As has been reported by Christianity Today, the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has issued an ultimatum to the Christian residents of the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul: convert to Islam, pay the jizya (tax on non-Muslims), or face the sword. The tax is too much for many of these believers to afford, so some have caved under the pressure to convert. Many more have fled their homes, in search of refuge in neighboring regions like Kurdistan (the Kurds, having experienced intense persecution of their own under Saddam Hussein’s regime, are generally more religiously tolerant). Meanwhile, ISIS militants have tagged their homes with the Arabic letter nun, which stands for “Nazarenes,” an old Arabic/Aramaic term for “Christian.”
These Christians are members of the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches, which are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church [update: only the Chaldean church is in communion with Rome, not the Assyrian Church of the East]. They are the last-remaining native speakers of Aramaic, the language that Jesus himself spoke 2,000 years ago. But with the mounting instability in Iraq and Syria, it is quite likely that these communities will be extinguished within a few years. Best case scenario, most of them will escape the violence, only to be culturally assimilated to their host countries. Others might capitulate and convert to Islam. Worst case scenario, they will have nowhere else to turn, and they will be cut down by these terrorists who murder in the name of Allah (and bring a bad name upon the majority of Muslims who desire peace with Christians).
Please be praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East.