When Islamic State (ISIS) militants moved into northern Iraq, they began identifying Christian-owned homes and businesses. Families would find the Arabic letter “N” (ﻥ) painted on their buildings. This single letter, the first letter of the word used in the Quran to identify Christians, conveyed the powerful accusation that the occupants were followers of Jesus. Our Christian brothers and sisters were tagged in this way and given the choice of either converting to Islam or standing for Christ and losing everything they owned.
Standing with these persecuted family members is one of the greatest privileges any Christian can have. Boldly saying “I Am N” is a commitment to place ourselves alongside our sisters and brothers and to say, “I am not willing to let them suffer in silence. I am not willing to let them serve alone.”
We are all part of the Body of Christ. When one suffers, we all suffer. I appreciate the way that Ray Vanderlaan describes it. He asks us to imagine slamming our finger with a hammer while trying to hang a picture. We would never respond, “I’m not suffering, only my finger is suffering!” In the same way, we often view ourselves as detached from our suffering family members.
As I have traveled around the world meeting with our persecuted family members, I have seen six themes that mark their lives. These themes are universal, biblical themes that we can embrace in order to experience spiritual maturity. Their examples of sacrifice, courage, joy, perseverance, forgiveness and faithfulness inspire us to “be faithful unto death.”
I have had the privilege of meeting some of these sisters and brothers during recent visits to Iraq, where The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is serving them in their time of great need.
One 36-year-old wife and mother of two, Bahn No’Shaba, met God in a powerful way during a worship service. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, she lived what she called an average life with her husband, who was a taxi driver. But in November 2013, her life changed forever when her husband was kidnapped by ISIS.
Fearing for the safety of her children and receiving no protection from the police, Bahn began to live as a nomad. “We struggled and starved for a long time,” she said.
In a state of utter desperation, Bahn No’Shaba decided to end her life. “I couldn’t bear it anymore,” she said. “I cut my wrists, hoping to die. I couldn’t watch my children suffer anymore.”
She awakened in the hospital, hopeless and angry at Jesus. “Why did He leave me and my children?” she wondered.
A friend lovingly invited her back to church, and when she returned she experienced a miracle. Bahn met Jesus in a powerful way during this worship service. After this experience, she began to talk to Jesus and ask him to keep her strong and faithful. “You are my love, my father and my husband,” she told Him.
Bahn No’Shaba said she immediately felt power and the presence of the Lord like never before.
Now, she speaks with authority on the biblical perspective of persecution: “The prophets before us experienced the same,” she said. “Jesus Himself experienced persecution. We must hold on strong to our faith in Christ. We should not face evil with evil.”
These Christians are our family members — part of the body of Christ. We will not let them suffer in silence. We will not let them serve alone.
Are you “N?”
(Listen to Bahn No’Shaba’s remarkable story of forgiveness in her own words in Episode Four of the I Am N Video Curriculum, available at vom.org/n.)
Dr. Jason Peters serves as Associate Vice President of Connection for The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). As a global voice for our persecuted family members, Dr. Peters travels frequently to meet face-to-face with persecuted believers around the world and equips VOM to tell their stories. He leads VOM’s outreach initiatives, including media development, special events, public relations, and oversees hundreds of speakers and representatives.
Prior to joining the VOM leadership team, Peters ministered as a military chaplain, with assignments at the Pentagon, the U.S. Air Force Academy and as a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. Jason and his wife Kimberly lived overseas for several years, where two of their five children were born. In 2007, Peters earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, utilizing research conducted while ministering in Iraq.
This blog post was written by our WorshipLife Event 2016 partner, Voice of the Martyrs. We are so very appreciative of their sponsorship and belief in our mission of helping Worship Leaders live out God’s greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your HEART, all your SOUL, and all your MIND.” If you’re attending WorshipLife Event 2016 in Gatlinburg, TN, we hope you will stop by their booth and see how you might become involved with Voice of the Martyrs!