Memories of the Tisha B’Av fast were still fresh when I first read the news – thousands of Yadizis were trapped on mountains in Iraq, surrounded by ISIS troops and forced to choose between descending into the hands of the enemy or dying of hunger and thirst. Some chose a third option – hurling themselves off the mountain in despairing suicide. It’s hard not to be reminded of Masada, that mountain in Israel where a group of Jewish Zealots, besieged by Roman troops, made their last hopeless stand (and then committed mass suicide) after the destruction of the Temple. The discomfort of our 25 or so hours of fasting from food and water, with which we remembered that destruction on Tisha B’Av, casts the Yadizis’ suffering into sobering perspective.
Then there are the many Iraqi Christians whose homes and businesses have been marked by the Arabic letter ‘ن’ – an ‘N,’ symbolizing ‘Nazarene,’ the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. These Christian Iraqis, too, have a difficult choice – convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face death. As a Christian, I realize that I, too, would be subject to this brand.
And, of course, it’s not simply in Iraq that Christians are being slaughtered. According to a National Post article from last November, the estimated number of Christians killed for their faith each year ranges from 9,000 to 100,000. “But even at 9,000,” the article reports, “that is one Christian murdered every hour”.
In light of these staggering statistics, as I scrolled through my news app this past month, something seemed wrong. News outlets contained story after story about Israel’s response to Gaza’s rocket fire while mentioning hardly a word about the slaughter of my people in the bordering nations. Isn’t it time we get a little more press?
And so it was hard not to feel guilty the other week, as I settled down to enjoy a facial and massage in the free and comfortable country of Canada, while the massage therapist reminded me to drink a lot of water – water that the Yadizis so badly needed.
But it’s hard, too, to know – practically – what to do. Support some sort of humanitarian mission? Give – as I think C. S. Lewis said – a little more than I’m able? (Whatever that word “able” means.) Lobby for … something? (What, exactly, would I even want politicians to do?) Change my Facebook profile picture to the Arabic ‘n’? (How is this really helping?) Simply pray?
And yet, there is one very simple response which is right at my fingertips, one thing that I can do – and ought to do. That is to be very, very, very grateful for who and where I am. And yet, instead, I spend my days complaining…bemoaning my life or my workload or my commute or my relationship status or this or that or the other thing. And all this when God has told us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4).
Not, of course, that my decision to sing instead of to grumble will necessarily put food on any Iraqi refugee’s table. But, in the end, I haven’t been commissioned to save the world. So let’s start, at least, with the thankfulness commission and go from there.