For most Western readers, a glimpse of the city of Mosul, Iraq, reveals nothing short of complete devastation. A great majority of the once-thriving Christian population in the city remain exiled, in fear of a resurgence of Islamic terror. Those who remained during the Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) occupation were often the first to mix their blood with the ashes and rubble of the city they loved.
Despite the terror, fear and instability — or, perhaps, because of it — hope has sprung anew in this Iraqi community, exemplified by a young Chaldean Christian girl. Hala Goro is determined to thrive, and she is striving to realize her dreams, with extraordinary faith in God.
Hala, age 18, agreed to sit down with the Register for an exclusive interview after news of her outstanding academic achievements, as the sole Christian girl in her grade level, made waves on social media. Though she writes English with difficulty, Hala eagerly shares her life and experience, offering her insights with a faith and wisdom beyond her years. She writes:
I am the second of five children from a simple family. My father is a teacher and my mother is a housewife. I was around 12 before the war. There were many Christians [in Iraq], but now there are few.
In my childhood, I was quarrelsome … but the war made me know the value of life. The war made me mature, because it changed my way of thinking and my outlook on life. It taught me that the poor and rich are the same and that human life may change in an instant. It made me realize the real value of friends, and also of how to recognize those who are false. I know the truth of [how evil] people may become, but what I care about the most, now, is that my family is with me and loves me and supports me.
A Profound Trust
Along with her interview, Hala sent photographs of herself, her home and her family. On her social media, however, Hala's pages are filled with images of Jesus, Our Lady, poetry and biblical quotations.
Noting that in the West, many young people are abandoning their Christian faith, Hala was asked why she embraced hers so fervently — especially after all that she had witnessed and endured.
“The only one who holds my hand and blesses and strengthens me is my Heavenly Father,” she said. “Because of this, I trust him so much, and I know he is always with me and protects me.”
When pressed further to explain this profound trust in God, she added:
Several reasons made me confident in God. Everything I ask from him is answered; he fulfills me. I always feel that when I pray, I do so with great power. When I was facing [the horrors of] war, I was completely desperate. When I began praying, however, I felt like a hand was holding my hand and telling me, 'I'm with you in every situation.' I feel that God is in and arranges my life — so much so that I do not care how my life will end up. God still exists.
The profound trust that radiates within Hala's witness of faith recalls the poem of St. Teresa of Ávila:
Let nothing trouble you; let nothing frighten you. All is fleeting. God alone is unchanging. Patience obtains everything. Who possesses God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.
The 18-year-old continued:
My family and I had to evacuate quickly. It was about 10 at night when we left our home, and we couldn't bring anything with us — just some clothes. The rest of our things we had to leave behind because our lives were the most important — and we were in fear for our lives. I never had to work, however, because my father is a teacher, and his salary was enough for us. Although we have been frugal meeting our daily needs, my family has been able to support one another. We thank God for this.
Endurance in Adversity
Where did Hala and her family go after escaping Daesh?
“When we left Mosul, we lived for two years in Duhok and one year in Kirkuk. Of course, the situation was very difficult because of the rent and expenses, but despite all of this, I continued my studies.”
At this point, Hala noted the real struggle it was to keep up with her academics as a refugee.
“Since I was a young girl, I have tried very hard [to succeed in school]. It has been very tiring, because these studies require diligence and patience, but the most important thing is the will — to not give up and trust in God.”
After achieving some of the highest grades as the only Christian girl in her class within the war-scarred city, Hala explained that her dreams were just beginning.
“I certainly want to go to university because my desire is to become a dentist. In three months, I will begin studies at the University of Mosul.”
She didn't end there, however.
“My dream is also to become a published poet and singer. I [began] writing poetry five years ago. Most of my poems are about my experience of the war.”
Hala provided the Register one of her poems and concluded with a message to young Christians in the West: “Do not forget your dreams, despite all the difficult circumstances that you encounter. Be determined, and do not give up hope or faith. We will all leave this world one day. Trust in God.”
A Poem by Hala Goro
On the beauty of heaven we spend our days, and on the bleeding of the land of Iraq,
On the paths of life, walks time, as do the cries of the land of Iraq,
On the threads of self-interest, and critics of nations, and on the oil of the land of Iraq
On the calm of malice, plots are hatched and at the expense of the land of Iraq
On the wounds of Palestine, Libya, Syria and Yemen, we live and in the land of Iraq
On the fake meeting sessions, to destroy countries and the land of Iraq
On the voice of a mother crying out to her son, heard in the land of Iraq,
The amount of bodies and the blood of the pure washed the land of Iraq,
How many brilliant brides saw the body of their grooms, saw the land of Iraq?
How many tears of a child poured out through the tents and told of the land of Iraq?
On the prisoner died treacherously, accepting the soil of Iraq?
On the dignity of a sheikh who fell while fleeing in fear on the land of Iraq?
How many wounds will my people bear and remain steadfast in the land of Iraq?
Do we rebel or remain silent and keep walking on the land of Iraq?
This Iraq wound is sung by the world in pain on the land of Iraq.
This Iraq is a tear we cry every moment of pain in the land of Iraq.
This Iraq is a spirit used to bleeding, will continue in the land of Iraq.
O Lord, help us, our fate and give peace to the world and in the land of Iraq!