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The Optimism of the Cross in the Face of Genocide

A year and three months ago, the militant group then calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the vital Iraqi city of Mosul as government forces melted away. The sudden loss of such an important city seized the world’s attention, and the brutality with which ISIS then purged Mosul of its Christian and other religious minorities shocked those newly focused eyes.

A year ago this past Friday, the newly founded organization In Defense of Christians (IDC) reached the culmination of a three-day summit bringing a historic collection of the heads of the oldest churches in Christianity to Washington in order to raise awareness of the plight of Christians and plead for assistance. The solidarity gala dinner closing the summit was keynoted and summarily crashed [1] by Senator Ted Cruz, who threatened to overshadow the calls for unity with a provocative speech that ended with the senator storming off stage.

While Cruz’s cynical performance was roundly [2] and harshly [3] criticized [4] in many [5] conservative [6] circles, there was no denying that the spectacle was a distraction that threatened to overshadow the progress made. Many feared that the potential opening for rallying broad support to the defense of persecuted Christians was closed as Senator Cruz walked off the stage.

Last week IDC returned to Washington, however, and opened its convention with a bang: the announcement of bipartisan legislation introduced in the House to officially recognize the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians as a genocide, as Kelley Vlahos reports [7]. The bill picked up dozens of cosponsors within days.

This year’s solidarity dinner did not culminate with angry denunciations, but with a sobering, powerful presentation. As Georgetown professor Thomas Farr was honored with a lifetime achievement recognition of his career fighting for religious liberty, IDC senior advisor Andrew Doran announced that Dr. Farr would be entrusted with a crucifix.

When ISIS troops rolled into Mosul, St. Joseph’s Chaldean church soon joined the rest of the 45 [8] Christian institutions in Mosul in being destroyed, shuttered, or converted into mosques. As Doran related, the church bells fell silent in Mosul for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. The guardians of St. Joseph’s were able to seize a crucifix from the church as they fled before the oncoming militants, and they carried that crucifix across the Atlantic where it was placed in the hands of Dr. Farr “not to keep but for safeguarding and its eventual return.” The presentation looked forward to a day when Farr and his team would be able to travel to a Mosul liberated, and return the crucifix to its rightful home within St. Joseph’s: a day when the bells would once again be able to be heard tolling above the ancient city.

There were strong speeches given that evening by Ambassadors and Beatitudes, Canons and Supreme Knights, but the entrance of that small cross and chain, fastened behind the glass of the frame, brought the audience to its feet in a hushed reverence. Where cynicism had sparked shouts from the seated a year before, the reckless optimism of the cross summoned the whole hall to stand and witness a promise that genocide would not have the last word in the cradle of Christianity.

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "The Optimism of the Cross in the Face of Genocide"

#1 Comment By Tom On September 14, 2015 @ 1:58 am

Mosul is probably a lost cause. Even if ISIS can be driven out, there’s still going to be sectarian fighting.

At least Assad is still alive. The Christians in Syria will be able to hold on as long as he can hold on.

As for Ted Cruz, he’d bomb Rome into rubble if he thought it would help Israel.

#2 Comment By Arthur Sido On September 14, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

I am pretty sure that ISIS doesn’t care one way or the other if you call it “genocide” and likewise how exactly is this promise to return a crucifix to Mosul going to be carried out? Intervening militarily is what led to the rise of ISIS in the first place, what makes anyone think “this time will be different”?

#3 Comment By Rosalee Adams On May 19, 2017 @ 10:42 am

God is not found in structures, He is found in the body of Christ, the believers
It seems that ISIS believes if they destroy churches etc.
they have successfully wiped out Christianity.
Each time the church has seen persecution it has continued to grow. Even now it grows in areas where there has been significant persecution.