According to Acts 11 followers of what had been known as the Way of Jesus were first called Christians in a town in northwestern Syria known as Antioch. Originally it was probably meant as an insult, “little messiahs”, but we came to embrace it.
Today Antioch falls in the legal borders of Turkey and is a few hundred miles from where Turkey has launched an offensive into Kurdish held areas of northern Syria.
40,000 to 50,000 Christians live in the area under attack. Some are Kurdish Christians while others are Armenian and Syriac Christians. Before the civil unrest of the last decade these groups lived in relative security in the region.
From Christianity Today: “It is very possible that the American withdrawal from the region will lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” said Ashty Bahro, former director of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan, in Iraq, noting the safety there for Christians and other minorities.“How can another country [Turkey] enter the pretext of liberation from terrorism? Will the target be only terrorism or ‘undesirable people’? Leaving the area without proper care will lead to another disaster.”
What are our take-aways from this?
First, those who claim that Christianity is being persecuted in the US should be ashamed. Rejection is not persecution. Decline in popularity is not persecution. Being ridiculed is not persecution. Having an army show up and kill you for being Christian is persecution.
Second, we need to look past the rhetoric and superficiality often reported in headlines and look at the people on the ground. Here are people at least spiritually descended from the first gentile churches ever, churches founded by people like Paul and Barnabas, and they are being slaughtered. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Third and finally, although I suspect more could be said, we need to realize how our actions impact our fellow believers on the other side of the world. No decision or opinion, especially political ones, are ever just about us.
Some of the oldest Christian communities on the planet are under threat of being destroyed.
What are we going to do about it?