He risked everything to defend people who did not share his faith.
When we first met the judge, he was overseeing a court that handled terrorism cases. He had fled his city when ISIS invaded because he was not safe.
The judge joined Hardwired for our training program. He learned, for the first time about the rights people of different faiths have – their inherent, universal human rights. And he heard how the different faith communities in his country and community were brutally attacked by ISIS.
He had always stood for justice. But he had not known how deeply people of faith were suffering in his country until he was forced to flee.
When the judge fled, he found refuge in another city where a Yezidi family helped him. Then, he made his way to Baghdad with his uncle – a Shi’a Muslim. Later, he and his son lived with a Christian family.
He witnessed first-hand so many people helping him and his family who were all from different faith communities. And he wished the rest of Iraq could understand what he was experiencing.
It burdened his heart to know that in Iraq those same people could be persecuted because of their religion. The judge knew that if he did not work hard to push against the culture of intolerance spreading throughout his country, that “Iraq will remain like an old man with a terrible sickness and remain between life and death.”
After attending the first training with Hardwired, he learned new ways to defend the rights of others. He visited the Yezidi and Christian leaders and committed to defend them in the courts when ISIS was defeated.
But when we met again, we learned that ISIS had beheaded his youngest brother for the judge’s work.
He knew it was a warning.
And instead of retreat, the judge boldly stated, “If I do not continue to stand in defense of others and bring them freedom and justice, then this is the reality that awaits every person in Iraq.”
When ISIS was finally defeated, the judge was appointed to the highest court overseeing the sentencing of all the ISIS terrorists. He was able to bring justice to the communities he had stood beside.
He began issuing harsh judgments for members of ISIS to send a message to all Iraqis that attacking people because of their religious beliefs would not be tolerated anymore.
One of those he sentenced was the ISIS leader responsible for writing their educational materials – the ones that taught children to hate and kill people of different beliefs.
Then, he introduced Hardwired to the new leaders who would help re-teach children emerging from the refugee camps and cities liberated from ISIS. Now, Hardwired is sharing the lessons of peace, dignity and freedom for all with children across Iraq.
And when you support Hardwired, you place a Defender of Freedom like this judge into a country to bring justice, freedom, and dignity to people suffering because of their faith. You make it possible for new doors to be opened for us to share the value of religious freedom with a new generation.