By Mark Ellis
Seven young Catholic students in Kirkuk hid under beds for eight traumatic hours while ISIS fighters used their bedroom as a hideout. They say the Virgin Mary guarded their safety during Islamic State’s assault on the city.
“The Virgin Mary was with them,” Father Roni Momika told the Catholic News Agency (CNA). Father Momika ministers in the refugee camps near Erbil.
Remarkably, the priest spoke with two of the young women by cell phone while they hid under the beds, providing a live account as the terrifying ordeal unfolded.
The seven university students found themselves in the line of fire after Islamic State attacked the city October 21st.
“ISIS entered the house of our students, the girls,” the priest told CNA.
As soon as they heard the ISIS fighters approaching, the students dove under four beds in one of the rooms, where they remained for eight hours as ISIS fighters used the room as a place to conceal themselves from Iraqi forces.
“I was speaking with them all the time,” Father Momika told CNA, noting how there was one courageous young woman who told him, “Father, I will continue speaking with you and tell you all our news and what ISIS is saying.”
The priest urged them not to forget their faith, and to “pray to the Virgin Mary, she will come to help you.”
During the eight-hour ordeal, the militants ate, prayed, and even used the beds to care for two of their wounded fighters.
“On one bed there is a lot of blood,” the priest told CNA.
It seems impossible – or miraculous – that the ISIS fighters never heard or saw the girls.