Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. [Matthew 24:9 (NLT)]
This morning, while we sit peacefully in our churches and worship without fear, Christians in the Middle East are victims in a campaign of terror. Iraqi extremists are systematically wiping out the Assyrian Christians of northern Iraq, an ancient culture that converted to Christianity early in the first century. Offered the choices of abandoning their homes, paying an enormous tax, immediately converting to Islam or death, it appears that no matter what choice is made, death is usually the result. This is not a political forum and I can’t pretend to have any idea how to end this tragedy, but I know we can’t ignore religious persecution just because it is on the other side of the world. Something has to be done to ensure the rights and physical survival of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Action must be taken to protect the Assyrians, humanitarian efforts are desperately needed to aid the many refugees, and displaced families should be allowed to safely return to their ancestral homes. Please, remember these fellow Christians in your prayers.
Father, give courage, strength and hope to those who are persecuted because of their belief in you. Guide the world’s leaders to find a way to stop this campaign of terror. Guide us to know how we, as members of the Christian community, can help them in their troubles. Protect your suffering children and fill our hearts with love and compassion.
Not only do Assyrian Christians lay claim to some of the oldest literary, architectural, and geographical artefacts of Christianity, they also speak the language of Jesus. All of this history – along with the lives of thousands of families – is on the verge of destruction. Christianity is facing extinction in the places where it first emerged. [Op-Ed by Nuri Kino, in 8/4/2014 “Huffington/World Post”]