As Christians in Iraq and Syria face what many (including the US State Department) call genocide, world leaders often struggle to summon the right words for the persecution. Too often, officials deal in cautious, equivocating language amid the sprawling horror of leaders assassinated, churches destroyed, businesses bombed for “un-Islamic” tendencies, women and girls raped, hostages taken, and citizens forced to flee.
For clearer insight into this purge of communities from their ancient homelands, we have journalist Mindy Belz to thank. They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Tyndale) contains reporting from her many trips to the region, during which she faced threats of being stoned, kidnapped, or murdered.
Belz first traveled to Iraq in 2002, when there were few Western visitors. After the US invasion the following year, she returned to find Iraq’s churches reviving and its Christians optimistic. But things changed abruptly. Churches faced a systematic wave of bombings in 2005. That year, many leaders at her church, St. George’s Anglican in Baghdad, were murdered.
By 2008, terror against Christians had so intensified that Belz traveled to Mosul crouching on a car’s floorboards while wearing a veil; her driver wielded a gun in his left hand while steering with his right. Many Christians received threats like, “Be informed that we will cut off your heads and leave your dead bodies with no organs and no heads in your stores and houses.”
Belz writes of Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, from which tens of thousands of Christians fled overnight, unlikely to return. One resident said that when terrorists learned he had five children, they ...1