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Losing Our Religion: The Death of Christian Mosul

The advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has all but wiped out some of the most ancient Christian communities. Some of the most important early Christian manuscripts which resided in monasteries there have been burned.
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Despite a modest Internet uptick due to social media, no one in the mainstream media is adequately covering this story. The stakes are high, dire, and apply to all of humanity. This is a news story which far supersedes the 75th anniversary of Batman, the advent of the iPhone 6, or anything that Kim and Kanye are up to, and yet no one is hearing enough about it. The advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has all but wiped out some of the most ancient Christian communities. Some of the most important early Christian manuscripts which resided in monasteries there have been burned. There are pictures of people being crucified. Priests who have been encouraging dialogue and peace for years in the region have been dragged from their homes, shot, and killed. There is more than one account of nuns being raped. Now the arabic letter "nuun," which in this case stands for Nazarene, is scribbled across the doors of the Christian minority who are then driven from their homes.

After the 1930s, after the Jewish populations of Europe were driven from their homes into the ghettos, after they were forced to wear the symbol of the Star of David to identify themselves, and after what they held most dear was destroyed on the Kristallnacht, we did nothing. We are doing nothing again. After we realized during the liberation of Germany and Poland in the second World War that six million Jewish people had been systematically exterminated we collectively as humanity said "never again!" Words don't express how right we were right to do so.

Almost 70 years have passed, however, and we have collectively allowed it to continue. In Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia and Sudan, we have stood by while people were killed for their religion, their economic status, or simply the lighter or darker color of their skin. Our "never again," was never strong enough, never intentional enough, and the horrors that we witnessed at Auschwitz have played themselves out over and over again. Martin Niemöller is said to have once said that at the end of everyone else being persecuted, that at last they would come for him. The prophecy has been fulfilled for Christians. We did not speak out enough, and at last the extremists have come for us. Our complacency as Christians has come home to roost and there is, once again, a martyr Church. People are crucified, churches destroyed and, as with every other genocide since 1945, the world seems to continue along on the myth that the Shoah was the definitive genocide to end all genocides, that it could never happen again, and we are losing an important part of the soul of western civilization as a result.

The community being killed is the community that still speaks Aramaic, the common everyday language of Jesus. As a person who describes themselves as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, a general theist, Atheist, "spiritual but not religious," or as someone who has given no thought to religion at all, this should trouble you profoundly. If we lose this language we lose the language of a man whom everyone must acknowledge, believer or not, that has profoundly influenced and shaped western culture, and therefore our global culture as well. We need this language to survive, we need to keep studying it, understanding it, and learning from it if we ever wish to understand so much of what our emerging global reality is based in, regardless of any distaste that we might have for western hegemony.

The community being destroyed holds ancient texts the depths of which we are just beginning to understand, many of which are or have been destroyed. I have good friends who are scholars of the early Christian Church who recount to me, with horror, the incredible documents which have been destroyed. Whether you are a liberal Catholic charging the gates of Fort Benning every November, or a member of the Southern Baptist Convention lining the pockets of Ted Cruz for the next election, this should cry to heaven for redress in your mind. We Christians are losing core documents of our early faith and documents that are in some cases very close to scripture. We are losing some documents that we have yet to fully understand. We are losing a connection to the early Church community. We are losing a connection to the earthly life of Christ himself. For a Christian, of any denomination, acting on behalf of the poor and suffering of Syria and Iraq is not only a part of the obvious obligation for the love of the least, poorest, and most vulnerable that we find in Matthew 25, its a obvious obligation for the love of Christ himself.

The community being destroyed is a community of human beings. This is what is most important. To say more than this is honestly to say too much. No one should ever have to write more than the first sentence of this paragraph to raise the outrage of all of humanity against genocide. When genocide occurs, wherever, whenever, to whomever, we should all stop it. Period. It doesn't matter what one believes. These are people with the same hopes and dreams that each of us have. These are people who laugh and who cry. They could be us, and that is is not us is a mere accident of circumstance. We need to once again, finally and fully, cry out "never again!" We need to demand action from our lawmakers. We need to demand that the press cover this story fully and fairly. We need to pray, we need to hope, and we need to find a way forward in love.

I won't pretend right now to know what that way is, but unless we finally and fully begin to talk about the horrific tragedy which seems to once again be playing itself out after we had said no to it so many years ago, history seems doomed to repeat itself.

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