By Faith McDonnell at Juicy Ecumenism, Aug. 17, 2014:
Civilized human beings across the world are sickened by the destruction taking place in Iraq at the hands of ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities — some of the most ancient indigenous people groups in the Middle East — are being slaughtered by what can only be described as a horrifically evil terrorist group.
I chose the artwork of Jonah in Ninevah to emphasize the historic importance of the people who are being exterminated, the culture that is being eradicated, by ISIS. The capital of Assyria, the ancient city of Ninevah was on the eastern side of the Tigris River, just across from the modern city of Mosul, on the western side of the river, in what is now northern Iraq. God sent a reluctant Jonah to preach to the people of Ninevah, worshippers of Ishtar (not a very nice goddess!) and they repented of their sins. These were the ancestors of some of the earliest Christian converts and of the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians of Iraq today!
In one of his many impassioned speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf pointed out, “Aside from Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur. Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.” And perhaps an even more important historical connection: A recent article in Foreign Policy points out that ISIS has claimed towns representing the last major concentration of Aramaic speakers in the world. The language spoken by Jesus when He was on earth is also being deliberately wiped out.
There are not enough synonyms for evil to do justice to ISIS. Yet on they go, wiping out the people of northern Iraq and building (rebuilding) the Caliphate, the global Islamic State. In spite of recent U.S. airstrikes, there is seemingly little to oppose them except the brave Peshmerga militia of the Kurdish Regional Government. ISIS has now renamed itself Islamic State, boldly declaring their preeminent status as Caliphate establishers.
Many concerned citizens in the United States and in the world community are using the Arabic letter nun (ن), standing for Nasara, Islam’s name for Christians, to identify themselves on social media and show solidarity with the Iraqi Christians who have been forced from their homes, brutalized, and killed. The jihadists of ISIS spray painted doors and walls of Christian homes, businesses and churches in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, with the letter before issuing an ultimatum to the city’s Christian population, giving them until midday July 19 to convert to Islam, pay a special tax (jizya) or be killed. They have been just as ruthless to the Yazidis and others who do not support their Caliphate-from-hell.
It is encouraging in the midst of this desperate situation to see people all over the world, from many Christian denominations as well as from other religions and no religion at all, brandishing the nun in defiant solidarity. After years of ever-increasing hardship and persecution for Iraq’s religious minorities, and, frankly, for all non-jihadist Iraqis, the world community has finally begun to wake up to this devastating human rights catastrophe. But what can we do besides showing solidarity with a ن on our Facebook or Twitter page? In my next post I will offer five things you can do for persecuted Iraqis.