In June 2014, the world watched in horror as Islamic extremists who had declared themselves the Islamic State (ISIS) overran the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the former ancient kingdom of Nineveh we read about in the Book of Jonah. Christians had lived in Mosul and the Nineveh plains for centuries. Many Christians in Mosul were killed, and many others fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Members of ISIS went door to door identifying Christian families. They then spray-painted a red Arabic letter ن on the homes of our brothers and sisters. The letter ن stood for Nasara, a term used by Muslims to mean “followers of Jesus of Nazareth.”
A few days later, the Islamists gave the Christian families an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax to the Islamists, or leave. If they refused, they would be killed.
More than 100,000 Christians refused to deny Christ and left everything behind.
Even as these persecuted believers were fleeing their homes, Christians around the world began adopting the Arabic letter ن to demonstrate that they, too, were followers of Jesus of Nazareth. The symbol meant to mark Iraqi Christians for exile or even death has become a symbol of hope and courage, as we commit to stand with our brothers and sisters facing Islamic extremists.