This symbol, an Arabic “N” is what IS (formerly ISIS) have been using to identify homes of Christians in Iraq. N for “Nazarene.” CNN reports that “In Mosul, ISIS issued an ultimatum to Christians living there: Convert to Islam, pay a fine or face “death by the sword.”
Many Christians fled from Mosul to the town of Qaraqosh, which has now fallen into the hands of the militants.
Here’s a report from Voice of the Martyrs, posted August 1, updated August 4.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters, as we read in Hebrews 13:3:
Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
The eyes of the world turned last month to the northern plains of Iraq, to a city where Jonah first delivered Jehovah’s message thousands of years ago. Today the story of Nineveh (now called Mosul) isn’t of a messenger of Jehovah going into Nineveh, but of thousands of Jehovah’s followers being forced out of the city. The IS (Islamic State) told Christians if they don’t leave Mosul their alternatives are subjugation to Islam or being forced to follow a different god—Allah. Or they will be killed.
The Christians that fled the city—it is reported that the remaining 200 Christian families left prior to an IS-imposed deadline of July 19—left behind all of their possessions, as demanded by the radical Muslims. Those who tried to carry more than the clothes on their backs were robbed at IS checkpoints on their way out of the city.
The cross on the Cathedral of Mar Afram in Mosul—the Archbisopric of the Syriac Orthodox Church—was pulled down and replaced by loudspeakers to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer. Middle East Concern, a VOM partner ministry, reports: “A few Christians remain in Mosul, including some elderly or infirm who were not able to leave. In some cases, Christians are being shielded by Muslim neighbors. There are [also] credible reports that some have been compelled by the IS to convert to Islam by reciting the Islamic declaration of faith before a Sharia court.”
Most of the Christians described in these sad news reports are part of the historical Christian community in northern Iraq, primarily Syriac Orthodox or Catholics who are considered by Muslims to be “Christian” because they were born in Christian families.
There is another group of Christians in northern Iraq too: those that were born into Muslim families but have consciously made the choice to reject Islam and follow Jesus. It is important to understand that these believers do NOT have a choice to pay a tax and save their lives. These converts are, in the eyes of IS, apostates. If IS fighters learned of their faith, they would give these believers two choices: return to Islam or be killed.
VOM is ministering to both groups of believers. Already VOM is caring for 2,000 displaced Christians who have fled Mosul; it is likely that number will increase. We are also working with Christian converts in the region who risk their very lives to witness of the love of Jesus to Muslims—even radical and violent ones.
As we look through the eyes of TV cameras into this volatile region, may we be reminded daily to pray for our brothers and sisters suffering such hardship and violence. And as we pray for them, let us also pray for their persecutors, that some of those hunting believers today will become believers themselves in the days and months to come.