Iraq’s Christians are one of the longest continuous Christian communities in the world. Iraq’s Christian community is hardly a western innovation or a colonial relic. It dates from the 1st Century, when two of Jesus’ disciples – Thomas and Thaddeus (also known as Jude) – preached the Gospel in what was then Assyria. There has been a Christian presence in Iraq ever since. 1a
The symbol in the picture you see above is the Arabic “nun” symbol, or N, which stands for Nazarene and refers to Christians, this symbol ominously began appearing, stamped in red, on Christian homes in Mosul, Iraq, in early July.
Members of the jihadist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have invaded towns, including Mosul, demanding Christians either convert to Islam, pay a tax, or be killed.
In a statement released to BBC a spokesperson for Isis said
“We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,”. After this date [July 19], there is nothing between us and them but the sword,” 1b
It is estimated that over 150,000 Iraqi Christians have left this area, fleeing to Kurdistan and other countries their property and belongings confiscated.
There has been a wave of persecution against Iraqi Christians since 2003 and it has received little attention by either President Bush or President Obama’s administration. This is by far the worst.
I am saddened by the apathy and indifference that is being displayed by much of the Western Church and world government including our own here in the United States.
I personally posted four different appeals on Facebook and Twitter concerning this situation and was shocked by the lack of response. The silence was deafening….
So according to Galatians 6:2 ” Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”, I am asking that before you read any further to stop and think of five people you can contact and ask them to pray for the Iraq Christians. Ask them to contact five of their friends.
Feel free to use this blog as a reference/information point, I will also list other resources at the end of this post for information.
It is important that we have the right perspective in times like these, in situations like this.
My heart breaks when I think about what our brothers and sisters are suffering. I have personally viewed photographs and have read accounts that are far to graphic to share in this venue.
But how do we process this type of horror? What is our response according to Scripture?
I do not pretend to have all or even some of the answers and I am fully aware that as I write this from my comfortable, safe home that I have little understanding what it is like to go through what they are encountering. But that aside I would like to offer these thoughts.
1. Persecution is a part of following Jesus
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:18-20
We must be careful when praying for deliverance from persecution so that we do not find ourselves at odds with God’s purpose.
I was explaining to a Muslim friend that as a Christian to refuse to renounce your faith and be willing to face death instead is not an option. His response? “I do not understand that. Why would you not want to fight or escape?”
That is a very good question.
I believe in some cases we do resist or take a way of escape.
When the Apostle Paul is about to face punishment he reminds his Roman captors that he is a Roman citizen. (Acts 22:23-29) In another situation Paul is lowered over city walls in a basket (Acts 9:25) to flee those trying to kill him.
But Paul also eventually died willingly for the faith at the hands of the Romans.
God does not always deliver his children from persecution but we should pray for courage and strength in these times of trouble, that their faith and trust in Him would remain strong, and if possible for deliverance of those being persecuted In Iraq .
2. Pray for our enemies
We cannot overlook the reason for this persecution. It is the spirit of antichrist, the enemies hatred of Christ and all who follow Him
In these places where persecution is most severe there is great darkness that comes in many forms. Lack of education, lack of equality, poverty, slavery, human trafficking, denial of the most basic human rights. Hope of a better life is almost non-existent
In Isaiah 9:1-2 we read “In these places, the people who had been living in darkness
saw a great light.
The light of life will overtake those who dwelt in the shadowy darkness of death. Jesus came that all could be redeemed, forgiven of their sins, delivered out of darkness into the kingdom of light, His kingdom. (Colossians 1:13-14)
In Matthew 4 we see this prophecy repeated. In The Message it reads “This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching”. v.17
The enemy seeks to prevent the sharing and spreading of the Gospel “The Light” through persecution.
3. It is important that we discern who the real enemy is.
“We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places”.
Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies. It is here that the warfare is most effective
“You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you— in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus made this statement knowing that a man named Saul would later come on the scene and persecute His followers.
Saul who after his conversion became Paul spoke of this in Acts 26
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities”.
Paul is a great example of what God can do with a changed heart.
In closing what are the things we can do for our brothers and sisters in Iraq and all over the world that are facing persecution?
Pray– Pray for our brothers and sisters, pray for their enemies. Pray for physical needs food, clothing and shelter. Pray that there would be an end to the persecution, that there would be peace. Church leaders in Iraq have called for Christians around the world to commit to praying on Wednesday August 6th for an end to the spiraling crisis in Iraq and Syria, and to the violent persecution of Iraq’s ancient Christian community.
Inform- Post on Facebook, Twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreN?src=hash Instagram, any media outlet where you have a potential audience.
Contact– Emails, phone calls, using any type of media outlet available to your elected officials including the president have an effect. Especially if there are lots of them. If this has not been mentioned in your church an email or phone call to your pastor would be appropriate.
Support– There are many physical needs for those who are displaced.
http://www.persecution.com (Voice of the Martyrs)
A quick search will provide organizations assisting those in need.
1a The religious cleansing of Iraq’s Christians by Lela Gilbert FoxNews.com
Jul 18, 2014