This is what it’s like to be Christian and live under ISIS

From there, Kirbukiyle would experience the strange and precarious life of a Christian inside ISIS’s hardline proto-state. He witnessed some of the horrors the militants inflicted on their subjects — and saw the contrast between the Islam he’d known and respected from his neighbors and the alien barbarism ISIS practiced in its name. Along the way, he said he felt a jarring loss of dignity as a man suddenly exploited and oppressed — a personal struggle he’s still working to overcome.

He is also an example of someone who came face-to-face with the jihadis and stood his ground. “I was surviving against death,” he said, on a recent afternoon in his living room beside the church.

A portrait of the Virgin Mary hung on one wall, beside a framed print of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, as Kirbukiyle poured cups of tea. Ethnic Kurdish forces drove ISIS from Tel Abyad this summer, lifting the “nightmare” that had literally kept him awake — and haunts him to this day. “It’s a nightmare that comes to me every night,” he said.