For the first time in 1,400 years, there were no Christmas celebrations in Nineveh province, home to Iraq’s largest remaining Christian community and largest non-Muslim minority. This northern province, whose area is over three times larger than that of Lebanon, is now part of the Islamic State’s caliphate, and its Christians and churches are no longer tolerated.
Fast forward, July 2015
The red, painted ن (pronounced “noon”) can still be seen on homes and businesses in Iraq where ISIS has marked them with the “N” for Nasara or Nazarenes, a pejorative Arabic word for Christians. They are being persecuted and murdered by ISIS terrorists.
“Nothing good can come from Nazareth”
The truth that Jesus was a Nazarene is a sign to us of both the historical locality and the global solidarity of the church. As the eternal Son of God Jesus transcends this mortal coil. But as the God-Man on earth, He identified with a tribe, with a genealogy, with a hometown.
… and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Matthew 2:23 NIV
Nazareth was a powerless backwater, not the sort of urban, elite center that we are told drives cultural change. It reminds us that God’s purposes are global, transcending our tribal and national categories.
When Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, he was received with joy and awe, until he told his fellow villagers that they really didn’t understand what he was saying. Jesus demonstrated that God’s purposes had always gone “outside the camp.” He showed how God had raised a Gentile woman’s son, and healed a Syrian leper. (Lk. 4:24-27). In Nazareth, Jesus was setting the stage for the Great Commission, as the Spirit drove the church to all of the nations (Acts 1).”
In a beautiful way, Dr. Moore explains that home really is where the heart is.
“In Christ, we have been brought into the life of Jesus. We are hidden with him, joined to him as a body to a head (Col. 3: Eph. 5). This means that, in a very real sense, Nazareth is our hometown. We belong to Jesus, and Jesus belongs to Nazareth. We are connected then to everyone who is also in Christ, not simply because we believe the same things but because we belong to the same Body.
“We are “one new man,” and “fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:15, 19). That’s why Christians in America and Australia and Nigeria ought to care, and to pray fervently, for persecuted Christians in Iraq, in Sudan, and everywhere else in the world where they are endangered.”
The spread of the ISIS reign of terror has since darkened most of Iraq, Syria, Packistan, and is threatening Lebanon and Jordan. If the world doesn’t save Christian refugees, we will see the end to Christian culture in the Middle East in our lifetimes. (Source)
With the solidarity of fellow Christians on social media changing their profile pictures to the nun, we see a change in awareness and citizens questioning their governments about their lack of involvement. So the symbol for Islamic hate has become the rallying cry for the world’s Christians. What the terrorists meant as a sign of shame, becomes a reminder of another symbol that was feared, derided, and scorned. In those slights, the Cross imparts who we are, and to Whom we belong. As Christians, we are all Nazarenes.
WE NEED TO PRAY!
Today our world is in dire need of prayer. Prayer is our greatest weapon and we will deploy it by uniting together under Christ’s banner.
The genocide of Christians in Syria, Iraq, & the Middle East is intensifying, while the U.S. & the U.N. refuse to call it what it is: the destruction of a particular religious group.
The legal definition of “genocide” according to Article II of the United Nations’ 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide legally defines the term as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group, as such: (1) killing members of the group (2) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (3) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (4) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (5) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
THIS OBVIOUSLY SEEMS LIKE A GENOCIDE; SO WHY HAS THE U.S. AND UNITED NATIONS NOT RECOGNIZED IT AS SUCH? If genocide were formally declared, then it would trigger certain international mechanisms that are meant to protect the group under threat. Some human rights activists believe the United States fails to declare the ISIS threat against Christians as “genocide” because it would force the United States government to be more involved in providing direct assistance to them. (Source)
It was where the ancient Assyrians in the city converted to Christianity, and most still prayed in Aramaic.
* Russell Moore is President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral concerns and public policy entity of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist and theologian by background, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. Moore is author of several books, including Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel .