Desperate times for Iraqi Christians

21 Aug

AUG. 21, 2014 — We live in difficult times. Others live in desperate times. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, most Americans are seemingly unaware that terrorists are wiping out Christians in Iraq — Christians with roots going back to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Christians flee Mosul earlier this summer

Under Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator driven from power in 2003, radical Islam was held at bay and anti-Christian violence was minimal. However, after Saddam’s regime fell, Christians have been under fierce attack. Millions have fled and many thousands have been killed, often brutally.

Proclaiming a caliphate (a new Islamic state) straddling Iraq and Syria, radical Islamists have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi religious minority from their homes.

The sign of genocide

The sign of genocide

With the rise of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) over the summer, anti-Christian violence has gotten worse. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word for Christian) and a declaration that they are the property of the Islamic State. On 18 July, the jihadists announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Many have been slaughtered, often beheaded. Today, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

The situation is so bad that Pope Francis told reporters on the plane back from South Korea last week that force is necessary to stop the progress of the insurgents. Reporters asked the Pope if he approved of U.S. strikes against ISIS.

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

Journalists asked Pope Francis about the situation in Iraq during his trip back to Rome from Korea

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said, stopping short of calling for bombing or all-out war.

Being so far removed from the violence, most Americans are more concerned about the national economy, the upcoming mid-term elections and their own personal issues — whether that be health, employment, finances or family problems. In a country with a relatively stable political environment, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the situation in Iraq. But we must for two important reasons.

First, Jesus made it clear that his followers make up his Body, the Church (Rom 12:5-6). When one part of the Body of Christ is threatened, we are all threatened. We must be in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, praying for them and with them.

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Cowardly terrorists prepare to murder journalist James Foley

Second, military analysts say that the U.S. is more vulnerable to attack now than before 9/11. ISIS is armed, wealthy, and determined. Their leaders have made it clear that they have no intention of stopping with Iraq and Syria. They intended to ride the wave of violence all the way to North Africa, perhaps further. Jihadists beheaded American journalist James Foley in a video released earlier this week, and they say that America is on their hit list.

The bottom line is that it’s sackcloth and ashes time. Christians in America must repent and turn back to the Lord with all their hearts or the prospect for peace will remain out of reach.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor of this blog and the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine.

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