Reflection by Asher Imtiaz

Easter is a time of hope.

Being involved in outreach to Internationals and collecting stories of immigrants, I have had the privilege of listening to countless first-hand accounts of people fleeing persecution, conflict and unrest–suffering people made in God’s image.

Of all the immigrants I’ve met the one who has affected me most is Shireen. I met her in 2017 when, In my search to find and share stories of immigrants, I stumbled upon a thriving community of Yazidis living in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Shireen was among thousands of Yazidis terrorized by ISIS who attacked their homeland in 2014.  More than 10,000 Yazidis were killed or abducted in that attack. Many women, including Shireen, were forced into a system of sexual slavery. To prevent herself from being assaulted by ISIS fighters, Shireen pretended to be mute and disabled. Along the way she was tortured to prove she was faking and was sold five times.  Eventually released by ISIS, she settled in a refugee camp before moving to the United States.

Shireen was living in northern Iraq dreaming of being a lawyer prior to the attack. Now, she adjusts to her new life and awaits word of her missing brothers. She, along with many other displaced people with all their suffering and determination, are our neighbors. As disciples of Christ, we have an opportunity to see them as God sees them, as His dearly beloved children. When we step forward to know them and help them bear their sorrows, we step closer to our call to love.

As I continue reaching out and reflecting on the stories of these immigrants, hope sometimes seems far away. But what we have on Easter day is a reminder and affirmation in Jesus’s words in John 16:33, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.

Asher is a photographer and a computer scientist. Born and raised in Pakistan, he moved to the United States in 2012 for graduate studies and is now living and working in Wisconsin. He started photography by documenting religious and minority groups in Pakistan. For the last few years, his main focus has been on photographing immigrants moving to the United States and helping lead the International student outreach ministry at his church.