The world is watching with horror as Islamic State jihadists in Iraq crucify Christians in Iraq, behead children, and bury victims alive. When Christians flee ahead of their advance, the terrorists then steal their homes and businesses. They mark them with a red, painted U-shaped symbol with a dot above the center. This is the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (pronounced “noon”), equivalent to the Roman letter N. The letter stands for Nazarenes, a pejorative Arabic word for Christians. As Jews were forced by Nazis to wear the Star of David, so the homes of Christians are being painted with an Arabic N.
Meanwhile, the political leadership of Iraq continues to fracture. Nouri al-Malaki has been prime minister since he was first chosen in 2006. As a Shiite, he is blamed by many for the Sunni insurgency and advance of the Islamic State in his country. Last Monday, deputy parliament speaker Haidar al-Abadi was nominated to replace al-Malaki. However, al-Malaki is refusing to step down, and forces loyal to him are seeking to close off and secure the airport and parliament. If the Iraqi government degenerates further, the military could be split and give Sunni terrorists even greater opportunity.
As Iraq slides into chaos, what can we do?
First, we can support military intervention on behalf of those threatened by the Islamic State. When Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), he referred to personal slander, not the defense of those whose lives and property are threatened. We are commanded by Scripture to “rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4). You can encourage your political leaders to respond to the genocide in Iraq.
Second, we can stand with those who are persecuted. Scripture tells us to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). Believers around the world are using the Islamic State’s “Noon” symbol as a statement of solidarity with those they are persecuting. They are drawing it on their hands and sharing it on social media. A hashtag campaign, #WeAreN, has begun as well.
Third, we must pray for our enemies as well as our friends. Jesus was clear: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jeremy Courtney powerfully illustrates our Lord’s imperative. Jeremy is executive director of Preemptive Love Coalition, an organization working in Iraq to provide heart surgery for Iraqi children. Writing for CNN, he tells of “learning to love the ‘enemy’ in Iraq.” After his organization’s work became known, a top Sunni cleric issued a fatwa calling for his death. A Muslim man who had befriended Jeremy defended him and may have saved his life.
Now Jeremy is calling Christians to pray for everyone in Iraq, not just fellow believers but all who are suffering persecution and their enemies as well. He quotes the fatwa issued against his work: “We must stop [these heart surgeries] lest it lead our children and their parents to love their enemies!” As Jeremy says, the cleric was right: Preemptive love works. It destroys enemies by making them into friends.
Will you help transform Iraq today?