During the summer months we're used to seeing news releases from churches advertising Vacation Bible School.
Last week, one of the most popular stories from our Bible school days – the story of the Jonah and the whale – was thrust into real-time headlines by the violence in Iraq. The shrine of the Christian biblical prophet in Mosul, which was revered by Muslims and Christians alike, was destroyed by radicals from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The militants shut down all doors of the mosque, preventing religious observers from entering for their daily prayer, and then wired it with explosive charges. A YouTube video showed the blast and resulting devastation.
Jonah's tomb "has been turned to dust," one official said.
As ISIS establishes its caliphate to spread its ultraconservative faith through the unstable region, Newsweek reported how it imposes Sharia law in all the towns it takes over, destroying cultural artifacts including Sunni, Shia and Sufi sites, and replacing the crosses on Syrian Orthodox churches with black flags. It has vowed to destroy any shrine or religious artifact found to be noncompliant with Islam.
Christians there live under the threat of death and many have already died for their faith. Those who have been driven from the city of Mosul were told they must convert to Islam or die. Those who remain face rape, torture or death.
Sam Hardy, a professor at the American University of Rome and author of the blog Conflict Antiquities, said this latest action indicates "they are going for total eradication not just of their enemies but even of the possibility of people living together under their rule."
This surge of violence perpetrated by a well-armed terrorist army should concern every world leader and religious head – including the Pope in Rome. When the ISIS army took over sections of Iraq, it faced little or no resistance.
Church and government leaders aren't the only ones ignorant to what's happening to Christians in Iraq. The media and most Americans seem disinterested by the suffering of Christians, explaining that it's not our fight. Others rationalize their blase attitude by stating that the suffering and pillaging we're now seeing in Iraq has been going on for centuries and is nothing new.
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of ISIS is to destroy all Christian, Jewish and even Muslim heritage that does not comply with their radical Islamic views. This enemy is far deadlier and crazier than all of the other Islamic Jihadis we've seen thus far and al Qaida, the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks on this country, want nothing to do with them.
That fact alone is a cause for alarm for all Americans.
By Jim Zbick