What’s going on
ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) announced last week an ultimatum to Christians living in northern Iraq. They have three choices: 1) convert to Islam, 2) pay a special religious levy/tax of approx $450USD per month or 3) face death. The ruling came into effect last Saturday, 19th July.
Christians are fleeing for their lives. They are not allowed to take any of their belongings, and they are being robbed on their way out. ISIS are painting the Arabic symbol for the letter ‘N’ on the houses of Christians in order to identify them.
- Iraqi Christians are raped, murdered and driven from their homes – and the West is silent – The Telegraph UK, 21st July
- Ancient Nineveh empties of Christians after ISIS delivers ultimatum: convert or die – Eternity Newspaper, 21st July
- Convert, pay tax, or die, Islamic State warns Christians – The Guardian, 19th July
What can we do?
Over the past few days on Facebook there have been a few discussions on what we can do to help and support our Christian brothers and sisters facing persecution and death. Here are a few suggestions:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Colossians 4:2
- For Christians in Iraq, that their faith, that it may not waver, that they will trust in Jesus and find hope, comfort and peace in Him.
- For the Iraqi community worldwide, that they would find their comfort, identity and security in Christ
- For the government, that they would know the best action to take and that they would act to end this horrific injustice
- For the muslim believers who are trying to protect Christians in Iraq
- For the ISIS, that they would stop what they are doing and would repent of their actions
- For all people to bow the knee to Jesus, find forgiveness in his death, new life in his resurrection, and worship him as Lord of all.
Make your support public by changing your display picture
Changing a display picture to the Arabic symbol ‘N’ changes nothing. But it is a sign of support to Iraqi Christians, in Australia and around the world, that they are not alone in their prayers for their people. I have had a few Iraqi Christians thank me for my prayers and support after I changed my profile picture. It shows that you are alongside them, praying with them, praying for them and their people in this difficult time.
Our local church in Fairfield has also graffitied their church sign, in support of the large Iraqi community present in the area.
Why did we graffiti our church sign?
Fairfield has one of the largest communities of Iraqi people anywhere in the world (outside the middle east). The Hut sign is a woefully inadequate attempt to comfort fellow Fairfield Iraqi’s – that other Christians are praying for them too.
This is the sign that Christians in some parts of Iraq are having sprayed on their property by ISIS – the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.
They are marking the Christians’ homes with a ن, a nūn for Nasara, which is the Qur’an’s word for Christians: Nazarenes.
Christians have been told to i) convert to Islam or ii) pay protection tax called the jizya (the tax that the Qur’an demands Christians pay an Islamic State) to remain secure from rape or murder, or iii) leave.
The BBC is currently reporting this mark singles out Christians for persecution or Tax payment.
We can’t pretend to participate on what they are facing, but we can grieve and pray.
Facebook profile photos change nothing. But they can remind Australian Iraqis they are not alone in their prayers.
Pray also for the muslims of Iraq – some of whom are standing up against the mistreatment of their fellow Iraqi (Christians) citizens.
Support fleeing Iraqi Christians financially
Here are a few organisations you can make a financial contribution to:
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. – Luke 9:23-26
Contact any Assyrian/Iraqi/Chaldean/Middle Eastern Christian people you know and ask them how you can pray for them
They may have family and friends overseas they are especially concerned for. They may be incredibly shaken up and in need of your support. They may simply appreciate being asked if they and their families are okay.
Join together in prayer
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them – Matthew 18:20
Our church organised and held a small prayer night for anyone who wanted to read the Bible and pray together. With less than 24 hours notice 25 people came together to hear God’s word and pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Write to your government
Whether it be your local Member of Parliament, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or the Prime Minister/President himself/herself, take the time to write a letter. There are email petitions you can also sign, however I have been told in the past that a written letter to the government makes a much bigger impact than an email or an email petition (if you know the stats please let me know in the comments). I think it is to do with the fact that it requires much more time and effort, so it must communicate that you are really invested in the cause you are writing about. For an example of what you might like to write to your government officials, you can see a letter that local Anglican minister David Ould wrote on his blog.
Don’t stop praying
News of what is going on overseas will eventually slow down as media outlets move on to other news stories. Please don’t forget about what is happening. Please continue to remember the suffering that is going on and be praying.
Don’t take your circumstances for granted
If you live in a country where you can freely go to church, read your Bible in public, have a conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop or on the train about what you believe, you are in a very rare situation. I couldn’t find the statistics on how many Christians live in countries where they are free to worship God (if you know please tell me), but according to Persecution.org over 200 million Christians suffer some form of persecution for their faith. Don’t take your circumstances for granted, but give great thanks to God.
What else can we do?
The most important thing we can do is continue to pray.
If you only do one thing, pray to God to strengthen the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters, that they may hold fast to the hope they profess and they may never lose sight of the glorious future that is to come, the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is only a very brief list of things that I have tried to do. If there are other things that we can be doing, any other ways we can be supporting those in need, please let me know in the comments.