppressed coughs and whispers. They ignored their need for a toilet. They texted. They listened to the gunfire just outside.  And they waited.

Sister Diana, a Dominican nun who has worked for years among displaced Iraqi Christians in Kurdistan, recounted the story to me in a recent FaceTime interview. 

“It was a miracle. For eight hours, the girls were not discovered,” she recalled. “One of the ISIS guys even touched a girl’s leg with his foot while he was tending to the injured fighter. But he never noticed.”

During those long hours, Iraqi soldiers, local security and Peshmerga fighters successfully killed a number of ISIS terrorists in the neighborhood. The worried invaders moved their two injured fighters into another room, then rushed out.

“By that time the sisters next door, priests and some of the girls’ family member were in touch with local security,” Sister Diana explained. “They texted that while the ISIS men were outside, the girls should very quietly flee, one by one, through a back entrance that had been left open.”

Of course they were terrified. But all seven of them bravely made their way out and into the house next door.

Then, just minutes after the last girl escaped, a massive explosion rocked the neighborhood. A hurried investigation revealed that the two wounded terrorists had detonated suicide belts.

If the girls hadn’t left when they did, they would have died in the blast.

“They’re all still traumatized,” Sister Diana told me, “but everyone survived that terrible night.

“It was nothing less than a miracle.”

For some, the hope of Iraq’s Christians returning to their ruined homes and churches still seems impossible. But for others, thanks to the Lord’s powerful presence and intervention, a sense of expectation has begun to stir in their hearts.

Action Item:

In this season of giving, support the Dominican Sisters through the Humanitarian Nineveh Relief Organization (HNRO) as they seek to return and rebuild.  Go to and click “Give now,” or click here, making sure to write “donation to HNRO” in the comment field.  

Category: Middle East & North Africa
Region: Middle East & North Africa
Keywords: Lela Gilbert,Kirkuk,Iraq genocide,ISIS,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Wilberforce,21CWI

Lela Gilbert

Lela Gilbert is author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner" and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians." She is Distinguished Fellow in American-Israeli Journalism at Hillsdale College, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and lead blogger for Philos Project. She lives in Jerusalem. Follow her on and Twitter@lelagilbert.

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