In a world where terror seems to abound daily, it’s difficult not to shut it out, disconnect, forget, and move on. It’s difficult to look and actually see, to read and feel, to hear and connect, to understand the gravity of the conflict and individual responsibility. Because the violence is so far away, it’s simple to ignore, overlook, and disassociate.
It hasn’t been that simple for Isaac. Isaac did not have the luxury of separating himself from the violence, because it was at his doorstep. That conflict that we so easily separate ourselves from cost him his career, his home, and his family. Living a fulfilling life in Iraq as the principal of a school, a father, a brother, and a son, Isaac didn’t imagine that, within weeks, his life would drastically change and he would lose that which was dear to him. After his son, and later his brother, were kidnapped and murdered by ISIS, Isaac had no choice but to flee in hope of saving his life and the lives of his remaining family.
Batu studied at Mosul University pursuing a Masters of Biology. She scarcely escaped Iraq, walking 20km on foot, because of the enclosing violence by ISIS. Today she lives as a temporary citizen in the state of Jordan without the ability to work or continue her education.
Khalil was persecuted for his faith as a young boy while living in Gaza. He endured beatings in school by his classmates. The principal of his school upheld that the beatings were in accordance of Sharia law, and he could even be killed because he was a Christian. After fleeing to the West Bank where he lives today, Khalil is a proud Palestinian follower of Jesus Christ. His passion is fervent, his zeal is evident, and his faith is unshakeable. He doesn’t experience religious freedom under the Palestinian Authority, but uses his current situation to lead others to Christ.
With tears in their eyes, many of these persecuted Christians expressed feelings of being forgotten by the world, but especially forgotten by the Western church. They quietly pondered how Christians could call them brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet completely isolate and disregard their struggles and the overall persecution of Christians as something far away and easily forgotten. The Western church is largely ignorant or untroubled by the violence against Christians whose lives have been turned upside down by those who hate their Christian faith.
Religious persecution has risen worldwide for three years in a row to astonishing rates. Over 215 million Christians live in countries where they are subject to harassment, discrimination, physical violence, and even death. In a recent study, Open Doors reported that every month 322 Christians are killed, 214 churches are destroyed, and approximately 772 acts of violence are committed against Christians. The Pew Research Center recently stated that in 2014 “roughly three-quarters of the world’s 7.2 billion people (74 percent) were living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities” involving religion. The Christian population in Iraq alone has plummeted from 1.5 million in 2003 to current estimates of about 275,000. Estimates indicate that between the years 2005 and 2015, approximately 900,000 Christians were killed, an average of about 90,000 a year. In short, Christians are persecuted in more countries than ever before, and are killed more than any other religious group.
The time has come for us to stop feeling sorry for the Christians, shocked at the plight they are up against, and committing to simply pray for them. It is time to act. Too many Western Christian churches use the common scapegoat of prayer as a way to avoid action. Simply praying is not enough. Did Christ not call the church to a life of action? Did he not call the church to not only pray, but also to act? Let this then be a call to action, a simple reminder, and a gentle nudge. Don’t diminish the power of prayer, but don’t resort to simply praying like so many Christians do today. Remember that the fight of the Christians in the Middle East is the fight of the Western church.
There are countless ways to help the refugees and persecuted Christians in the Middle East. The Awaken Initiative by the Philos Project aids in raising awareness for the condition of Christians in the Middle East, and raising funds for those being persecuted. Through donations, the Iraqi Christian Relief Council [ICRC] gives Christians an opportunity to aid in humanitarian relief, raise awareness, host events and prayer vigils, aid resettled Christian refugees, and so much more. ICRC focuses specifically on helping Iraqi Assyrian Christians who have been misplaced from their homeland and have suffered massive population losses. The Voice of the Martyrsoffers countless ways for Christians to help their brothers and sisters including financial donations, action packs, family med packs, writing letters to imprisoned Christians, and a Bible sponsorship program.
The opportunities to help our brothers and sisters being persecuted in the Middle East are endless. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can certainly do more.
Anastasia Sinyawski is a senior at the University of Alaska Anchorage, currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in political science. This article has been republished from The Philos Project, a MercatorNet partner site.