When ISIS invaded their town, a kindhearted Muslim man protected his Christian neighbors from harm.
At the age of 98, Camilla Haddad has lived through several upheavals in the history of her country, Iraq. The most recent was one of the most terrible: the reign of terror established by the terrorist organization Islamic State.
“When ISIS invaded Mosul, I was living alone,” she remembers. The nonagenarian, who had no strength to flee, was afraid. She decided to stay in the city with a friend.
The invasion of militiamen in their house in the neighborhood of Mohandessin attracted the attention of Muslim neighbors, who went to help the two women. Among those who came to their aid was Elias Abu Ahmed. He defended the elderly women and introduced them as his grandmother and great-aunt before taking them into his home.
“Elias (…) came to our rescue,” recalls Camilla. “He told us that he would do everything to protect us.” Seven years later, and forever grateful, she told her story to the news site AsiaNews.
The interview took place on the occasion of a recent visit of hers to the Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, a longtime acquaintance. Their first meeting was in the 1990s when the cardinal was then just a priest and the pastor of the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Mosul. Time passed and they lost touch.
“With her sisters she came with me to Rome, then Paris, in the Holy Year. I thought she was dead because I never heard from her again, but I never stopped looking for her to find out what had happened to her,” the Patriarch told AsiaNews. His perseverance eventually paid off. Years later, and despite the general confusion that has reigned in Iraq, he managed to get in touch with Camilla.
The Christian woman has found her place in the family of Elias Abu Ahmed, and his 14 children have “adopted” her, calling her their grandmother. “I had some money put aside and gave it to him to help support the family and raise the children,” she says.
Every day Camilla prays the Rosary, giving thanks for the help she has received and the place she has found with the Abu Ahmed family. “I proposed to her to come to Baghdad, to a seniors’ home, but she said she’d rather stay in Mosul, and pray the rosary for all of us,” Cardinal Sako says. “This story, like so many others, is an example of a change of mentality in Iraq.”