The image at the top of this post is the Arabic letter “n”. It has become known worldwide in the last week. The violent fanatics who have formed what they call the “Islamic State” in northern Iraq and eastern Syria left this mark on the doorways of Christians who were living in areas they under their control to show where the “Nazarenes” — the Christians — were living. This was significant because the Islamic State leaders had decreed that all Christians had to convert to Islam, pay a ruinous tax and live as serfs, or be killed.
This is the latest terrible development in the destruction of historic Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in areas of Syria and Iraq that have been ruined by warfare. The Iraqi city of Mosul, which stands on the site of ancient Nineveh, has been a focus of the oppression. Christians have been killed, churches have been burned, and the Archbishop and thousands of his flock have been forced to flee as refugees.
Around the world this week, Christians have been expressing their solidarity with our oppressed brethren in the Middle East, by posting the “n” symbol, and by spreading the Twitter hashtag #WeAreN.
The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. I am awed by the witness and courage of my brothers and sisters in Christ. There is little that I can do to help them or to relieve their suffering. But I pray for them, and I humbly stand with them.
I, too, am a Nazarene.