Christian Refugees Aren’t Safe From Islamists, Even in America
ISIS Strikes in California
Bennetta BetBadal was her parents’ only daughter. Like most other Assyrian children growing up in Tehran, she attended Shushan Assyrian School, a school that I attended for the first five years of my education. Jizet, Bennetta’s close friend and cousin, remembers Bennetta as a wonderful human being with a warm Christian heart.
Growing up in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 meant being subjected to sharia, a legal form of harassment imposed by those who hated Christians. The maltreatment was bad enough that most Assyrian Christians sought a way out of the oppression. Bennetta and her family were among those who chose to flee Iran to seek a better life in America.
On Dec. 2, 2015, as this mother of three joyously and confidently began her work day by preparing for a presentation, an American-born Muslim, joined by his Pakistani wife, stormed Bennetta’s workplace. They gunned her down along with 13 other innocent Americans who had gathered there for a luncheon.
Bennetta, who never managed to escape Islamic persecution, has now joined her martyred Assyrian ancestors who, with their blood, paid the ultimate price for being Christians. The Assyrian Christians of Iraq — who have endured persecution for generations — repeatedly warned us in the West that these crimes will not be contained in the Middle East. For the past decade, as these victims presented their tearful testimonies, they also offered us a friendly reminder that despite our comfortable lives in the West, we are also vulnerable to the terror that would eventually be waged against us by Muslim radicals. They were right.
ISIS Strikes in Paris
What began as a fairly normal day in Paris ended in complete chaos. A highly coordinated, almost military operation launched against the innocent in Paris brought confusion, fear and despair. Ordinary people simply wanted to start their weekend by going to a concert, watching a friendly soccer game between France and Germany or grabbing a bite to eat with friends. Instead, what they experienced was pure terror. The attack left more than 129 people dead, hundreds more wounded, thousands traumatized and millions completely shocked. As most of the civilized world mourned the death of the innocent, many Islamic radicals celebrated the so-called victory of the Islamic State.
This type of sheer terror is nothing new to me. For my people — the Assyrians of Iraq — such massacres are a reality that they have been dealing with for centuries.
Islamists Attack in Baghdad
Many of my readers may have never heard of the Our Lady of Salvation massacre that took place in Baghdad on Oct. 31, 2010. Eight men of Yemeni descent – one as young as 14 – stormed the Syriac Catholic Church, taking more than 100 innocent people hostage. Four hours later, the siege was over and 58 people were dead. The terror tactics in the Paris massacre and the carnage in Baghdad on that fateful day were eerily similar.
The Islamic State of Iraq (soon to call itself ISIS) held Assyrian worshipers hostage in the church, shooting at them indiscriminately, killing young and old. The terrorists called out to their god, proclaiming that he was “great.” As the hostages crawled under their seats in an attempt to hide, doing their best to shield their children, the Islamists threw grenades at them, ruthlessly shooting any in their sights. As Father Thaer Saad Abdal and Father Wasim Sabieh begged the terrorists to let the innocent go, they were immediately silenced. One of the priests — as his poor mother watched in agony — recited his last prayer: “Jesus, I surrender my spirit into thy hands.”
On Friday the 13th in Paris, as men begged for the lives of the women and as people crawled on the floor in an attempt to hide, many pretending to be dead, the bloodthirsty Islamists shot at them, once again indiscriminately. Close to five years prior to this fateful day, the parishioners in Baghdad had hidden under the pews, protecting their young and pretending to be dead, also in a desperate attempt to save their lives.
After the Baghdad church siege was over, Iraqi officials walked inside Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral to find dozens of men and women, young and old, scattered everywhere, their blood flowing over the sacred floor. At the altar, they found the blown-up bodies of the terrorists who had strapped themselves with explosive vests. Before detonating the bombs, one had shouted, “I will go to heaven and you will go to hell; Allah o Akbar.” Their body parts covered the floor; some were even splattered on the church walls.
The World Has Changed
In Paris, the disciples of the Islamic State repeated many of their predecessors’ actions against the Assyrians. They threw grenades at their hostages and finally, after a three-hour standoff, they detonated their vests, putting an end to their own despicable lives and taking with them 89 innocent people.
In a matter of just two weeks, the Islamic State showed the world that the game had changed. They have taken the terror out of Syria and Iraq and into the heart of the West. By shooting down a Russian airplane and executing their barbaric terror plans in France, they have demonstrated to the world that they will strike at any moment, without any warning.
We in the Western world must stop acting shocked. Did we really think that Sept. 11 was a onetime act and that nothing else would follow? Did we truly believe that the execution of Christians would remain in Iraq and Syria, or on the shores of Libya? Did we not see all of this coming after the Tunisia and Mumbai attacks?
My friends, the world as we have known it is no longer. The narrative has changed drastically. By such acts, the Islamists aim to strike a spear into the heart of Western civilization. They seek to destroy everything we stand for: our values, our traditions and our freedoms.
What We Can Do
As we read thousands of reports repeating the same statistics and the same stories, we must spread the word about what can and should be done to protect ourselves. Young and old, men and women bear the responsibility of defending their God-given freedoms.
But how do we do that?
- Return to the Lord and remain fearful of Him and prayerful in Him.
- Teach our children the basic value of human life.
- Become involved in the election process. The 2016 American presidential election is probably the most important in our lifetime. America’s choice of a leader can change the course of history.
- Demand that church leaders become educated about Islamist extremism, understand what motivates the radicalization of the youth, and communicate the truth to their flock without political correctness.
- Feel the pain and suffering of the body of Christ. For when one part suffers, the rest of the body must suffer with it and rush to heal itself.
Until that happens, we will continue to see heartbreaking images flash across our TV screens. We will continue to bury the young and old who perished for the sake of Islamic radicalism. We will continue to read terrible news from across the globe, and we will hold our children tighter at night — because we won’t know if we will be given the chance to hold them once more the following night.
Another version of this article appeared at The Philos Project and is published with that site’s permission.