A Christian Genocide Symbolized by One Letter

by Christine Sisto
As jihadists expel Christians from Mosul, the international community responds.

There is a mass exodus of Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The Muslim fanatics who have taken over the city, calling themselves the Islamic State, issued an ultimatum to the city’s Christians earlier this month, saying that if they did not leave by Saturday, July 19, they “must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face ‘death by the sword.’” As of Tuesday, most of the city’s estimated 3,000 Christians had fled.

Further, the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, had marked homes and businesses owned by Christians with a red, painted ن (pronounced “noon”), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and the equivalent to the Roman letter N. The ن stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, a pejorative Arabic word for Christians.

The ن is now being shared on social media as a symbol of solidarity with the Iraqi Christians forced to flee their homes. The Catholic blog Rorate Caeli has wrote, the Islamists “mean it as a mark of shame, we must then wear it as a mark of hope. . . . You may kill our brethren and expel them but we Christians will never go away.”

The hashtag #WeAreN is also trending, along with pictures of people of all religions drawing the ن in red ink on their bodies.

When asked why he changed his profile picture to the ن, political consultant Ryan Girdusky said, “I changed it because of the lack of response by our media and our president . . . We feel like the Christian community is being persecuted at the same time the Palestinians are being given constant attention. There is a Christian genocide and no one is paying attention.”

The mass exodus has incited international criticism, even from Muslim scholars. Al Jazeera quoted Iyad Ameen Madani, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as saying, “This forced displacement is a crime that cannot be tolerated.” Yesterday, the United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, said that the treatment of Iraqi Christians “may constitute a crime against humanity.” He also “condemned” ISIS’s actions “in the strongest terms.”

Mosul has played a role in Christian history since the first and second centuries, when the Assyrians in the city converted to Christianity. It is the home to many churches, as well as mosques and synagogues. Al Jazeera described, via an Assyrian Christian who chose to stay behind, how a statue of the Virgin Mary outside of one of Mosul’s churches was destroyed and replaced with a black flag. This Christian is one of the last left in Mosul, as most others have fled, many leaving with only the clothes on their backs.

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.