With the world’s eyes focusing on the events in Gaza, it is easy to overlook other happenings in other parts of the world which are every bit as significant. When I read the headline of a recent Israel Today report: “Christians: ‘we are dying, and world is too busy with Gaza to care‘”, I knew right away what point was being made. This relates to the extreme persecution of Christians by ISIS as it completes its conquest of northern Iraq, largely overshadowed by the events that are taking place in Israel and Gaza, or at least that might be the impression if we survey the reporting on these matters. Moreover, it appears the plight of Iraqi Christians is being ignored by the international community, unlike those living in Gaza.
Whilst there have been several reports on the Iraq situation, it seems there is a lot less reporting on the Iraq situation compared with that of Gaza. And it is not just Christians bearing the brunt of ISIS attacks! One report describes how 50,000 members of the Yazidi people, who follow a religion based on Zoroastrianism, who are now facing a slow death from dehydration and exposure, having been displaced by ISIS militants.
When I posted on “Iraq’s Eternal War” almost two months ago, I reflected on the damage that this Islamic fundamentalist group was beginning to inflict on the Christian minorities in the large areas of Iraq that they were controlling, as well as its ambitions for Islamic dominance, and since then the pressure has intensified and the suffering, often quite horrific, being inflicted has arguably a far greater net effect than what is happening to the Palestinians in Gaza.
The point of the post is not that we should divert our gaze from what is happening in Gaza. Some of the social injustice and human rights abuses, which Israel Today all too often fails to recognize, should not be overlooked and neither should the wrongs being carried out by Hamas. But rather, we should be aware both of what is happening in Gaza as well as in the parts of Iraq now controlled by ISIS.
I have titled this post: Christian persecution. Part of the reason for doing so is to serve as a reminder to myself that what is happening in Iraq in terms of people being persecuted (often leading to brutal killings) is also happening in many other countries throughout the world on varying scales, and except in the case of North Korea these are mostly dominated by Islam of a more fundamentalist leaning variety, and often there are similarities in ideology and possible connections with Hamas, ISIS and, Al Qaeda the Taliban. Often this is not reported. While I empathize with all who suffer, irrespective of their religion, those who are Christian are members of my adopted family, making me especially concerned.
Religious persecution is not new and history is littered with stories of religious minorities persecuted by religious majorities or merely those who want to impose their will on the minority, and often in the past Jews have particularly suffered and there are many instances where those with other beliefs suffer. It is tempting to ignore such things when it doesn’t affect us directly. To do so is wrong because we can’t neglect our responsibilities as a member of the human race, and what happens elsewhere could easily happen where we are.
While on the subject of persecution, we shouldn’t ignore what is happening that is more subtle as it doesn’t involve physical harm. Even in our own country, there have been instances of Christians being ridiculed, losing their jobs, fined and imprisoned, for merely exercising their consciences on matters of principle, that have been well documented by organisations like Christian Concern and the Christian Institute, which should remind us that such happenings are sometimes the price we pay for being a follower of Jesus.
It all begs the question: what can we do? I suggest the following to start with (there may be others) – and all except for my first point could be acceptable to those of all faiths or no faith at all:
Pray – for while I feel completely inadequate to do anything, I know one who can and I call upon Him to act.
Give – to one of the organizations that are helping those who suffer.
Understand – what is going on in these “trouble spots”, by reading up on the subject and following reports of what is going on.
Compassion – while most of those who are experiencing persecution are far away and we will never meet this side of eternity, there may well be some we will, especially if persecution flares up close to home, and these we need to show compassion toward.
Lobby – those who have power and influence e.g. our politicians, to act in a way that is helpful that will lead to a just solution.
Media – sadly, reporting on instances of Christian persecution is often not high on the agenda of most of the major media outlets. It may help to make these aware and if necessary finding alternative ways to let people know, e.g. using social media.
Identify – with those who suffer (it is a small thing but I have just changed by Facebook avatar to the Arabic letter “N”, the very letter ISIS post on the properties of Christians for easy identification).