Watching and listening to reports about what is happening in Iraq, I, like you, experience a wide array of thoughts and emotions. I am at turns broken-hearted, outraged, and disappointed.
One thing I am not is surprised.
For quite some time, I have been well aware of the atrocities perpetrated in Iraq against Christians and other religious minority groups—and of the need for the world to understand what is actually taking place.
On Wednesday, the situation in Iraq was upgraded by the United Nations to a "Level 3 Emergency," the organization’s highest ranking of severity in a humanitarian crisis.
As the president of an organization that exists to serve the most persecuted religious group in the world—Christians—Open Doors mobilizes Christian aid workers who spend their lives on the frontlines as horrific events unfold.
Open Doors has been predicting for years that Iraq would soon be emptied of Christians and now it is happening.
ISIS is forcing people to choose between abandoning their faith or enduring consequences that range from paying outrageous fines to facing certain death.
In the 1990’s, the Christian population in Iraq was estimated at over 1.2 million; now, fewer than 300,000 remain.
Iraq as we know it won’t exist if the genocide and targeted persecution of Christians continues.
It will likely resemble failed states like Somalia and others that harbor terrorists and have virtually no religious diversity. As we have seen played out in story after story, Islamic radical groups such as ISIS seek to annihilate any group whose beliefs differs from their own.
While I am grateful President Obama and other leaders have finally acknowledged this genocide, I am puzzled by why it took so long. ISIS is set on destroying a whole people group.
Similar to Nazi Germany, they are spreading over multiple countries—and marking the homes of Christians with the Arabic Christian symbol, an action eerily similar to Nazi’s use of the Star of David. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians—nearly the nation’s entire Christian population—have been fleeing for their lives since June.
Was this not reason enough for world leaders to do something? Religious persecution of any kind should not be tolerated.
Nonetheless, I am heartened that America has finally acknowledged this genocide and has made it a top priority. But I can’t help but wonder how long the attention now directed towards the persecuted of Iraq will last. One thing is certain: the persecution of non-Muslims will persist unless something is done to stop ISIS.
Open Doors has worked with this dwindling population of Christians in Iraq for many years and we will continue to do so by providing food and shelter for those who have been forced from their homes. But what persecuted Christians and other religious minorities need now, more than ever before, is courage.
I implore you, from the relative safety of your stateside home, to pray for the people of Iraq. Pray for the aid workers risking it all to serve the persecuted, and pray for President Obama and those advising him. Pray for our leaders to have even a fraction of the courage these regular, ordinary Iraqi people have displayed in the face of unspeakable terror.
Finally, let the administration know that your attention span for the safety of the persecuted is long—and you expect theirs to be as well.
David Curry is the President of Open Doors USA. For nearly 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Each year, Open Doors releases its World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where Christian persecution is worst.