Standing with the Nazarenes

A quick but meaningful way to offer real support to persecuted Christians

10422057_10152707905469258_1305997246647383114_nOver the last 48 hours, you’ve probably seen this picture (right) on Facebook. It’s the Arabic letter ‘nun’, for ‘Nazarene’, and is currently being painted on the doors of Christians in Mosul by an extremist Islamic group called ISIS. The symbol marks out Christians, who are being forced to either convert to Islam, pay a ‘protection tax’, flee their homes, or be killed.

For this reason, many Christians have placed the ‘nun’ on their Facebook profile as a small way of showing solidarity with their persecuted brothers and sisters, encouraging prayer, and perhaps drawing a tiny bit of attention to what’s happening in Iraq.

Obviously, posting an attention-grabbing profile pic achieves little. Prayer is infinitely more valuable. But in between those two extremes is another option. Many Christians are taking the opportunity to write to their government leaders, encouraging them to take action on behalf of this persecuted people group.

Let me encourage you to take the quick but important step of writing to the Foreign Minister (or equivalent) in your part of the world. Below is a letter I sent to Murray McCully (NZ Foreign Minister) and Julie Bishop (Australian Foreign Minister) yesterday, for you to use as a template, if it’s helpful. (Another excellent example can be found here.) Readers in other countries should be able to find the relevant names and contact details very quickly. I’ve posted the New Zealand version; be sure to make the relevant changes to your letter, if using this template!

Murray McCully’s email addresses are murray.mccully@national.org.nz or m.mccully@ministers.govt.nz. Julie Bishop’s email address is Julie.Bishop.MP@aph.gov.au. I’ve already received a (brief) reply from both offices to acknowledge receipt of my letter, so it’s certainly worth the time.

If you can afford to give money as well as (or instead of) time, you could also support this appeal being coordinated by the Barnabas Fund. Whatever you choose to do, and whether or not you’re a Christian, see this as an opportunity to stand with persecuted people in an hour of desperate need.

*****

Dear Minister,

I’m writing to you because of my grave concern for a situation in Mosul, Iraq, where Christians are being severely persecuted because of their beliefs.

As you probably know, an extremist Islamic group called ISIS attacked and took control of Mosul on June 10, later declaring the creation of a formal Islamic state (a caliphate) in the territory under its control. ISIS has decreed that all Christians must either convert to Islam, pay a heavy tax (a ‘jizyah’, which many Christians simply cannot afford), or be killed.

Mosul had been home to some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world, but the numbers of Christians have dwindled due to persecution in recent years. But these recent events have forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee their homes, leaving behind their possessions and their former lives.

ISIS is also known to have been active in persecuting Christians in Syria, with some recent reports saying it now controls up to 35% of the country.

In light of these events, could I please ask you to:

– Advise me of any specific steps that the New Zealand Government has taken (or is willing to consider) to help displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians;

– Consider giving some level of priority to Christian refugees fleeing their homes – not because Christians are more important than others, but because many Middle Eastern refugee camps are controlled by Al-Qaeda affiliates, and because entering other Middle Eastern countries for refuge can lead to further discrimination on the basis of their faith;

– Raise this as a matter for urgent discussion within the ranks of your own government, and, as you have opportunity, within the international community?

I raise this matter without knowing anything of your personal religious beliefs – but in many ways I believe that’s the point: we in New Zealand have the freedom to worship (or not) as we choose, and we can all agree that this is a basic freedom that should be afforded to all people. However, many millions of people around the world do not enjoy this freedom – often at the cost of their lives.

Because ours is a wealthy nation that has been given so much (including the priceless gift of religious freedom), I would urge you to use this opportunity to offer practical care to these people in their time of desperate need. Please be assured of my prayers for you and your staff as you consider this matter and undertake your vitally important (and very challenging) role.

With every good wish,

Geoff Robson

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