On our Salaam Project Facebook page, the post that has received the most views is one called “We are Iraqi, we are Christian.” The article describes Muslims standing alongside Christians in Baghdad protesting together the persecution of Christians in Mosul by ISIS or Islamic State. This parallels the #WeareN hashtag that is spreading over social media and that was recently highlighted in a post by Phil Reinders. The WeareN movement is a reference to the Arabic letter ‘N’ that the Islamic State is using to mark houses in Mosul owned by Christians. As the Islamic State takes over more territory in Iraq Christians are left with three options: convert, pay a hefty tax, or leave.
Before the US invasion in 2003, there were approximately 1 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 450,000. Many are internally displaced, or are leaving altogether. This is a call to the West to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering greatly. It is important that we do not allow guilt over Western intervention in Iraq to keep us from actively speaking out for these Christian populations and praying for them.
But it is important that we don’t stop there. Christians are not the only religious minority being persecuted in Iraq. Yazidis are another group who are suffering. A complex religion with traces of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, Yazidis are targeted by Sunni extremists as devil worshippers (because of a misunderstanding of their belief in the peacock angel).
Other groups that are suffering are Turkmen, Shabak Muslims, Shia Muslims, and some Sunni Muslims.
A recent article by Sojourners pointed out that #WeareN is an important movement to arouse western Christians about the plight of our eastern sisters and brothers. But it is important that it doesn’t lead to “Christian tribalism.” To quote: “When we find suffering in the tragedy of some but gloss over the suffering of others we stray from the Way of Jesus.”
#WeareN is not only about persecution of Christians. When one religious minority suffers, all suffer. It is important that we also speak out and support Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Shi’a, etc. We don’t want to fall into the same trap that fuels groups like ISIS – we can’t dehumanize the other because they are not like us or do not believe what we believe.
Many are calling what is happening in Iraq a nightmare, and it is. But it is also an opportunity to support minority groups in the Middle East with prayer, humanitarian support, and our voice. We have the opportunity to stand together against tyranny and terrorism. That keeps us firmly on the Way of Jesus.
See the Office of Social Justice's Iraq prayer bulletin here: http://www.crcna.org/news-and-views/please-pray-christians-other-minorities-iraq