Azeez Sadeq at the International Youth Day 12 August 2019 celebration at The Ecumenical Centre, Geneva. Photo: WCC

Azeez Sadeq at the International Youth Day 12 August 2019 celebration at The Ecumenical Centre, Geneva. Photo: WCC

On International Youth Day, Azeez Sadeq, who now lives in Lyon, France, shared his personal story of being an Iraqi refugee.

"Have you ever thought that one day, you can lose everything?” he asked the young people gathered with him.

That's what happened to Sadeq when he was 18 years old, when the Islamic State Organisation, also referred to as Daesh, invaded his village.

He can’t relay too many details about that day, because his mind has reverted to an “action film” scenario that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. “We headed towards Iraqi Kurdistan, I can’t describe to you the crowd of refugees or the distress of these people walking on foot, the tears, the soldiers, and the people sleeping on the roads…”

Sadeq’s family headed to Dohuk where they spent about two months. Sadeq decide he would identify with Jesus at the cross, remembering Jesus asking God: “Why did you abandon me?”

Sadeq said he felt helpless and abandoned. He confided in Jesus, and through that, if he could put a smile on his neighbour's face, he would make a change despite everything that had happened to him.

“The Yazidi community was by our sides and they needed more help than us, because they  were a people who were victims, to whom Daesh had not given the chance to flee: they had killed the men and raped the women ... and those who managed to escape were in a really terrible condition ... I lived with them a beautiful experience, forgetting my own wounds to comfort them,” said Sadeq.

Sadeq and his family finally arrived in France on the 26 October 2014.

“Here I am in front of you, not to tell you the problems that have happened in my life but to tell you that I was saved by Jesus Christ and that I forgive Daesh,” he said. “I'm certain that we, the youth, can make a difference, we have real potential to be the change we want to see in the world.”


Photo Gallery from the International Youth day celebration in Geneva 12 August 2019

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WCC celebrations on the International Youth Day 2019