If you have not heard of ISIS, you should know about it. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group (ISIS) is an al Qaeda splinter group that wants to establish an Islamic state stretching from Iraq into northern Syria. The group has had substantial success battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces and this week appears to have taken Mosul under its control.
According to a recent blog post by the Rev. Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, “ISIS… has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.”
In Biblical times, Nineveh was an important location, binding together commercial routes from the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It was the location to which Jonah was sent to preach; a hill above the massive city is where he sat waiting for God’s judgment which never came because the people repented and God forgave them (ironically, much to the chagrin of Jonah).
About Nineveh, Canon Andrew writes, “The area is the heartland of the Christian community. Most of our people come from Nineveh and still see that as their home. Many Christians fled to Nineveh from Baghdad, as things got so bad there. Now the Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. The ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk, major areas to the oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war that all the Iraqi military have now retreated from.
People have fled by hundreds of thousands to Kurdistan for safety. The Kurds have even closed the border, preventing entry of the masses. The crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to consider what is really happening.”
According to one news source, “This is a profound development for the Christian Church which has had a two-thousand-year presence there. And it will have long-term national-security implications for the West. American political leaders overlook the fact that religious pluralism and diversity are among today’s casualties. As one Chaldean bishop lamented, ‘This is very sad and very dangerous for the church, for Iraq and even for Muslim people, because it means the end of an old experience of living together’.”
So what can we do?
If you were thinking, pray, I agree. A prayer posted as a reply on Canon Andrew’s blog, by Lyn Cole from New Zealand, is as follows, “Come O Almighty Lord/King of Kings and Lord of Lords/The Lion of Judah/ and surround and protect all your people in this land right this moment…right now.. I am interceding for all in the Middle East and Europe at this time…We live in dangerous times even here in NZ as far away as we are. Come Lord Yeshua/Jesus…Shalom shalom.”
Let us all pray for peace, in our land, in Nineveh, and especially for St. George’s Church in Baghdad.
To read (and contact) Canon Andrew, here is a link to his blog http://frrme.org/please-please-help-us-crisis/