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Assyrian Remembrance Day and Fighting Back with Prayer
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Light the Fire Again

By Haydn Jensen


"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Those words from Proverbs 29:18 may be familiar to you. At a recent Assyrian Remembrance Day event, those attending were reminded of them again. The text gained particular significance because the event was meant to honour those who had suffered unspeakable torture and death, and yet despite literally thousands of years of persecution and genocide attacks, this ancient people group have clearly not perished. You will know from previous Christian Life in London articles on Assyrian Christians that the Assyrian people are the oldest surviving branch of the Christian church. They rightly deserve our respect, admiration, and support as fellow Christians who have held close to their faith and cultural identity. (You can read the first article here and the second article here). A new vision is growing in London among local Assyrians and evangelical Christians to draw together as fellow believers. Note that London is now home to the second largest Assyrian population in Canada.

Assyrian Remembrance Day, also called Memorial Day for Assyrian Martyrs or simply Martyrs Day is observed each year on August 7. It was originally meant to commemorate the Simele Massacre when, in northern Iraq in August 1933 more than 3,000 Assyrians in Syria were brutally and systematically murdered by the Iraqi army, while other world leaders ignored pleas for help. Although an unbelievably cruel event in itself, this was just one of many efforts to exterminate Assyrians throughout history from the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC to today. So, Martyrs Day has come to commemorate all Assyrian martyrs over their long history. Sadly, then, the situation today with ISIS relentlessly attacking, torturing and abducting Assyrian Christians in Syria is nothing new. Neither is the complacency of other nations to sit by and do nothing. On or around the August 7 this year (Assyrian Memorial Day 2015), an estimated 250 Assyrian Christians were abducted by ISIS militants. There has been some international response recently, but many feel it has been far too slow.


On Saturday August 8 at North Park Community Church, members of the Assyrian community in London welcomed other London Christians to stand with them in prayer and solidarity to hold fast to our common faith in Christ.



David Cottrill, North Park's Director of Community Outreach led by example in welcoming all gathered, praying for the event, and expressing that he was there to learn. Also present was incumbent MP Susan Truppe, who expressed her and her government’s desire to not stand on the sidelines and allow ISIS to continue unchecked. Tim and Abraham, two young Assyrian men from Toronto, represented the Assyrian Youth in Canada. They shared and demonstrated by example their desire to seek God first and to remember their shared history as Assyrian Christians by faithfully preserving it through generations. A representative of the Assyrian Association of London also spoke, pleading for world leaders to stand up and help defend Assyrians. He reminded us that although they are now a largely dispersed indigenous ethnic group exiled from Mesopotamia, this is known as the Cradle of Civilization. In other words, we began with them.

It's impossible for us as committed Christians to gloss over the depth of pain and suffering that Assyrians continue to endure as a people. Considering the many efforts to literally wipe them off the face of the earth, it’s truly a miracle that there are still about 2.5 million Assyrian Christians holding fast to their faith, their language, their history, and their cultural practices.

I mentioned Abraham and Tim, the two young Assyrian men who shared at the remembrance gathering. Although young in years, they demonstrated a long memory. They knew and recounted details of many violent historical as well as full awareness of current attacks against their people. They also inspired us with their personal conviction as Assyrians following Jesus and their vision to never give up. Remember: Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Perhaps it's best to leave you with an abbreviated excerpt from Tim's impassioned speech:

When we hear what's going on it can be really disheartening. It's easy to be fearful--we can worry, "What are they going to do next?" But, we have no reason to fear. I ask myself, what can mere humans do to me? Hebrews 13:6 says "The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?"... To me this means God plus one person equals a majority. I live by that….We should fight. We are warriors and we need to fight back. But, we should not see this as fighting against humans. Although we see people, we are actually fighting against the authorities, principalities, and unseen powers as we are told in Ephesians 6:12. We are to put on the full armour of God. Following Ephesians, we are to fight back with the Word of God and by “praying in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" as Scripture says. Keep on praying for the Lord’s people. This should not be a “sometimes prayer”, only when we feel like it. We are called to pray daily--all the time….We can’t go over and pick up a gun and fight. When you say I am a follower of Jesus Christ this is how you fight--by prayer....Why is this important? It’s important because our God is sovereign and reigns supreme. He shows us prayer causes things to happen that would not happen if we didn’t pray. James 4:2 reminds us that “you do not have it because your don't ask." If I ask, things will change...What a glorious privilege I have, that I can drop on my knees and know that He is listening. It is definitely His will that the Assyrian people will rise above this persecution....

Churches in London are beginning to get in touch with their Assyrian brothers and sisters, to learn more and to pray with and for them. If you or your church would like to join in that, here's how: Copy text from below and paste your selected response into an email to me: hjensen@clil.ca. I will pass your response along to our Assyrian church friends.

YES--I'd like me personally / my small group / my church / my Christian group to be invited to an event hosted by the London Assyrian Church of the East to get to know our Assyrian brothers and sisters in Christ.

YES--I'd like to explore having Assyrian Christians visit my church/ small group/ prayer event/ etc. to share so that we can pray for our Assyrian brothers and sisters facing persecution.

HEY--I have another idea for getting to know my Assyrian brothers and sisters. (Share your idea here...)