Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq and Syria are being slaughtered by the Islamic State (ISIS).
Gruesome videos produced by ISIS are appearing on the internet showing beheadings and public displays of dismembered Christians. In many places Christians have been crucified by the ISIS. Some videos show Christians being forced on their knees to renounce their faith and convert to Islam—only to be summarily beheaded following their “conversion.”
In the region around Mosul—what we know as Nineveh in the Bible—there is not a single Christian left. Why? Because on July 19 the ISIS ordered Christians to convert to Islam, pay taxes levied upon non-Muslims, or be killed. Think about that. There is not one Christian left in the ancient center and heart of Iraqi Christianity. A 2,000 year Christian presence has been wiped away before our eyes while the world has remained silent. All Christian institutions in Mosul—all 45 churches, monasteries and cemeteries—have been looted, destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques or shuttered. Mosul is now governed under Sharia law.
All of the Christians in Mosul have fled to Assyrian villages in the north. In nearby Qaraqosh, 50,000 Assyrian Christian residents have fled from fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces. Meanwhile we hear of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities trapped and surrounded in the mountains being systematically executed by the ISIS—men, women and children, young and old. And while all this took place, the U.S. President, Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations said nothing.
Within the last 24-hours, President Obama has ordered airstrikes against the ISIS to support U.S. “allies” and humanitarian efforts. To my knowledge, this is the first time he has spoken about this genocide. But are such limited airstrikes too little, too late? Certainly, for those Christians who have been executed at gunpoint, beheaded, crucified and dismembered this can do nothing. And even if the airstrikes provide some respite, what deterrent will there be once the U.S. pulls out?
Thankfully, there are some politicians who have a true grasp of the severity of the situation. U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-Virginia) has spoken multiple times on behalf of the Christians in Iraq and Syria. In his latest speech on the floor before the House of Representatives, he highlighted five steps that President Obama can take immediately – without additional funding or legislative authority—to help address the humanitarian crisis faced by Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq targeted by ISIS. Those steps include:
- President Obama signing into law the bipartisan legislation approved by the House and Senate to create a special US envoy to promote religious freedom in the Middle East. That legislation is just sitting on the President’s desk—waiting for his action
- Appoint someone in the administration to be the lead person coordinating all US resources necessary to stop this genocide
- Work with trusted NGO’s already on the ground trying to help persecuted Christians, and who need US assistance in order to help more people
- Direct the Secretary of State and USAID administrator to reprogram existing funds to provide these resources to trusted NGO’s on the ground.
Would you be please write your Representatives to Congress and your Senators and ask them to ask the President to take these steps now?
We can also give to trusted Christian relief organizations on the ground already assisting our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq and Syria—organizations like Canon Andrew White’s mission in Baghdad and The Barnabas Fund.
Finally, we must PRAY. If ever there was a time for sustained intercessory prayer in the face of evil, now is the time. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, this is not simply a struggle against flesh and blood. It is a struggle against powers and principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places inciting such violence, terrorism and persecution. God, stay the hand of the violent, and comfort and preserve our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is CEO of the American Anglican Council