I am n? What does that mean?
When Islamic State (ISIS) militants moved into northern Iraq, they began identifying Christian-owned property. Families would find the Arabic letter ﻥ (nun, noon) or “n” painted on their homes and churches. This single letter conveyed the powerful accusation that the occupants were “Nazarenes,” people who followed Jesus of Nazareth rather than Islam.To be labeled “n” in a community dominated by Muslim extremists is a life-changing identity. With this mark comes the ultimatum: “If you convert to Islam or pay the tax, you can keep your material possessions and remain in this community. If not, leave or you will die.”
Any person who takes a stand for Jesus in occupied Iraq, any person who chooses to be “n,” pays a high cost. Without warning, some Christians are dragged from their homes and businesses by armed militants—and they are never seen again. Pastors who share the message of Jesus in their communities are beheaded in front of their families. Children who will not renounce Jesus are shot. Teenagers may be taken from their homes and families and forced into service to ISIS or beaten, mutilated, and left for dead. Other atrocities are so horrific we will not describe them here.
Since 2003, such persecution has forced more than a million Iraqi Christians who refuse to renounce Jesus and the Bible to flee. Many survivors live in refugee camps, trusting God daily for their food, shelter, and safety because they have no money, no work options, and no other place to go. Even more challenging is the reality that their situation is not temporary; their life circumstances are unlikely to improve—ever.
Yet their courageous, steadfast commitment to God in the face of persecution provides Jesus followers all over the world with a powerful picture of what being “n” is all about. They willingly sacrifice everything they have in this world in order to fulfill God’s calling to obey and serve Him. Like the heroes of the faith whose stories we read in the Bible and in the record of church history, they are living out Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”