The Persecuted Church
If you have been on social media recently, the symbol on the left of the page is probably familiar to you. However, perhaps you arenít sure why it has suddenly become such a popular profile picture. The truth is that it is more than just a viral trend or Facebook fad.
Right now it is being painted on the houses of Christians in northern Iraq by the Islamic State, the fundamentalist Islamic group who have set up a savage caliphate over the Iraq/Syria border. íní is shorthand for Nasrani in Arabic, translated for us as Nazerene, a reference to Jesus and the Christian faith of those living in the house. If the residents refuse to convert to Islam then they are made to pay an extortive tax, face persecution and in many cases, execution. Thousands have fled their homes in the face of this brutality and are now living in refugee camps across the region.
The ín' symbol has been reclaimed by Christians, both in the region and world-wide as a way of identifying with those who are facing such barbaric oppression. This is why people are posting it as their profile pictures.
As Christians we need to be pro-active in supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ as they face this dreadful persecution and there are 3 really practical things you could do to make a difference for them.
1.Stay informed and inform others. If we are to pray effectively then itís important to know what is going on. As well as news websites like the BBC, there are Christian organisations who such as Open Doors (www.opendoorsuk.org) and Tearfund (www.tearfund.org) who have people on the ground in the Middle East. This means the information on their websites is current and relevant. Once you know what is going on share that information with others. Why not write to your MP and AM to let them know what is going on and that you are concerned about it. You could also share what you know at house group and church, which will hopefully increase the amount of people who will then take up this cause and get involved.
2.Give generously. The practical needs of those who have become refugees in Iraq as a result of the Islamic Stateís actions are now huge. Thankfully there are charities that are supporting and caring for them, but they need our help if they are to be able to meet the ever-increasing demands of the situation. You can give through Christian Aid(http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/iraq-crisis-appeal/index.aspx)or Tearfund (https://www.tearfund.org/give/iraq_crisis_appeal/). Our money really can make a difference in the lives of those currently suffering for their faith.
3.Pray. The writer to the Hebrews calls us to stand side-by-side with those who are suffering (Hebrews 13:3) and one of the key ways to do this is to pray. We can call out to our heavenly father on behalf of those who are currently suffering for his name. We can pray that they stand firm, that they know his love and healing, and that this persecution would stop. There are up to date prayer points on the Open Doors website.
We can all do at least one of these things, so please get involved and support your Christian family in Iraq.
Mr. Graham Smith