The Arabic letter “nun” is sweeping social media, and “#WeAreN” is trending on Twitter. It’s all part of an awareness campaign, an effort to draw  attention to our Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ who are under persecution for the faith. 

{For those catching up, the symbol, according to Religion News Service’s Cathy Lynn Grossman, is “for ‘Nazarene,’ or Christian, used by Islamic State militants in Iraq to brand Christian properties in Iraq as part of their effort to drive out an ancient Christian community with threats to convert or die.”}

But Grossman also notes something else in her article, almost in passing: “Jeremy Courtney, who says he launched #WeAreN, told RNS senior columnist Jonathan Merritt that global media — including social media — are missing the point of the awareness campaign. ‘I don’t know that it has done anything except make people feel like they are doing something when they are doing nothing at all,’ he said.”

And there is truth to what he says. We change our pictures and avatars because we feel like there’s nothing else can do to show our fellow Christians that we care. We want to do something; we are itching to help. We feel desperate. And this seems like a way to assist, even if it’s small.

But we can do better than simply feeling like we are doing something. Let’s change our Facebook profile pictures and our Twitter avatars, yes. But let’s not stop at that.

In our vocation as citizens, we can seek out elected leaders and call on them to do what they are able to end the suffering. We can give what we can of our paychecks to organizations who give shelter and food to those fleeing persecution. We can affirm religious liberty here at home, so that our fellow Americans may know how dangerous and how deadly infringements of religious rights can be.

And as Christians, we can repent and we can pray.

We can take seriously the words: “So you are a Christian? Congratulations! You belong to the faith where you are expected to suffer in this life” (Rev. Alexey Stretslov, “Shaped by the Cross,” June/July 2014, The Lutheran Witness).

We can lean on the promises of our Lord, that we are assured this kind of suffering on His behalf and that we suffer it for and through Him.

We can remember the words of our confirmation vows, that we would “continue steadfast in this confession and Church and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.”

We can remember that “The Lord tells us that suffering and persecution are necessary until His glorious return, for wherever Christ is confessed, the devil and his servants will resist, attack and attempt to destroy the Church” (Dr. Albert B. Collver, “Blessed,” June/July 2014 Lutheran Witness).

We can give as we are able to support our church’s Global Mission Fund, that missionaries may go to the ends of the earth, preaching and teaching Jesus, that many more may come to know Christ and His cross.

We can memorize our Scriptures and our catechisms and our hymnals, so that if, one day, our doors are marked too, we are not left without God’s Word of comfort and His peace that passes all understanding.

We can change our social media pictures, but there is still more. By God’s grace, we can also make full use of the feet we have in both kingdoms, exercising our rights as citizens even as we pray to our heavenly Father to be merciful to those who are persecuting others and to the persecuted themselves.

“The Church suffers because she is given participation in Christ’s own redemptive story that spins around the paschal event of Jesus’ death and resurrection,” the Rev. Roberto E. Bustamante reminds us (Holy Cross–A March of the Church,” June/July 2014 The Lutheran Witness). ”

Christ has already suffered on our behalf. His blood has been spilled, and no symbol on any door, no angry mob can undo the forgiveness and salvation He won and gives freely.

So our fellow Christians suffer. And we suffer with them. And one day soon, we may even suffer as they are now. But now, as then, we also repent, and we pray, and we trust that God will do what He promised: working this for good on our behalf.

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