I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
― C.S. Lewis
This post will not be a cancer-related one unless cancer is used here metaphorically as we take time to consider the malignancy of some suffering in this world.
Have you ever heard a story that left you in awe or perhaps confused as to how to make sense of it? You knew that what you were hearing was swelling with profound meaning but because you had never experienced anything close to such a thing you felt inadequate to try to give words of meaning to what you heard; as if you might risk exposing a small-mindedness or an arrogant superfluous-ness.
I am about to share a story with you but it will be the last thing I will write for fear that I will be tempted to comment or explain. Some stories are stand alone and they work their meaning for each individual in unique emotional or spiritual ways. And that meaning can be transformative in some way. Offering a commentary can perhaps rob the story of its mystery of inspiration for a particular individual in a particular way.
I have been a subscriber to two different websites that track and follow the persecution of Christians in areas of government repression or radical Islamic insurgency. Release International (a UK-based organization) and World Monitor Watch (a ministry of Open Doors) inform of persecution of individuals or whole communities. Their information is based on sources that are close to the situation and are supported by a few secular media organizations. These stories of persecution have become so numerous, common place and seemingly intractable that unless you are looking for them they are not reaching your typical news source.
Recent news coverage of the fall of Mosul, Iraq to radical Islamist insurgency forces has made all the major news sources. What may or may not be explained in the telling of the takeover of the city by ISIS (the Islamist insurgents ) is the terror that 3000 Christians are experiencing as they desperately try to escape a possible death, abduction, or worse as they become a target of hostilities. We are aware that this is happening in Syria as thousands upon thousands of refugees flee to Jordan, Lebanon or any place that they can get to. And yes, these terrorized refugees are Muslim as well as Christian. Civil war is no respecter of religion, age or defenselessness. However, in both countries (Syria and now Iraq) thousand year old enclaves of Christians are being targeted for extinction, extortion or forced conversion. Entire communities, towns and cities of Christians who have lived peacefully for centuries as minorities in Syria and now in Iraq, have fled.
Typically the web sites I go to for updates don’t share personal human interest stories. They typically tell the facts and ask for prayer or some form of advocacy. I pay special attention, however, when a personal story is reported. The following is part of the full story of the Christian flight from Mosul as reported in World Monitor Watch and it left me so humbled and in awe of God’s work in the hearts of Christians in the midst of great adversity.
“A family with four small children, three to nine-years-old, living in the most dangerous area of Mosul – similar to the Green Zone in Baghdad – said after ISIS reached Mosul on June 6 they planned to leave early Tuesday morning around 7 am. But on Monday evening – while they ate dinner – two homes next to them were hit with RPGs and set on fire.
“We left the food and ran,” the wife said. “We didn’t even stop for our shoes, we fled in our sandals! We just made sure to take our I.D.s and important papers. The children were very scared.”
An older woman spoke of the long trip leaving Mosul: “We saw many people crying, and very angry. But we were singing praise songs in our car. We saw the sunrise, and we were saying, ‘O God, You are good. Thank you for this peace we have, we didn’t sleep all night, and still until now, but we are not angry. When we are rich in God, it is very special in these kinds of hard times.”
At one place where they were stopped waiting to pass, she saw some young men who were very angry. She went over and said to them, “Do you believe in God?” When they said yes, she asked, “Can I pray for you?” So they said ‘yes, please pray for us’. So she prayed with them there. “And I’m still praying for them now,” she added.
The church leader joined in: “Pray that we can return quickly to Mosul, because the future is unknown for us all. What kind of jobs we can get here is limited, and of course students missed their final exams, which are now postponed. How can we live, find work for an income? The church is helping us temporarily with living expenses, but we can’t stay here forever. If we cannot return, we will apply for residency here in Ankawa. We believe God will care for us, as Jesus said He does for the birds of the air!”
“God is good, all the time!” he added, with a big smile, gesturing to the children tumbling over each other and playing in the tiny hallway. “We pray things will get better, so we can go back to Mosul.”
Upon leaving, the church leader gave a final plea: “Pray for peace in Iraq. We have had enough of wars. Nowhere is safe here.”
Lord we join our fellow believers as we pray for peace for everyone and the end of terror. (Psalm 10:17-18) Amen
(Sorry dear readers, I did just leave a commentary. I couldn’t help it.)