In case you haven't been following or you think religious persecution and martyrdom are things of the distance past, there's a lot of it going on with the Christians in Iraq.
In July, the members of the extremist Sunni Muslim faction told the Christians living in Mosul to either convert to Islam, pay an extra tax for being Christian called jizya, or flee for their lives. Since then, there has been burning and looting of churches, businesses, and homes. Thousands have fled, most with nothing except stories of cruel suffering, torture, even beheadings.
For those who are trying to remain, the character "ن " (which is the letter "N" in Arabic) is drawn on doorways of houses and buildings to tell those of the Islamic State (known as ISIS) where the Nazarenes or Christians are. This is incredibly similar to Nazi Germany at the beginning of the Holocaust with the Jews forced to wear the Star of David.
In response, many of come together especially on social media. You may have seen people using the "N" as their profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter. There's also a new hashtag #WeAreN where so many have expressed their solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq.
So I've been trying to think of what my response should be these last few weeks, and now it's finally come to me. I designed a wristband to show solidarity, increase awareness, raise money, and remind all of us to pray for the persecuted Christians in Iraq. I don't have a picture yet- they won't arrive for another week, but the silicone wristbands are black with yellow print. They show the hashtag #WeAreN, say "Pray for Iraq," and feature the Arabic "N."
I will be selling them for $5 each: $1 to cover the cost of manufacturing, shipping, and fees, leaving the remaining $4 going to a Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian agency of the United States Catholic Conference that is providing aid to Iraq and the many Christians who have fled from it. My initial order is 200 wristbands. If this works, then at least $800 goes to CRS. (If it doesn't then I'll have to explain to my wife that we're out almost $200!)
Until I can get a more appropriate website up and running, I've setup an e-mail address and Paypal account to receive orders: WristbandForIraq@comcast.net. You'll notice the new pay button to the right of this article. Please consider buying a wristband! I will begin mailing them on August 18. You can order as many wristbands as you like; I have no idea what I'm going to do with 200 of them! Wouldn't it be great if the demand were so high for the wristbands that I had to get more?
Please consider sharing this post. The senseless suffering in Iraq might seem like it has nothing to do with you, but if it can happen in a place where Christianity has been for over 2,000 years, then it can happen anywhere and it's going on right now.
Whether you buy a wristband or not, please do not be silent on this issue. Speak out in defense of our brothers and sisters. Pray for our the Christians of Iraq. Pray for the conversion of ISIS.