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How a U.S. couple helped 25 Iraqi Christian families escape ISIS threats
More than 100 Iraqi Christians fled to Europe to escape terror threats. An American couple played a large role in that. - photo by Payton Davis
For an American husband-and-wife team, helping Iraqi Christians find promise elsewhere and escape threats from ISIS was a cause worth pursuing.

So Joseph and Michele Assad played a role in arranging for 25 families 149 refugees total, including 62 children to board a plane Dec. 10 and arrive in Slovakia.

That's where the refugees will be granted asylum in the next month. Michele Assad praised the country for exhibiting courage, and ABC News reported she hopes the story will inspire other countries to follow suit.

"We are so proud of Slovakia," she told ABC News. "They were very courageous to make this decision, and it wasnt an easy one to make, yet they did. We hope other countries will have similar courage."

Newser detailed the strife Christian refugees in the Middle East face in particular.

"Muslims have other Muslims nations that they can turn to," Newser quoted Joseph Assad as saying. "They can go to other Arab countries. They can resettle there. Christians are having a much more difficult time resettling in some of these Arab countries."

Newser's report indicated the Assads, both former U.S. counter-terrorism officers, worked with Iraq's Mar Elia Chaldean Catholic Church for months to make the plan reach fruition.

Yet the evacuation nearly didn't happen, Mindy Belz explained for World.

World reported that Russian airstrikes prompted northern Iraq authorities to close airspace. However, when airspace reopened, the flight departed.

Most of the refugees had never flown before, World reported.

So why did the Assads make the Iraqi Christians' dilemma their cause?

ABC News' article indicated their experience overcoming religious persecution prompted them to play a role.

"(Joseph) Assad, an immigrant to the U.S. from Egypt, said he and his family came to the states after fleeing religious persecution," the report read. "Motivated by their own Christian faith and the suffering they have seen, the Assads have made saving the Mar Elia refugees their personal mission."

Faith leader Johnnie Moore was also involved in the evacuation, accruing $12 million to go toward it, World reported. And Kevin Porter wrote for The Christian Post of Moore addressing Saddleback Church in regards to why the move proved crucial.

The suffering of Christians in the Middle East is at a high, Moore said, the Christian Post reported.

"The church in the Middle East looks like the first century church," the Post quoted Moore as saying. "It's a church where people are being beheaded and crucified, where churches are being destroyed, where people are losing their lives, where people are being imprisoned for their faith along, where people are being threatened with forcible conversion or death. The Christian community has suffered as they have rarely suffered in all of Christian history."
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