Elder Peggy Phelan

November 20, 2016

Matthew 5:10-12

When militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) moved into northern Iraq, they began identifying Christian-owned property.  Families would find the Arabic letter nun (or n) painted on their homes and churches.  This single letter conveyed the powerful accusation that the occupants were "Nazarenes," people who followed Jesus of Nazareth rather than Islam.

To be labeled "n" in a community dominated by Muslim extremists is to undergo an immediate identity and life change.  With this mark comes the ultimatum: If you convert to Islam or pay the tax, you can keep your material possessions and remain in the community.  If not, you must leave or you will die.

Since 2003, such persecution has forced more than a million Iraqi Christians, who refuse to renounce Jesus and the Bible, to flee.  Many survivors live in refugee camps, trusting God daily for their food, shelter, and safety because they have no money, no work options, and no other place to go.  Even more challenging is the reality that their situation is not temporary; their life circumstances on this earth are unlikely to improve - ever.

Yet their courageous, steadfast commitment to God in the face of persecution provides Jesus' followers all over the world with a powerful picture of what "n" is all about.  They willingly sacrifice everything they have in this world in order to fulfill God's calling to obey and serve Him.  Like the heroes of the faith whose stories we read in the Bible and in the record of church history, they are living out the Apostle Paul's words in Philippians 1:21: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  [from "I Am n," Voice of the Martyrs, 2016]

More information concerning the plight of Christian refugees world wide is available at www.persecution.com/aboutvom and www.i-am-n.com.