As believers, it’s important that we pay attention to news stories that secular media will not, and sometimes even refuse, to cover. Last August, ISIS executed 12 Christians for not denouncing their faith in Christ. One of them was the 12-year-old son of a Syrian missionary who had established nine house churches in the region. The militants of ISIS rejoiced. Another story comes from a Christian school in Syria, where ISIS beheaded all the men, and captured all of the girls who were then sold into the slave market. Whole Christian families had lost every one of their children.
As these stories show, there is no doubt that ISIS is targeting Christians for ethnic cleansing. More than 700,000 of Syria’s Christian population of 1.1 million have now been displaced. What we are now seeing is the wholesale destruction of a historic Christian community. The 2,000-year-old church, begun in Antioch, is now dying. But many western governments are indifferent. Indeed, what the mainstream media is failing to report is that the entire Middle East is currently being emptied of Christians. They are either fleeing or are being killed. But what of the Christians among the refugees that are now crowding into Europe?
Recently, my wife and I were enjoying an evening meal with a missionary couple who have served in Germany and also in Eastern Europe. They reported that the German government had become aware that the Syrian refugees were actively persecuting the Christians among them who had also fled Syria. So, in response, the government is taking active steps to separate out the Christian community. Perhaps this situation isn’t entirely new; Christians in the Middle East have often been put in an untenable position. Regimes like that of the former Saddam Hussein government in Iraq and the current Bashar Al Assad Regime in Syria have worked to protect Christians, at least in some part. But the crimes of these regimes are also well documented. And Christians also sometimes suffered under the Assad regime. Currently in Syria, opposition to the Assad regime includes either ISIS on one side; or a coalition of forces, made up primarily of other Muslim extremist groups, including Al Qaeda and others. And so, Christians have favoured the Assad regime as the lesser of the evils, even while they were at times subject to persecution there as well.
I, for myself, am praying that the civil war ends and that the Assad government survives for no other reason than that it is the best of a bad situation for our Christian brothers right now. Every other scenario could spell the end of an ancient witness of Christ in that land! But what should be our response? I believe Christian churches in the west cannot be silent during this time, even though the media is.
• First, we must raise the alarm bells that the entire Middle East is being emptied of Christians. Silence in such an hour is untenable.
• Second, we must find ways to sponsor Christian refugees at this moment. We must not be ashamed of our suffering brethren, but stand with them now! After all, the gospel went forth from these lands and came to us. What better way to show our gratefulness and support.
Furthermore, perhaps this is an hour in which we can demonstrate that our solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world demands greater loyalty than our commitment to our countries. Christians in the western world who are in a position to speak to the media can also demand that this crisis not go unnoticed. And above all, let us pray. Let us pray that Christ comes to the aid of his church, and that gospel witness is not extinguished in that part of the world!