A number of houses in Mosul, Iraq, have been marked with the letter “N”. All of these houses belongs to Christians, and “N” is the first word in the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani”. Together with the symbol there is often also a text stating “Property of the Islamic state”. This is what pre-genocidal persecution looks like.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), also simply known as the Islamic State, is a fundamentalist islamist movement that has been sparked first by the war in Iraq and recently by the Syrian civil war, and that has taken control over a large area in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The movement has an extreme wahhabist interpretation of Islam and uses a lot of violence. It has cooperated with al-Qaeda, but allegedly, al-Qaeda has cut its ties with ISIS because they thought that ISIS was to radical.
Over a month ago, the islamist rebels took control over Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which lies closely to the ruins of the biblical Nineveh. Christians have been living in this city for at least 1600 years, but now they were subject to severe persecutions. Besides the threatful “N” marks on their houses, ISIS gave them an ultimatum: convert to islam, pay the expensive jizya tax, or die. As a result, thousands of Christians have fled Mosul and are now internally displaced. Several Christians have already been killed.
Christians are not the only minority group that is being targeted by the Islamic State. Houses of Shia Muslims have been marked “R” for Rafidah, a word many Sunnis use to describe Shia. Human Rights Watch warns that “Being a Turkman, a Shabak, a Yazidi, or a Christian in ISIS territory can cost you your livelihood, your liberty, or even your life.” They also share some horrible stories about brutal executions and persecution against minorities.
It is important to remember that ISIS is targeting other Muslims as well, and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims globally condemn the actions of extremist terrorist groups like this. When Muslims persecute others this is quite often used by xenophobic and islamophobic voices in the West as arguments for deporting Muslims. You rarely hear them point to the LRA in Uganda or M23 in Congo as arguments for deporting Christians. I know Jesus is the way and He stands for nonviolence, but there are idiots and extremists among all faiths and if we become hostile towards Muslims, we are subject to the same hateful spirit that causes the persecutions in Iraq.
What can we then do to stop the persecutions of minorities in Iraq? As I wrote a month ago, more war won’t help – the last American invasion was undoubtedly a failure, and just kills more people. What we can do is of course pray, and support Open Doors, an organization working with the persecuted church. Open Doors USA have an campaign right now to help Christians in Iraq. If you live elsewhere, check your nearest Open Doors branch and ask them if they do something for the Iraqi church.
But again, we also need to pray. These saints are not only sharing the Lord’s glory but also His sufferings. Pray that they also will experience His miracles and that many more will come to faith in Him through them.