EASTON, Md. -- A refugee girl in the "cradle of Christianity" - who captured the hearts of millions on TV and social media with a message of hope and forgiveness - is calling on Christians to take action on World Refugee Day, June 20.
"Please, please, don't forget the world's refugee children," said 13-year-old Myriam, an Iraqi Christian who became an internet sensation when she forgave Islamic State (ISIS) militants for driving her family and thousands of Christians out of their homes in Iraq.
Iraq - known as the "cradle of Christianity" - has been home to followers of Christ since the first century, after Thomas the Apostle brought the gospel there.
"I know what it's like to think you will never see your home or your friends again," said Myriam, whose family is now back home and trying to rebuild their lives. "People forget quickly, but as Christians we must remember in our prayers and in our compassion all the children around the world who are suffering because of war and often because they are Christians."
Myriam was only nine years old when Christian broadcaster SAT-7 interviewed her at a refugee camp in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Her family fled there just before Christmas 2014 as ISIS swept through the country, terrorizing the Christian population. "I will only ask God to forgive them," Myriam said at the time, adding that she forgave the ISIS fighters herself. She later sang a beautiful worship song.
The video of Myriam forgiving ISIS went viral, reaching millions of viewers around the world - with reporters asking how she could forgive the terrorists. Myriam said she found comfort and strength in watching SAT-7's children's TV shows in the camp - programs that helped her grow in her faith and extend forgiveness to ISIS.
On World Refugee Day, SAT-7 will release a new follow-up interview with Myriam at her home in Qaraqosh, Iraq. In the program, Sequel of Hope(www.sat7usa.org/sequel-of-hope), Myriam, now 13, says her family's home was "protected by the hand of God." ISIS destroyed much of her hometown, but Myriam's house remained standing.
"My mother told me: 'God is always with you. If you feel alone, go talk with God,'" Myriam says in Sequel of Hope, filmed in April this year. "Jesus is my friend, my brother, my everything."
In her saddest moments, knowing that believers around the world were praying for her and other Iraqi Christians - and being able to watch SAT-7's children's programs - kept her hope alive, Myriam said.
World Refugee Day Highlights Children's Courage
ith more than 50 million people around the world uprooted from their homes by violence and conflict - including an estimated 31 million children - World Refugee Day spotlights their "strength, courage, and resilience," says the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
According to UNICEF, the United Nations children's fund, 17 million children - like Myriam - were displaced by conflict within their own country in 2017, and 13 million more children were forced to flee to other countries for refuge.
SAT-7 beams Christian programs into homes across the Middle East and North Africa on Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish channels, encouraging believers, bringing attention to the plight of suffering Christians, and sharing the gospel with those from non-Christian backgrounds who are curious about Christianity.
"Myriam's story captured millions of hearts," said the network's CEO Rita El-Mounayer, who grew up in war-torn Lebanon and - like Myriam - found a refuge from war in watching TV. "If we want to change the Middle East, we must focus on the children. They have all this pain, all this brokenness and hurt, but God is using SAT-7 to bring a message of reconciliation and peace."
Because of her own experiences as a child, El-Mounayer - a 23-year veteran of SAT-7 - helped launch the pioneering SAT-7 KIDS channel to encourage children to trust God in the midst of turmoil and live out their faith through acts of kindness and forgiving one another.
With programs in Arabic, Farsi and Turkish, SAT-7 reaches a vast potential audience across the Middle East and North Africa, broadcasting the "good news" into nations such as Iran and Turkey, home to millions who have never heard the gospel.
Launched in 1996, SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org) - with its international headquarters in Cyprus - broadcasts Christian and educational satellite television programs to more than 25 million people in the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make the gospel available to everyone in the region, and support the church in its life, work and witness for Jesus Christ. SAT-7 broadcasts 24/7 in Arabic, Farsi (Persian) and Turkish, using multiple satellite channels and online services.