It's a headline that broke the collective heart of our newsroom:
"Ancient Christian community in Iraq is no more"
For about 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians - a small but significant minority - have called Iraq home. Today, that group is being systematically targeted for annihilation.
The majority of Iraq's once-thriving Christian community in Mosul have abandoned their homes and belongings in a desperate attempt to save their lives after extremists with Islamic State gave them only three options: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face execution. The few who stayed behind likely will become martyrs.
One expert told CBN News some even had their fingers chopped off so insurgents could steal their wedding bands.
Their crime? While in some cultures the system of justice demands and eye for and eye or the loss of limb for theft, no such crime was committed here. They're simply guilty of professing a faith in Jesus Christ. And in some majority Muslim countries that can result in charges of apostasy or blasphemy.
For Christians in Iraq, who trace their biblical heritage to the Old Testament times of Abraham, the notion of apostasy is as absurd and as far-fetched as a desert without sand. Thriving as one of the world's oldest, continuously existing Christian communities, they were never Muslim adherents. So accusing them of renouncing Islam is a trumped-up charge. Furthermore, it's unlikely any Arab Christian in his or her right mind would disparage Islam or the prophet Muhammad given the close connection between culture, religion, and politics.
Christians in the West need to stand up for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We also need to acknowledge whatever forms of "persecution" or "injustice" we think we suffer grossly pales in comparison to what's happening in other countries like North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, and Sudan, where a young Christian mother had been imprisoned and sentenced to die for converting to Christianity. Fortunately, Meriam Ibrahim, along with her two young children, finally found freedom today. But there are many more, including Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, who remain shackled and silenced for their faith.
What's happening in Iran, Sudan, and other places hostile to religious freedom should serve as a wake up call for the church and Christians worldwide.
Where is the outrage? Where are the rallies and demonstrations? Where are the 24-hour prayer vigils? Are we doing enough?
Whatever the answer, we can always do more. We need to channel the anger from the pain and suffering of fellow believers and turn it into action.
First and foremost, we should always adopt a posture of prayer. Secondly, we should employ wisdom and join our voices in unison to encourage our leaders, both in the church and the political arena, to use their influence to shape attitudes and change policy.
It should not be overlooked that Meriam Ibrahim's release and consequent freedom came just one day after a congressional hearing specifically on her case.
As the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, it's time pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, and love -- and fight the good fight of faith. It's the cause for which our Savior died, and our persecuted brothers and sisters deserve no less.