When author, educator, and humanitarian Johnnie Moore first visited the Christian camps in Iraq packed with refugees driven from their homelands by ISIS, what struck him weren’t the broken families and ramshackle surroundings. What really hit home were the crosses.
“I was shocked when I got to the refugee camps in Iraq,” Moore tells Newsmax. “The most prominent thing were the crosses all over the tents.
“These Christians, who had nearly lost their lives because of the cost of Jesus Christ, decided the one thing they weren’t going to do was make that cross less prominent -- even though they were run out of their town.”
Many of those refugees -- some of whom speak the very Aramaic language Christ spoke over two millennia ago -- told Moore that they feel like they have been forgotten.
Moore decided he would capture their stories. The result is his new book, “Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard,”
a priceless time capsule preserving inspirational lives and their stories of faith.
He traveled throughout the region, recording the stories of an extraordinary people still boldly displaying the symbol of a faith whose dear price could be counted in the number of their lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Amidst all their suffering, he reports, their faith burned brighter and brighter.
Today, they appear to be on the verge of being erased forever. Some observers have called it a new Holocaust against Christians. As but one example, the United Nations is reporting that it appears ISIS fighters committed acts of genocide and war crimes against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq. But the full extent of the slaughter may never be known.
Those caught up in the Islamic State’s merciless onslaught and refused to convert have been subject to a macabre parade of horrors -- beheadings, sexual enslavement, stonings, amputations, and rape to name a few.
A secular West, meanwhile, fecklessly debates “boots on the ground” and finds the sectarian motivations for the attacks so inconceivable that it prefers to ignore them altogether, speaking instead in abstract terms of “violent extremism.”
The ISIS onslaught has reached such proportions that the W Publishing Group has decided not to wait for the print edition of Moore’s book to roll off the presses. It has released the digital version of Moore’s book five weeks before the print version arrives.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Moore calls the rise of ISIS “a once in a thousand-year crisis.” In some ways, not only is it a jihad against Christians, but also a jihad against Christian history.
Syria and Iraq are riddled with archeological sites and relics that ISIS has begun to systematically decimate, as if having largely erased the Christian presence from the traditional areas it can now eradicate their history as well.
The latest example of the systematic effort to tear Christianity’s roots from its birthplace: Islamic State terrorists used explosives to destroy a monastery in Mar Benham, located about 20 miles southeast of Mosul. The monastery was built 1,600 years ago by the Assyrian king Senchareb.
But what many American Christians do not seem to realize is that the destruction of the Christian tradition in the Middle East is erasing their own religious roots as well.
“This is just a fact,” Moore says. “Christians were called Christians first in Syria. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus.”
The church in Antioch, for example, is known as the birthplace of the early Christian church. According to Acts 11:26, people “were first called Christians in Antioch.”
“From a religious perspective,” Moore says, “I think it’s incredibly awful that we’re watching in our modern world an attempt to eliminate Christianity from the place of its birth, and not just Christianity but every religious minority in the region.
“As a Christian, as someone very, very committed to my own Christian faith, I feel like it is an obligation for me to speak up for my brothers and sisters who are in harm’s way.”
Moore also takes on the daunting task of bringing the conflict home to Americans who may think of themselves to have an ocean between them and the jihadis who see slaughter as a way to advance their faith. He spends the middle section of his book explaining why no Westerner can assume immunity from the brutality of the would-be Islamic caliphate.
“The fact is that this is a threat that we will deal with over there, or we will face it over here in a way that we will not be able to deal with as easily as we can now,” Moore predicts.
“Defying ISIS” is written in thoughtful, straightforward prose that eschews sensationalism – as Moore explains, just the shocking facts of ISIS’s alarming rise. Moore voices a strong skepticism that the ISIS threat can be effectively countered until American leaders are willing to face its sectarian roots.
“When you really get into ISIS ideology and the tactics of ISIS,” Moore tells Newsmax, “you discover that from the very beginning it was about Christianity.
“Every single speech and written communication of [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi mentioned marching all the way to Rome. In fact, the first major attack that Baghdadi participated in, when he took charge of what at that time was called the Islamic State of Iraq in May of 2010, was against a church in Baghdad where disguised militants killed more than 50 people within the sanctuary, and injured over 70 others. This is a religious war form the ISIS perspective, and we owe it to ourselves to speak up for the Christians.”
So while the conflict with ISIS is certainly not a religious war from the perspective of the West, “From an ISIS perspective it absolutely is a Holy War,” he says.
U.S. citizens hoping the ISIS scourge leaves them unscathed may wish to consider one chilling statistic Moore has uncovered: One in five Arabic language tweets sent from the United States containing the acronym ISIS expresses support with what ISIS is doing.
“The perceived safety of the West is a lot less than we think it is,” Moore cautions. “When you put together the amount of attacks that have taken place by ISIS sympathizers in the United States and Canada and France and U.K. and Belgium and other nations of the world, it is really, really shocking.
He urges world leaders and everyday Americans to pay heed and respond to the pain and suffering heaped on the Middle East’s ancient Christian believers.
“I recognize that I would have no faith at all if it weren’t for Christians in the east,” says Moore. “Christianity is Eastern, not Western. We would have no church history if it weren’t for this church history. I just want to speak out for these people who have no opportunity to speak for themselves,” he adds.
Thanks to Moore and “Defying ISIS,” they are voiceless no more.
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