I wonder how many of us would react if we were given until noon the next day to convert to a whole new religion, pay tremendous amounts of taxes or be killed. Not very well I would imagine.
But this was the situation in Mosul, Iraq this week as the few thousand remaining Christians living there were given the ultimatum to either convert to Islam or face severe punishments. In this instance many chose instead to flee from the country. Though this may seem to many to be just another news story reporting the unrest in the East, it brings with it the unsettling fact that one of the oldest Christian communities in the world has now been dispersed and reduced to just a few hundred people. Symbols of Christianity in Mosul, such as the supposed tomb of Jonah, have been destroyed and those brave enough to stand up against the attacks have found themselves at the end of brutal rapings and killings. Despite the horrific nature of these events, the West has been seemingly quiet about it all. Could this be down to the unwillingness of the West to become involved in the situation in Iraq again? Or perhaps the denial that things still are not as they had hoped they would be.
It may seem strange that for many Christians this sort of persecution has been expected. Perhaps not for Christians living in the West, due to the long history of Western civilisation being largely Christian. But in the East there have been conflicts between other religions since Christianity first began. Contrary to popular Western belief, by becoming a Christian life does not automatically get easier, in fact the Bible tells us that life becomes harder as persecution is expected. But with the hope that we have in Christ, through his death, persecution is easier to accept.
There are stories throughout the Bible of situations where people of faith are ridiculed and rejected because of their faith. But the one thing that marks a Christian out from the crowd, is that through these times of trail and persecution, they do not falter, in fact many grow stronger in their faith and become more certain and more secure of what they believe in and stand for. In the situation in Mosul, these Christians have lost everything that they ever knew or owned. In one day they were forced to flee from their homes taking with them only what they had on at the time. The sacrifice of this is immense but when you consider that Jesus gave up his life for us, the sacrifices they, and many other Christians around the world, have made seem of little importance. We may lose the things we own in this world, including our lives, but if we live life from the eternal perspective that Christianity provides, death in this life is not the end but the beginning of true life where we were always intended to be.