Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We Need to Open Our Eyes

 On Monday evening, I attended a talk titled, “Saving the Flickering Light of Christianity in Iraq.” Admittedly, I originally wasn’t planning on attending this talk, because there were a variety of other things that I could have been doing (homework, relaxing, Zumba class, or sleep, to name a few). Plus, don’t I know that the situation is bad for Christians in the Middle East? I pray for them every now and then, so I’m good, right? I am extremely grateful that, by the grace of God, I found myself sitting in Christ the King Chapel, waiting to hear Juliana Taimoorazy (founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council) speak.

Julia Taimoorzay.
Photo from 
For the next hour and a half, I didn’t hear about the politics and legislation regarding the Middle East, and I didn’t hear about the latest news reports. Instead, I heard about the humanity that has been attacked and persecuted for hundreds of years. I saw photographs of displaced Christians living in abandoned parking garages.  I heard stories about killings that, at times, don’t hit the radar of a news station—or if they do, people don’t make a big deal about it.

No matter what religion or political party you are a part of, I hope that we can all open our eyes to see this atrocity. Taimoorzay explained that from the rise of Islam to the mid-19th century, Christians have been persecuted approximately every 45 years. During  and after World War I, two thirds of Assyrian Christians, 1.5 Armenians, and 700,000 Greeks all died. Today, churches that are 1800-1900 years old are being bombed or turned into mosques. In 2008, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul was shot and killed. In 2010, the church, Our Lady of Salvation was attacked during the liturgy, leaving at least 58 people dead. In our present-day, ISIS is killing, kidnapping, and torturing Christians frequently. On Easter Sunday this year, I ate junk food and played games. For some Assyrian Christians, Easter Sunday included having to hear or see that their church was bombed.

During Taimoorazy’s presentation, she showed us many disturbing photographs of the persecutions, killings, and sex slavery that are forced onto Christians in the Middle East. But the point where I actually broke down and cried was during the video that showed some survivors of the Our Lady of Salvation attack. Two women and a man sat on a couch, and one women did all the speaking. She couldn’t have been much older than I am now, and her words were wracked in sobs. The other woman couldn’t speak because of the trauma, but rocks back and forth, at times collapsing into the man’s arms, a look of horror on her face. I wanted to look away, so that I wouldn’t have to see the pain and suffering, and read the subtitles—but I forced myself to keep watching. This woman does not need me to close my eyes.

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
~Lk 10:29-37

Are we closing our eyes to the suffering Christians in the Middle East? They have been persecuted for hundreds of years, and the persecutions have been intensifying at the hands of people in ISIS. Out of all of the problems in the worlds that we fight for, shouldn’t we place more of a focus on helping the people who are being slaughtered brutally? Furthermore, many persecuted Christians have told Taimoorazy that this persecution is coming to America; ISIS and other terrorist groups will not restrain their violence to the Middle East. Open your eyes! We must be vigilant and help our brethren! 

Pray. Pray for the persecutors, because they have a tremendous need of healing and conversion in their lives. They must be hurting deeply, and probably do not know of the great, authentic joy that they can experience when they cease the persecutions. Pray also for those being persecuted, for their courage, for their strength, for hope, and for peace. Pray for those who are helping them, for their safety. During Taimoorazy’s talk, she mentioned that a friend of hers recently received a death threat from ISIS. Folks, this is real. People are dying, and we must pray and sacrifice!

Educate others. I’m not a fan of politics. Researching political stuff makes me crazy. So should I just sit on my comfortable couch and not look up political stuff when there are Christians being killed? Love is sacrifice, and we can make those kinds of sacrifices for the persecuted people. Also, like Taimoorazy stressed, draw an awareness to the humanity of others in the Middle East. People can talk politics all day long, but if it doesn’t reflect the dignity and reverence due to a human person, the conversation will not make the impact that it needs to. Try to keep up with current events (though I recognize that we are bombarded with news from all sorts of places, so it can be tough to read everything that’s important to know).

Give humanitarian aid. I’m a poor college student, and I understand what it’s like to not have money. But when the occasion arises that you have money to donate, consider donating it to an organization that helps persecuted Christians (though Taimoorazy noted: not all organizations are good. Some that claim to help the Christians work with Muslim groups (for instance, she said, Caritas). There are many good people who are Muslim, but some Muslim groups in Iraq are connected with terrorism. So do your research! ). Host a fundraising event for the Christians, give up coffee and give that money to a good organization, get creative!
Hundreds of Christians are being killed, and many of the survivors are being forced to flee their homeland with nothing, in order to find safety. The number of Christians in the Holy Land is dwindling, and ISIS is present in the United States of America. We need to open our eyes to the plight of persecuted Christians. Let's make people aware of the issues that they face, so that together, we unite in helping end the horrors that these people live through daily. I challenge you (and myself) to behind the computer screen and do something to change the world. 

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