On the Run from ISIS

In an effort to understand the heart of a nation, journalist and World Magazine editor Mindy Belz spoke to its people.  To connect the dots between ancient civilizations, a modern-day dictator, and a political force that operates with fiery religious zeal, Mindy joined forces with an Iraqi-in-exile, Insaf Safou, with whom she learned and followed the path of dreaming and waiting — while letting no grass grow under their feet!  Insaf’s concern for the displaced Christians of Iraq keeps her returning to her homeland with offerings of love and gifts of cash for basic necessities of life, thus introducing Mindy to the unseen and under-reported drama that forms the narrative of They Say We Are Infidels.

Mindy’s travelogue unfolds in twenty-one chapters, each of which could stand on its own, and she documents a breath-taking array of pandemonium:  life in big-city Baghdad with unreliable electricity and insufficient supplies, a flight from danger with fifteen people stuffed into a mid-sized vehicle, a Caesarian section performed because there’s no time for normal labor and delivery when the world is falling apart. When the stated choices are leave, pay the penalty to stay — or be ready to die — people flee by the thousands.

With twenty years of journalistic experience, it is no surprise that Mindy’s account of  post-Saddam Middle East is anchored in historical fact and political backstory, while at the same time being deeply disturbing.  Public displays of violence toward Christians are reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s pogroms against European Jews, and the message is clear:  Christians are no longer tolerated, and funded by seized assets gained through door-to-door looting, ISIS is in a position to carry out its agenda.  Kidnapping children, selling them into slavery of all kinds, destroying churches, interrupting every normal function of life with their sweep of violence, ISIS moves freely through the Middle East, destroying and eliminating the nine years’ worth of gains won by the United States military.

Mindy helps her readers to understand the complex “tug of blood and history” that keeps a people group hanging on in hope while Christian villages continue to empty:  spiritual roots that go back to the time of Jonah, a vibrancy of culture that spans centuries, and a fellowship of faith that is incomprehensible in the face of our Western tendency to remain scattered strangers in spite of shared church affiliation and weekly worship.  This is not a pleasant or comfortable read, and I found myself identifying with Mindy as she compared her safe, secure, party-planning and cake-baking years with the experiences of women attempting to raise children and preserve a way of life in a land that was home to 1.2 million Christians in 2003, but had hemorrhaged down to an anemic 500,000 by 2011.

Although I read voraciously, I have remained largely uninformed about the danger and the destruction that has become the new normal to Middle Eastern families.  Reading about the efforts of self-funded volunteers who risk their lives and resources to make a small difference, witnessing the fragile light of those believers who choose to stay in their homeland in hopes of helping through educational and humanitarian efforts, I realize that my ignorance is a luxury the world cannot afford.

One church in Indiana raised sixty thousand dollars to assist a struggling body of believers that fled Mosul in 2014.  Their generosity provided eighty families (that’s around 250 people) with rent assistance for six months.  Could it be that the solution for Iraq will be “not by troops and killing people, but by healing,” through acts of generosity and self-giving that sustain and carry hope?  In the strength of her calling, Insaf continues to travel to Iraq, where her efforts are compounded with fasting and prayer and fueled by words from the prophet Micah:

The Lord is coming out of his place,
    and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
And the mountains will melt under him,
    and the valleys will split open,
like wax before the fire,
    like waters poured down a steep place.

Insaf believes that God will melt the power of ISIS.

So, while churches continue to be bombed, pastors continue to be murdered, and families continue to be torn apart through kidnapping and refugee-living, the challenge comes forth:  persecuted Christians need “rent money, concrete floors, schools and backpacks . . . They need dignity too.”  They Say We Are Infidels is a challenge to join Insaf and her friends in action and in fervent and well-informed prayer, that the fire of persecution will become “like cold water, cooling them, helping them . . .”

Amen.
May it be so.

