The cross is the enduring symbol of Christianity. It is on the cross that our Lord, Jesus suffered and died. It is from the cross that He rose up to new life. In His body on the cross is our redemption from sin. On the empty cross is our resurrection to new life. It is the cross that gives us hope. It is the cross where we find God’s love. It is the cross around which the Shepherd gathers His sheep. We are one in Christ in the cross. The cross, a symbol of suffering and shame became the symbol of glory and triumph where the love of God was made visible in the sacrifice of his Son for the redemption of his people and the gift of Life Eternal in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Today, another symbol has emerged for Christians everywhere. It is a symbol of hate, a symbol of intolerance, a symbol of destruction; assigned to Christians everywhere. It is the symbol formed by the letter ‘N’ in Arabic, pronounced ‘nun’; standing for Nazarene, a derogatory term used by Islamic militants for Christians. It is spray-painted on the homes, businesses and property of Christians under the control of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Our sisters and brothers, believers in the Truth, the Way and the Life, Jesus Christ have this symbol spray-painted on their property; identifying them as Christians who are then threatened, robbed and murdered. They are forced at gun point out of their homes, churches and lands, denied livelihoods: their property confiscated, girls and women raped, children abused, all beaten, shot and killed in a cleansing of the countryside of all that is Christian. Churches are burned and torn down, religious shrines desecrated, graveyards plowed under, monasteries demolished – almost 2,000 years of Christian presence eradicated. The action and intent of these Islamic militants is the complete erasure of Christianity – a holocaust, reminiscent of the Nazi treatment of Jews whose property was marked with the Star of David.
These suffering sisters and brothers of ours, martyrs for their faith in Christ, cry out to us in Jesus’ name. They plead to God for relief of their suffering, rescue from their plight and refuge from their oppressors. Jesus calls us to minister to their needs; giving them aid and comfort, treating them with compassion and mercy, loving them as we are loved, children of God.
In this new symbol of hate and oppression Christians stand together in support of those who suffer and in defiance toward all oppressors. By this new symbol of hate and oppression we are fortified by the Holy Spirit with courage and strength to bring the Word to all nations. For this symbol of hate and oppression is countered by the Cross, the symbol of God’s love and mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ in who’s crucified Body we are one.