It is 2009. With Al Qaeda resurgent in northern Iraq, Sander and his family decide to move to Baghdad. Like so many of Iraq's persecuted Christians, Sander is desperate to find work to support his family. One day, he is dragged from his family home at gunpoint. He is driven out into the desert in an unmarked car and is forced into a cupboard-sized hole in the ground. Once the hatch is locked above him, Sander begins to panic.
Sander spent four days in what he calls "a living grave". Suffused with homicidal hatred, his captors severely beat him. With the padlocks firmly secure, Sander was left to starve to death. He prayed that someone would find him. He prayed that he would see his family again. After nearly a hundred hours hunched in the darkness, his prayers were answered when US soldiers rescued him.
The hardship continues
Though Sander was reunited with his family, he was permanently scarred by this experience. He has lost all hearing in his left ear due to the beatings. He experiences panic attacks and is likely suffering from undiagnosed PTSD. Sadly, the hardships did not stop.
Unable to find work in the aftermath of his kidnapping, and experiencing flashbacks of the ordeal, Sander struggled to provide for his family. He continued to receive threats and no longer deemed Iraq safe. The family moved to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan where they were supported by the Syrian Orthodox Church (one of our church partners in Iraq). When ISIS came, Sander and his family fled the country for good.
Sander and his family now live in Marka, one of the poorest areas of Amman. He still experiences flashbacks and panic attacks. As a refugee living in Jordan, Sander is not permitted to work. He is safe but he cannot provide for his family. His youngest child has a host of medical problems and recently had to have emergency surgery.