Christians are fleeing northern Iraq by the thousands following an ultimatum issued by ISIS demanding that Christiasn convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed for their faith. Christians have inhabited this region of Iraq since the very earliest days of the Christian faith.
Christian Headlines notes, “According to the Washington DC-based International Christian Concern, in the past week, ISIS began marking Christian homes throughout the city. The Arabic letter “N,” standing for the Arabic word “Nasrani,” a name for Christians, was painted on Christians’ homes around Mosul, the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports…”We do not know what will happen in future days,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said. “It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co-existence between majorities and minorities.”
The Rev. Mr. Michael Rogers writes at The Huffington Post, “The community being destroyed holds ancient texts the depths of which we are just beginning to understand, many of which are or have been destroyed. I have good friends who are scholars of the early Christian Church who recount to me, with horror, the incredible documents which have been destroyed. Whether you are a liberal Catholic charging the gates of Fort Benning every November, or a member of the Southern Baptist Convention lining the pockets of Ted Cruz for the next election, this should cry to heaven for redress in your mind. We Christians are losing core documents of our early faith and documents that are in some cases very close to scripture. We are losing some documents that we have yet to fully understand. We are losing a connection to the early Church community. We are losing a connection to the earthly life of Christ himself. For a Christian, of any denomination, acting on behalf of the poor and suffering of Syria and Iraq is not only a part of the obvious obligation for the love of the least, poorest, and most vulnerable that we find in Matthew 25, its a obvious obligation for the love of Christ himself.”
Social media campaigns are largely orchestrated to draw attention to an issue but often do not create specific change. Still, the #WeAreN campaign is drawing worldwide attention to the plight of Christians in Iraq.
Christianity Today published the words of an unnamed Christian from Mosul who writes:
I can’t believe what’s happening now. And it’s all happening all so fast. 2,000 years of Christian history and presence is being destroyed. I am confused and sad. Everybody is. On the news I saw the extremists replaced the cross on our church in Mosul with the black flag of the Islamic State. They are doing a call of Islamic prayer from our church. They have turned it into a mosque…Sometimes I feel like crying, but I pray that God gives me strength. Christians in Iraq have shown their support for the most affected Christians by holding gatherings and planning marches…We also changed our Facebook profile pictures to the letter N for Nasrani, meaning “Christians.” In Mosul, this letter was used to mark the Christian houses.
But is social media enough?
John Zmirak and Jason Jones write at The Blaze, “Why don’t we [Christians] realize that and act accordingly? Why aren’t outraged Christians marching in streets across the world, demanding rescue and protection for their hunted fellow-believers? Do we feel that Christians in underdeveloped countries, who are racially and culturally thoroughly “un-American,” are somehow second-class Christians? Would we care more if they worshiped in modern megachurches, or if they had red hair and freckles and sang their hymns in English?…If we want the Judge of Souls to recognize us as His own, we must overcome our shallow, sinful prejudices and see our fellow Christians for who they are: our brothers and sisters, who share with us a bond that is deeper than even kinship. We share the same Blood, which when Jesus shed it washed us clean, and we must act accordingly.”
Even The New York Times recognizes that it is time for action. Writing this week, their Editorial Board said, “The plight of the Christians, who are among two million Iraqis displaced by sectarian violence, must not be ignored by a world focused on other crises. Over the weekend, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon; Pope Francis; and Patriarch Sako condemned the Islamic State’s actions. Other world leaders must also speak out.”
And Christians must do more than change a Facebook profile picture.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
– Matthew 25:35-40