In my last blog, I related my little struggle to Jonah’s struggle to obey God’s call to go preach to the wicked people in Nineveh. Since that posting, my struggle has become tiny, (actually minuscule) and the ancient town of Nineveh has captured my attention. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that God led me to the Book of Jonah just before hearing a sermon from Acts 8 about the persecution of the church. Or that the sermon was followed by an interview with Johnnie Moore. I believe that’s how God sometimes gets my attention – like He’s repeating himself for emphasis. Bear with me as I briefly stumble through some history to share what He has put on my heart.
According to Wikipedia.org, the ancient town of Nineveh is now covered in part by the metropolitan area of Mosul. As Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul had an estimated population of 2,500,000 before half a million fled with the 2014 occupation by ISIS. It is the largest city controlled by the terrorists. Until 2014 it was also a historic center for the Christian church. Christianity there traces back to the period of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. And, Mosul contained the tombs of several Old Testament prophets, including Jonah. I say “contained” because ISIS is destroying all such ties to Christianity as part of their quest to wipe all traces of it from the world.
Iraq’s 2000-year-old communities now lie in rubble. Ninety percent of its 1.5 million Christians have been eliminated. Everyone has an opinion regarding the role that the United States should have in the area. Some say it’s not our fight and we should just allow them to fight it out. Many assume the whole region is Islamic or that all Muslims feel as ISIS does. It’s easy to disconnect because of the distance between us.
I have to admit that I rarely watch the news. The often sensationalizing of the suffering of others and turning it into entertainment disturbs me. However, in the process I’ve buried my head in the sand. I’ve avoided following these developments not because I didn’t care about the innocent victims, but I’ve been hiding from the emotions the situation evokes, including fear. However, when I am living my faith with love, believing in truth and standing on God’s promises, I know the proper response is for me to be an effective participant in the solution. I heard Matthew West’s song, Do Something, yesterday. It accurately summarizes my thoughts over this last week:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven, I thought
“God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
Isn’t that the truth? Fear really has no place in my life, if my heart and soul and mind are focused on God and His purposes.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31, 35-39)
The ISIS issue is much more than a religious war between the people of the Middle East. The jacket of Johnnie Moore’s new book Defying ISIS (2015) asks “Has a Christian Holocaust begun?” and proceeds to answer that question…
“A Christian genocide at the hands of Islamic extremists is unfolding in the Middle East. Entire Christian populations have been eliminated, and the ultimate aim of ISIS is to eradicate the world of Christianity.
In many cities every single Christian has been “taken care of” – displaced, murdered, or forcibly converted. Just as the Nazis painted the Star of David on the homes of Jews, jihadists have painted the Christian symbol ن on the homes in indigenous Christian communities to identify them before destroying them. They have proclaimed they will not stop until Christianity is wiped off the earth from the land of its birth all the way to your own backyard. So what can be done to help those brave souls in the crossfire and protect a holy land?
With never-before-told stories of horror and of hope, Johnnie Moore unveils the threat of ISIS against worldwide Christianity, and what the world must do about it. Along the way, he introduces us to the courageous Christians who have stared down ISIS and lived to raise their crosses higher.”
During the interview with Johnnie last week, he shared a conversation he had with Sister Rose, a young nun from Mosul caring for the Christian refugees. He recounts the conversation in his book. “I lived in America. Americans are wonderful people. It’s shocking to me that they are so silent in the face of our genocide. Please help us. Raise your voice for us. Our children are dying. In American you care for your pets so well, can you care for your Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering?”
Johnnie writes, “It has always been a mystery to me why so many Christians in the West struggle to live for what so many Christians in persecuted countries are willing to die for.”
Wow. I don’t know what God has called me to do, but I am starting with prayer for the persecuted and innocent people suffering at the hands of evil. I am educating myself, beginning with this book. Maybe you will join me and we’ll all make a difference.
After the first horror of an ISIS beheading I thought the civilized world, including America, would react. With the second one I thought, that’s it, they’ve been preparing and now they’ll strike. My heart was preparing to be proud of my country, like the hero who intercedes when a bully is attacking the weak. But it didn’t happen, so I tuned it all out. It’s not good to stand by and watch such suffering at the hands of the wicked. My heart won’t let me ignore it any longer.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (1998)
There is a spiritual battle taking place today, just as there was 2000 years ago.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:1-4)
God shed new light on my last blog relating to Jonah and Nineveh. I believe He used it to turn my eyes to the plight of the innocent – His children suffering persecution because of their faith, particularly in the Middle East. He tied it to His persecuted church, of which I am a member. I am committing to prayer for His mighty hand of protection and His power to be revealed.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
Note: Johnnie Moore suggests three organizations to support if you feel you want to do more:
- The Cradle Fund (cradlefund.org) supports the rescue, restoration, and return of the Middle Eastern Christians and other ethno/religious people to a home where they can live and practice their faith free from fear
- World Help (worldhelp.net) is focused on meeting people’s physical needs by providing humanitarian, medical, and educational assistance and ensuring access to clean water and people’s spiritual needs by providing Bibles and establishing churches in as many communities as possible.
- The Institute for Global Engagement (globalengage.org) works toward a future in which people of all faiths and none have full freedom of conscience and equal citizenship, advancing the view that religious freedom – properly implemented – is integral to a flourishing society, and a stable state.