December 10, 2014
In an interview Nov. 28 with the
Orthodox Christian Network, the Rev. Canon Andrew White, “the Vicar of Bagdad,” told how ISIS fighters threatened four Iraqi Christian children, each under 15-years-old. They warned the children that, if they would not renounce their Christian faith and follow Muhammad, they would be put to death. Fearlessly, they faced the challenge. Youth is no impediment to real faith and heroism.
When the children were given a last chance to convert to Islam to save their lives, they responded, “No, we love Yasua [Jesus]. We have always loved Yasua. We have always followed Yasua. Yasua has always been with us.” They paid the price for their loyalty to Jesus. The Islamic militants chopped off their heads.
Barbaric! No word is too strong to express the horror any civilized person feels at such cruelty. No truly religious person of any faith can justify the savage slaughter of others who refuse to convert from one faith to another. Yet, the Islamic terrorist group ISIS continues its crusade to eradicate the Christian faith in Iraq and Syria in the name of the Muslim religion. Pope Francis has not hesitated to label such violence “a profoundly grave sin against God.”
Seizing more and more territory, ISIS is fiercely intent on establishing its caliphate in Syria and Iraq. These militants show no mercy to Christians, Yazidis or Shi'ite Muslims, who do not espouse their radical interpretation of Sunni Islam. They shoot, crucify and behead people by the dozens. Brutally cutting the throats of babies, they repeat the massacre of the Innocents that Herod ordered to secure his total control of his kingdom.
In the past, when hundreds of people were slaughtered by one group or another, a veil of secrecy was routinely drawn over the crime. But, not with ISIS. These violent zealots revel in their inhumanity. As they shoot or behead Shiites in Iraq and Alawites in Syria, they publicize their deeds as a warning to all who refuse to convert. These fanatics leave no doubt as to how they will deal with Christians who remain faithful. (cf. Sheldon Filger, “The Final Solution Of The Christian Arab Question In The Middle East,”
The World Post, August 7, 2014).
The more ISIS advances, the more rapidly Christianity is disappearing. Christians in Iraq have been suffering the most. But, they are not alone. Christians throughout the Middle East are facing persecution. In fact, only 5 percent of the region's population now identifies itself as Christian; and, the number is declining. As ancient churches and monasteries are being destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,
On Nov. 30, during his visit to Istanbul, Pope Francis joined Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I in declaring that “The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.” On his return flight back to Rome, the pope said in a press conference that “It would be good if all Islamic leaders — political leaders, religious leaders, and academic leaders — condemned violence as being against the Koran.”
The statistics are staggering. On Sept. 23, Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. He reported that, in the last 10 years, a Christian is killed for the faith every five minutes. Faced with the reality of violence against religion in the Middle East, one questions why the facts of the religious persecution and the slaughter of Christians receive such scant coverage in the media.
What would the world look like without Christianity? One shudders to imagine.