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Middle East

Christians Violently Attacked. Again.

Too often, this kind of news is delivered dispassionately. Talk of trends, a medley of viewpoints, a fatalistic summary. Listen up, brothers and sisters: Christians stabbed by Muslims. What will you do to help?

Christian victims from Bartella. Images: Father Benham Benoka

The photographs above were taken by Father Benoka, parish priest in Bartella, Iraq. He is well known in the region as a man who has literally stood up to Muslim aggressors, one of whom held a gun to his head. His struggles are well portrayed in this interview from the National Catholic Register.

When we discuss religious violence, the tone often turns to specifics, to details. That’s not to disavow the finer points. If you want to know the specifics, that these Christians happen to be Syriac Catholics, the history of their particular sect in the region and the like, please read this article from The Daily Caller.

Details. Such are the distinctions that create an intellectual remove. Small asides to obscure the larger story, the scholarly blubber that insulates the heart of the matter, the glaring, hideous truth: Christian persecution is on the rise. The culprits are Muslim. Their goal is to kill and/or drive Christians away. And yes, there is something you can do. First, allow yourself to be angry.

Ephesians 4:26

That famous verse, Ephesians 4:26, sometimes translated as, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” does not say “don’t be angry.” There is much cause for righteous Christian anger today. Experience your anger, God gave you that emotion for a reason. Explore it. What does it make you want to do? If sinful, it’s off the table. Go ahead, search for a Bible verse that exhorts believers to vengeance or violence, there aren’t any. Search harder for an acceptable answer. To be a Christian is hard.

So why don’t we do something, individually and collectively? There are answers, from the agonizing to the trivial.

Reasons We Don’t Act

  1. Helplessness. A sense that the Middle East is too complicated, even intractably so, for any gesture to make a difference. It’s a quagmire, why get involved?
  2. “Turn the other cheek” philosophy and “‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord,” mistaken as calls for passiveness in the face of violence, and laxity about righting earthly wrongs, respectively.
  3. Naive denominational classification: “Are they really Christians the same as we are?”
  4. Outrage culture fatigue. In the era of nonstop anger about trivial matters, there isn’t enough emotional bandwidth for weighty matters.
  5. Crisis fatigue due to nonstop news: with tragedies from all corners of the globe in real time, the brain categorizes more and more generically: instead of Christian victims of Muslim violence, they just become Middle East victims.
  6. A fear that donations won’t get to the root of the cause.

Rebuttals: Why We Should Act

  1. The Middle East is the home to all three Abrahamic faiths. Defend yours.
  2. True, Jesus urged self-control and God promises to settle scores. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament are followers urged give up. Conversely, they are exhorted and implored to help those in need.
  3. Means of salvation, who can be ordained, and whether the hymns were written by Bach are internecine disputes compared to the accordance of accepting Jesus as the son of God and embracing Christ’s unique vision of loving all humans.
  4. Vote against the indulgence of divisive notions that would divide us as Christians. Speak to others in love.
  5. Define your beliefs. Focus on what you can influence. Align your effort with your beliefs.
  6. See below.

What You Can Do Now

One organization that is doing meaningful work in Christian persecution is Nasarean.org. Founded by Father Benedict Kiely, Nasarean focuses on aid and advocacy for persecuted Christians. Click the link to donate, and understand that your donation isn’t simply a handout, it is a guided and managed process of helping Christians whose homes and businesses are ruined. The goal is to help them rebuild, often with micro-financing, so they can prosper, and stay in their communities.

And that’s the point of Nasarean–listening to what the suffering need, not what an otherwise well-meaning charity might provide. From the Daily Caller article, Assyrian Susan Patto: “There is also the problem of rebuilding what was destroyed; it’s not going as it should be. People are not compensated for what they have lost, and there are no decent houses to live in, no infrastructure, and no jobs, and these are massive obstacles for people to go back. So the most urgent concerns of Christians are security and the rebuilding of their towns.” She speaks to the very mission of Nasarean.

Take your anger and push back. Stand up for your fellow Christians.

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