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#WeAreN campaign reclaims Arabic letter for Iraq's persecuted Christians

Published: Thursday, July 24 2014 7:30 a.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, July 24 2014 2:23 p.m. MDT

Ali Ajeena posted this picture on Twitter with the caption,"From #Paris, #WeAreN. #WeAreAllChristians #WeAreAllAssyrians pic.twitter.com/gLAKl3Mjno"

https://twitter.com/AliAjeena

A global social media campaign is using the Arabic letter Nun to show support for Christians being driven out of the Iraqi city of Mosul as well as Nineveh, where Jonah in the Old Testament famously preached repentance.

The "N" is the first letter of "Nasrani," or Nazarene, a common Arabic term for Christians.

Using a hashtag of #WeAreN, social media users are claiming the letter, which reportedly is being painted on property owned by Christians in Mosul, who have now fled the city. Radicals from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, had demanded Christians either convert to Islam, pay a tax critics call excessive, or face execution.

Under such threats, the last Christians in Mosul, which for two millennia hosted Christian believers, have reportedly left the city, according to AlJazeera.com.

Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the actions in Mosul and Nineveh. He said the ISIS "forced displacement is a crime that cannot be tolerated; and that the practices of ISIS have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence."

Calls for assistance from the outside world have come from Christians inside the nation that is now wracked by civil unrest. "We need more than words now, we need concrete actions, we need the solidarity of Christians worldwide, not to be afraid to talk about this tragedy," Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul told Vatican Radio.

On July 20, the news service noted, Pope Francis prayed for peace in the region and specifically mentioned the plight of Iraqi Christians.

Early Wednesday, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted his support: "Share solidarity of prayer and love with victims of terrible suffering in Iraq, especially threatened Christians of Mosul. #WeAreN," Welby wrote. And the Church of England, which Welby leads, changed its Twitter picture to a letter "nun" in solidarity.

And, as is almost inevitable in these situations, a petition has been started at the White House website to ask the Obama administration to intervene and help the Christians of Mosul, using Iraqi assets to help resettle them.

"Even if someone does not believe in this religion or any religion for that matter, these are crimes against humanity that shouldn't be happening," the petition reads. "The US Govt. has frozen billions of dollars in Iraqi assets, and some of that money could be used to help grant those people political asylum."

Such petitions require 100,000 signatures before the White House will act, and even with that number of signatures a positive response is not guaranteed.

According to Euronews.com, the current situation is dire: "Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch and head of Iraq’s largest church, said on Sunday that the Islamic State militants were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who ransacked medieval Baghdad in 1258," they reported.

In May, Canon Andrew White, an Anglican cleric known as the Vicar of Baghdad for his work there, described to the Deseret News what the situation on the ground is like: "You're in one of the most dangerous areas in the world. … And for a Christian, one thing we have in common with the others is it's dangerous. It's really dangerous! I had a church, originally after the war, of six and a half thousand. In the last 10 years, I have had 1,276 of my people killed. One thousand, two hundred and seventy-six. It's a lot."

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

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