On Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to visit the 911 memorial in downtown Manhattan.
The memorial is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks perpetrated by Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.
The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels around the sides of the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The water flows into deep caverns where the Twin Towers once stood, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.
As I paused there at the site, the experience was almost haunting. A callery pear tree which was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches, has been nursed back to life and stands as a living reminder of resilience and survival.
The 16 acre site in Manhattan attempts to bring peace to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. However, there is no peace for thousands of Christians in Syria and Iraq who suffer today at the hands of Islamic terrorists determined to eliminate Christianity and reestablish an Islamic caliphate. The agenda of ISIS is the agenda of the 911 terrorists – covert to Islam, pay the special Jizya tax or die.
The last remaining Christians of Mosul in Iraq have been running for their lives after the Islamist militants who control the Iraqi city threatened to kill them if they did not convert to Islam or pay the Jizya tax. The ultimatum was issued giving Christians until noon on Saturday (July 19) either to comply or leave Mosul without taking any of their possessions with them.
Those fleeing were robbed at checkpoints set up by ISIS; the militants stole the Christians’ cars, money, food, jewellery, mobile phones and anything else they were carrying, even medicines. Over 85 families reported having all their possessions taken; hundreds of Christians had to walk over 40 miles to reach safety after ISIS stole their cars, arriving at Tel Afar exhausted and dehydrated.
A colleague of mine in Iraq wrote in an email last week describing the situation faced by Christians. In one large Christian area, ISIS has demanded that the water supply be turned off in an attempt to cause the Christian residents to flee for their lives.
The relative peace and religious freedom we enjoy in the United States is not experienced by many thousands of Christians today in Islamic dominated countries such as Syria and Iraq.
The right to religious freedom, including the right of individuals to change their religion, is taken for granted by most people in the West. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief…”
However, in Islam, all schools of law agree that adult male apostates from Islam should be killed. If the death penalty is not implemented, Islamic Law also specifies various other penalties for apostates, including the annulment of their marriage, the loss of their children and all their property, the suspension of all financial and legal contracts and inheritance rights, all to be returned if they revert to Islam.
Islamic scholars must stop the self-deception which claims that Islam is 100% peace, and with honesty, recognise the violence that continues to exist within their religion today.
We who are Christians must pray fervently for our suffering brothers and sisters around the world, especially those in Syria and Iraq at this time, and call for religious freedom in all countries where that freedom is currently denied.