Branded: Nazarene (CNA Catholic News Association)
This is the arabic letter “nun,” the first letter in the word “Nazarene.”
In Mosul, Iraq, it has been painted on doors to identify the homes of Christians who are then brutally beaten and often executed.
A militant Sunni organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been steadily attacking cities and communities in north and northwestern Iraq since June. The attacks have divided Iraq along religious and ethnic lines.
On Friday, July 18, ISIS issued an ultimatum to the Christians of the city of Mosul, which it captured more than a month ago: convert to Islam, pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims), or be killed.
“They control the city and I think they made it very clear that there is no place for non-Muslims in the city,” Archbishop Warda said.
The cross a top the city’s Syriac Orthodox cathedral was removed. Thousands of Christians have fled the country.
Bashar Nasih Behnam, 52, spoke with the Guardian about the last Christians remaining.
“There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul,” Behnam said. “The last one was a disabled Christian woman. She stayed because she could not get out. They came to her and said you have to get out and if you don’t we will cut off your head with a sword. That was the last family.”
In a move of solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters, many Christians are changing their facebook and Twitter profile pictures to this symbol.
Certainly a picture can never replace the power of prayer. But the symbol can serve as a reminder for us to pray for our fellow Christians in the Middle East and throughout the world who are suffering grave injustices because of their faith.