Emily Parker spoke with author Craig Borlase about his new book Fleeing ISIS And Finding Jesus, about his quest to discover the answer to the question, 'Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle East?' and his experience meeting refugees in Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

Craig Borlase
Craig Borlase

While the news coverage of ISIS focuses on the horrors and the bloodshed, author Craig Borlase discovered a different side to the story that rarely gets told. Emily Parker heard that story.

Emily: Why did you and Charles write this book?

Craig: Charles is a friend of mine who lives in California. He is an ex-journalist, who is now a radio host. He read an article in The New York Times about a year and a half ago, that had the title, 'Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?' He thought that the numbers were pretty shocking, as you can imagine, with so many Christians having been killed, and so many having fled from the Middle East. He did what he always does, and he thought, "I wanna go and find out."

Now, if you or I read an article like that, we might not have the thought, "Let's go to Iraq and find out for ourselves." He came and told me that he wanted me to come with him. He's one of those guys you don't really say no to. So I said, "Okay", and that's it.

So the book is the story of our little journey. We're asking that question, trying to find out for ourselves, "Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle East?"

Emily: So tell me more about that trip to Iraq, Turkey and Jordan in 2016.

Craig: It was really eye opening. We met lots of refugees, and lots of people who'd fled Syria and Iraq, particularly Mosul and the area around Mosul. A lot of the refugees we met were desperate, I mean, really, really desperate.

Charles Morris
Charles Morris

They were not allowed to work in Jordan and most of them were desperately trying to find a way of getting out, and getting anywhere. It was really moving to meet those people.

We met a lot of people in Jordan who were doing really good work with them; a lot of local churches actually were providing these people with food and shelter and heating for winter.

In Iraq the people we met were the people who'd chosen to stay, and that was upsetting. The people who'd chosen to stay often, or pretty much always, were the ones who could have left; they had visas and contacts and they had the potential to travel to America, or Sweden, or wherever, but they'd chosen to stay. They felt that it was the right place for them to be. They'd chosen to stay because they wanted to help and that was really humbling, meeting those kinds of people.

Emily: How did you find yourself responding to them?

Craig: In absolute awe. In January 2016, it was six months or so after that crazy summer of August 2015, when we had those horrendous images of so many people trying to make it across to Greece and the image of the boy, Alan Kurdi, dead on the beach. That was tragic.

We were meeting people who had chosen to stay and work in the refugee camps; people who'd lost everything, I mean, that's a big and deep statement to make, but it's true. These were people who'd had generations of family wealth passed down and they had had to leave land and turn their back on gold that they'd had to sell to survive. In a Middle Eastern culture that is a profoundly dishonourable thing to do, to lose your family's inheritance. These were people who'd chosen to do that, just so they could stay and help refugees; so they could stay and help people who'd fled and then been caught on Mount Sinjar.

We also met people who'd chosen to stay so they could work with women who'd been trafficked by ISIS, who'd then been smuggled out and rescued. They were now trying to work with them to rehabilitate them.