Painting on the Walls

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The above image is to be found repeated all over Christians’ homes and other property in territory now controlled by ISIS, the new “Caliphate” established in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, most notably in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael I Sako, explains

Suddenly we have been surprised by the more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the jizyah (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) – without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.

In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al-sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.Ds for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.


Some of this is entirely consistent with the Qu’ran,

9:29 Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

while some of it, argues Patriarch Louis, is not,

The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect “to the seventh neighbor.”

judeThis is a desperate situation, but should take nobody by surprise. One of the biggest losers in the Arab Spring and it’s consequent rise in Islamic Orthodoxy (not “fundamentalism”, since it is increasingly apparent that these groups are simply taking the commands in the Qu’ran and the examples in the Hadiths seriously) has been the Middle Eastern Christian community. Painting an identifying mark on the sides of buildings has an awful resonance with 1930s Nazi Germany and will no doubt raise serious concerns for Mosul’s Christians. If they have remained.

But the image of painting on the walls ought to also point to a quiet confidence for Christians too, as you can paint or even canvas can be printed online to decorate as well. Almost 4,000 years ago the people of God painted in blood on their own walls one dreadful night in Egypt…

Ex. 12:1-13    The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each must take a lamb for themselves according to their families–a lamb for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a lamb, the man and his next-door neighbor are to take a lamb according to the number of people–you will make your count for the lamb according to how much each one can eat. 5 Your lamb must be perfect, a male, one year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You must care for it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community of Israel will kill it around sundown. 7 They will take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and top of the doorframe of the houses where passoverblooddoorthey will eat it. 8 They will eat the meat the same night; they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast and with bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat it raw or boiled in water, but roast it over the fire with its head, its legs, and its entrails. 10 You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning. 11 This is how you are to eat it–dressed to travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover.

Ex. 12:12   I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see the blood I will pass over you, and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt.

Of course, the New Testament sees the Passover as a pattern of the sacrifice of Jesus. His is our Passover Lamb (1Cor. 5:7) and His death brings about a greater Exodus for his people (Luke 9:31 where the word translated “departure” is the greek “exodos“). As Christians see painting on the walls of their homes signalling danger we should pray that they also take encouragement from the blood of the true Passover Lamb that keeps them eternally safe, no matter what is done to them here. And, of course, it is a sobering reminder that there will be another day when the Destroyer will pass over not just Egypt but the whole world and deal, not least, with those who oppressed God’s people.

So what can we do? Three clear steps, I suggest.

  1. Pray that Christians under this Islamic rule (and, of course, those struggling elsewhere in similar situations) would keep trusting the Passover Lamb and pointing to Him.
  2. Write to your governments and urge them to address this shocking persecution of a number of religious minorities by ISIS (and others).
  3. Consider an act of solidarity and awareness-raising. I’m joining others in changing my facebook userpic for a while to this, the Islamic letter “n” for “Nazara” (i.e. Nazarite).


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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Marty

    Lucky the western media isn’t currently in a phase of downplaying extremist Islam! oh… wait… never mind…

  2. Sophie Timothy

    Hi David, where did you source those pictures of the Nazara from?

  3. David Ould

    hi Sophie. They're from a number of news websites which sourced from various twitter feeds. The same pictures appear to be used in a number of places. So many that finding the original attribution seemed impossible.

  4. Sophie Timothy

    Ok, thanks David. I’ve just used some from the Assyrian News Network in our Eternity story which will go up later today.

  5. Richard

    The Christians in Corinth faced similar treatment, and so did thousands under Nero and other Roman rulers, and in many other lands and under different cultures Christians have been treated badly. It is all part of the sifting and sorting of God’s precious grain, while the chaff has its own end – read Psalm 1 or Psalm thirty seven (v 35,36). Jesus also told a similar story, using sheep and goats to illustrate how things will go. Islam is on a chain, and it has a time limit – Christianity has no chain and no time limit.

    1. John

      Hi Richard. While you are right that persecution has always existed, there have also historically been points where the church stood against it, beginning with Paul, who appealed to Caesar concerning his own persecution. I don’t believe God simply wants us to accept persecution, although we do need to accept the reality of it. When another part of the body is suffering, we are meant to help. In this instance (as Paul directs the Romans to do), this would include praying for and appealing to our leaders, who God has placed over us. Even before the NT, we have examples of this action in Esther and Nehemiah, along with all of the Prophets and Jesus Himself. God wants us to speak up, not passively wait for the end times to be fulfilled. Otherwise, we ARE the goats, who are judged for our lack of action; we ARE the servant, who hid his talent in the ground; and we ARE the lamp, hidden under a bowl, waiting to snuff out.

  6. Grant Hayes

    When you call these persecuted Assyrians *Christian* is it simply ethnographical shorthand?

    The *Chaldean Catholic* churches are in formal communion with Rome, which would make them – according to Sydney Anglican material I have read on Roman Catholicism – sub-Christian, at best, and most likely misguided idolaters, revering saints and images and relying on works over grace.

    The Assyrian Church of the East has built an increasing rapprochement with Rome in recent decades, though it is historically non-Chalcedonian, and since the 5th century has maintained that there are two hypostases in Christ's one prosopon (not two natures in one hypostasis – I know how important these distinctions can be to Sydney Anglicans). As you pointed out with the funny Boromir meme on your Hillsong meta, trinitarian heresy is not to be taken lightly (certainly by faithful Sydney Anglican clergy). On these strict grounds the Assyrians would be at least as heretical as the technically modalist T D Jakes, with his confusion of hypostasis and manifestation. You openly question his status as properly *Christian*, call him heretical, and castigate Hillsong for giving him a pulpit; yet you seem happy to accept Assyrians as fellow brethren in the true faith, being persecuted for the same gospel you adhere to.

    From a clergyman who is so rigorously insistent on doctrinal rectitude, this seems lax, to say the least. Should you not be cautioning that the Assyrian churches are, in fact, heretical, before you protest their treatment by ISIL? You wouldn't want your uninformed readers to assume you actually endorse their false Romish teachings, would you?

  7. John Hayton

    Grant, if they are being martyred for their faith, rather than convert, are you really going to accuse them of nominalism? While you're at it, have a careful look at Sydney Anglican materials and see if anything in them acknowledges the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, if you want to talk about Trinitarian heresy. Also, don't you realise that the doctrine of the Trinity is an orthodox teaching (which appears nowhere in the Bible, although the three entities are obviously named) and that Anglicans (via C of E) came directly out of Catholocism anyway? How about some Church unity, especially with our persecuted brethren. I can't imagine how you would have dealt with orthodox Jews in NT times, who had never even heard of Anglicans!!

  8. Grant H

    You’ve misread me, John Hayton. Poe’s Law applies here, methinks. I am not “accusing” Assyrian Christians of anything, nor am I an apologist for Sydney Anglicanism; far from it.

    Read my comment again with your irony glasses on.

  9. Simon Finley

    David, did you ever do any follow-up posts on this topic?

    1. David Ould

      hi Simon. I’m not sure that I have. Of course, we do note that since writing IS has been expelled from many of these areas.

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