Checking in with Reformer Jacqueline Isaac
When we last saw Jacqueline Isaac, she was spearheading the healing work of Tech Over Trauma in Germany, instilling hope in a generation of girls who refuse to let their past trauma define their future. Over the last five years Jacqueline has offered her platform to persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly women freed of sexual slavery while in ISIS captivity. It is her hope that by providing opportunities for survivors to share their stories in front of influential audiences, true justice and healing can be realized.
We recently caught up with Jacqueline to hear what she’s been busy with, what’s coming up next, and how we might involve ourselves in the important reformation work she is leading.
What have you and Roads of Success been up to since we saw you last?
The United Kingdom created a department within its government called “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflicts Initiative” (PSVI) focusing on women’s peace and security, and this year is the five-year anniversary of its creation. Stigma is such a major issue for survivors of sexual violence in conflict worldwide. [The initiative asks,] what can we do to end stigma? Why don’t we have religious leaders come together and sign a declaration to stand against stigma and to commit to standing for survivors?
I was asked to be a part of the committee to draft this declaration. We are finishing it up now; it should be out in the next week or two. It’s a declaration that makes religious leaders recognize that survivors of sexual violence in conflict and children born of rape are equal, that they are innocent, that they have value, that they are to be recognized and supported, that stigma breaks down in families and communities, and that we as religious communities are going to stand against that stigma and clarify any harmful texts that can hurt survivors. The exciting part is that this is going to be signed by leaders from all religions across the globe in November of this year. It’s really an exciting time.
“Stigma is such a major issue for survivors of sexual violence in conflict worldwide.”
Through the PSVI initiative, on April 24th, we’re going to the United Nations Security Council open debate to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict. We will be bringing Ekhlas, I’ll be speaking, my mom [Yvette Isaac] will be speaking, Dr. Nezar from the documentary [Iraq: A Forgotten Hope] will be speaking, the head of the Tech Over Trauma program in Iraq will be speaking, and then we’re going to end the event with a celebration of music for the survivors, and also with these beautiful portrait paintings of survivors that was done by one of our friends and advocate artists.
Tell us about the work you’ve been doing around story collection. Why is it so important to bear witness to these human rights atrocities?
We’ve been focusing on collecting stories of Christian witnesses. In order to have real justice and be able to move forward, there has to be accountability. There’s been a missing gap as to what has occured against the Christian community [in Iraq and Syria]. It’s really important to record church history to ensure that it’s never forgotten so that it’s never repeated again. So we’re bringing up the stories to prove that [religious minorities] really were targeted by armed forces, and that [members of these communities] are alive and still there…They’ve overcome many challenges and the ones that choose to remain will remain. They’re fighting for their people and their community and they want to bring out the truth of their people so that it’s not hidden. When it’s hidden, it will continue. But when it comes out in the open, the world knows and we can stand together with them.
I’ve been traveling around the world, meeting with survivors and witnesses to record their stories. That takes a lot of my energy. Their stories are not easy. When you’re sitting with a priest or a woman coming out of captivity, you’re spending days with them to hear their stories and accounts. It’s really shocking to hear the grave details. But at the same time, what’s been really amazing is to see their resilience and their strength across the board. A lot of them risked their lives for other people while in captivity. It’s amazing to see the strength of their faith when they were in captivity; it was their faith that got them through.
“It’s really important to record church history to ensure that it’s never forgotten so that it’s never repeated again.”
In December 2017 we did an event with the Holy See at the United Nations. We brought in two witnesses. We spoke—myself and Ekhlas—and we brought in another witness named Gabby, who was a Christian witness in captivity in Syria. There were representatives from all over… [this] was right after the resolution passed.
That’s one of the biggest things that’s happened since the article—remember we were trying to push after a genocide resolution? On September 21, 2017, a resolution passed (#2379) in the United Nations Security Council…to collect the evidence that could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It’s an incredible step in [ensuring] that this evidence is not lost. [This] body focuses on going to mass graves and collecting evidence and witness testimonies so that it’s preserved and we start to see prosecution. So after [that] resolution passed, we had this major event at the United Nations that focused on what’s next for minorities and what we want to see for them in the future.
How can we support you and support survivors?
The best thing to do is always pray. Pray that their dreams come true! Pray for those girls who are still in captivity today; we don’t know their whereabouts.
We would love to see Tech Over Trauma growing. We have had presence in Iraq, Lebanon, Germany, and Greece, but we would like to be able to see more young women and boys in the program, to expand it, to make it scalable so that others can have that same mentorship.
“The best thing to do is always pray. Pray that their dreams come true! Pray for those girls who are still in captivity today; we don’t know their whereabouts.”
We also send shipping containers [of donated medical supplies, blankets, clothing, and toys] to persecuted minorities in Iraq. We need support with those containers; it makes such a big difference. You can go to roadsofsuccess.com and donate to the container program, the advocacy program, or Tech Over Trauma.
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Brianna is a Pacific Northwest-based writer and editor who seeks stories that breathe hope and inspire action. Her favorite kinds of people are peacemakers, bridge-builders, storytellers, and dreamers. She is the Senior Writer at Nations Media.