//

This book was provided by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

27 thoughts on “On the Run from ISIS”

  1. Michele,
    I will HAVE to read her book. This is a cause so near and dear to my heart. That is what we, at Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc., are trying to do…with God, melt ISIS, the Taliban, and all extremist, hatred based groups, with the love of Jesus. That’s why we are building Christian schools in the enemy’s back yard. Dangerous work, but if we can raise up the next generation to love, not hate, then all our work will be for good. I welcome your readers to visit our website (if that’s ok with you Michele) at: redeemerchristianfoundation.org
    Thanks for a post on a much needed subject…
    Blessings,
    Bev

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Bev, I actually wondered how to communicate with Mindy because I wondered about offering a link to some specific follow-through for my readers . . . my guess is that she has to be pretty guarded because of the kind of writing she does. There is no option for direct messaging on her Twitter account. I toyed with a private message on FB, but we’re not “friends” on FB, so not sure she’d even get it. So, I guess that’s a long way of saying, “I don’t know.” Of course you can use my review in your newsletter – no problem. Wish I could help you out with the other half of your request.

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  2. I applaud you for allowing the raw wounding topics some oxygen. This one prompts many 3:00 am calls to prayer for me. Indeed, we must not allow neither busyness nor distance nor dislike of that which makes us squirm in our favorite comfy chair to keep us in denial. Otherwise the old saying, coming to a country near you, might be more real than we’d like to recognize.

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    1. I will admit that I thought long and hard before tackling this book. I’m not good about reading “hard news” items, and I need to change my ways — even if only to be more faithful in prayer. Maybe that’s what I’m afraid of . . . those 3 a.m. calls!

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  3. If I didn’t do it before commenting since I would move on to something else -I had to call the library to request a copy of the book. According to the system there is not one in the whole state, hopefully they will find one for me, before I have to buy a copy. There is so much going on in the world, if Christians would just stop and pray we could see a difference. Thank you for sharing with recommendation with Thankful Thursdays.

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  4. Michele, this sounds like an important, if challenging, book to read. I’ve added it to my list and pinned so others will know about it. It’s so easy to know that other Christians are suffering for their faith, yet not think too hard about it. But that is such a cop out, isn’t it? I know I have been guilty. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront with your review.

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  5. Michele, I just went to finish editing tomorrow’s post and realized it’s on persecution (I work ahead sometimes). I added a link to your review for this book and I look forward to reading it myself.

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    1. If we didn’t work ahead, we wouldn’t survive! (You are an inspiration to me, by the way.) Thanks for sharing the review. Mindy has done such a good job with this book, that I hope it reaches lots of eyes.

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  6. This is one of the most heartfelt reviews you have shared! I am moved by this. There is a lot of work to be done.
    Blessings to you.

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  7. What a powerful and challenging book! The book sounds amazing and informative but there is a piece of me that is afraid to read it. Does that make sense? I want to believe that if I don’t know about something the better off I will be. I know the opposite is true and I can’t live in a bubble. Thank you for challenging me! Happy Sunday!

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    1. I hear you, Mary! I read World Magazine from cover to cover, but when it comes to the “hard News” items, I’m faint-hearted. Mindy’s book really pushed me, and I’m glad. I need pushing!

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  8. I’m thankful for the books that offer us insight to this very complicated region of the world. The conflicts are thousands of years old! I also loved reading about the church in Indiana that put there money where their heart was. What a testimony!

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  9. michele, i just heard an interview with Mindy on the radio about this book! sounded like a great book to add to my long list. i too, read WORLD magazine! btw, don’t you think you could contact her through the magazine?

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  10. oh. my. stars. Michele, I MUST get this book! Ordering as soon as I finish this comment! This is a brilliant review. And you are so accurate in saying that being ignorant is a luxury the world cannot afford! Our church has adopted North Africa so we do keep abreast of much of what is going on. I admire the faith of those that GO! I know not all are called to physically GO, but we are all called to play our role in sharing the Gospel. Whether it is prayer, finances, encouragement, or hands on support for families that do go – we all must do something! Thank you so much for being a part of my first #MomentsofHope! You have always been such a wonderful help to me! Thank you! ♥
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

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    1. Your heart for the world just jumps right off my screen! I was hugely impacted by Mindy’s book, and I even listen to the news with more knowledge now. Blessings to you as you create and curate a lovely weekly space for our blogging friends.

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