Edge of extinction: Iraq’s Christians need help now

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You’ve probably heard by now that President Obama has asked Congress to authorize military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The decision to go to war should never be done lightly. In fact, we should drop to our knees right now and pray for our elected officials, as well as our armed forces, as they prepare to take action.

The measures President Obama is proposing go beyond the air-strikes he’s already ordered. This time, boots on the ground are a possibility. And that’s understandably a tough sell for war-weary Americans.

But Islamic extremists seem determined to force our hand as they butcher and burn their way across the Middle-East, leaving entire communities in ashes. And the brutal executions of four American citizens—not to mention other foreigners beheaded or burned alive on video—put ISIS’ evil on full display for the world. Someone must confront these barbarians—especially in light of what they’ve done and are doing to Iraq’s Christians.

Ever since ISIS crossed the border, they’ve been leveling the homes of ethnic and religious minorities, including some of the world’s oldest Christian communities. In the process, they’ve massacred civilians, torched historic churches and mosques, and dragged women and girls into sex slavery.

“We don’t have much time left as Christians in this region,” said Bashar Warda, an Archbishop of the ancient Catholic Chaldean Church. In a plea to British lawmakers on Tuesday, Archbishop Warda insisted that western nations must forcibly intervene against ISIS if the region’s religious and ethnic minorities are to survive.

“As a Catholic,” he admitted, “I find it hard to say, but I want military action. There is no other way now.”

He’s not alone. Retired Rep. Frank Wolf, a longtime friend of Chuck Colson’s, recently helped establish the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, an advocacy group for global religious freedom.

This week, a delegation of the Wilberforce Initiative issued a grim report.

“A decade ago, Iraq’s Christian population numbered 1.5 million,” said the group’s president, Randel Everett. “Today, roughly 300,000 remain, and most have no jobs, no schools, and no places of worship.”

And with last summer’s conquest of Mosul by ISIS, the historic home of many Kurds and Christians, refugees are running out of refuges. As ISIS tightens its noose, vulnerable groups left in the region face nothing less than complete “extinction.”

“If the Islamic State is not defeated and ultimately destroyed,” said Congressman Wolf, “there will be no future for these ancient faith communities.”

Last year’s recipient of the Colson Center’s Wilberforce Award, Baghdad’s Canon Andrew White, heads a team bringing relief to those who’ve chosen to flee rather than to die. His tender words put a human face on the misery in Iraq:

“The situation…remains terrible,” wrote White on his blog recently. “The refugees displaced from [their] homes and towns have been suffering so much in the cold of winter. Our team up there has been doing a great job continuing to provide food and warm clothing to the hundreds in distress.”

But folks, these kinds of provisions mean nothing if no one stops the onslaught of ISIS. And whether we like it or not, America is not without responsibility.

As Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako pointed out last year, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, (and our precipitous withdrawal in 2012), was precisely what destabilized his country and paved the way for ISIS. To refuse to act now and abandon Christians who have lived and worshipped there since before our nation existed, is unthinkable.

Folks, there is a time for war. And as Congress decides whether this is that time, we need to pray—not only for our leaders’ wisdom and our troops’ safety, but for those on the edge of extinction—our brothers and our sisters in Iraq.

John Stonestreet

— by John Stonestreet

Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

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