It’s interesting, isn’t it, how history repeats itself? Often, the similarities are not only remarkable but also ironic.
Most Christians can recite well the account from the Book of Exodus about how God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Recall the plagues, which crippled the Egyptians, and then the 10th plague that brought the stubborn and proud pharaoh to his knees.
This final plaque caused the death of the first-born male of every household on the night now known as the Passover. The angel of death “passed over” Israelite households because they had followed the commandments of the Lord and painted the blood of a spotless animal on their doorposts. (To be liberated, the people of God passed through the blood of the spotless one, pointing forward to the spotless Lamb of God.)
And now, in an ironic and cruel twist to this account, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) fighters are marking Christian homes across northern Iraq with the Arabic letter for “N,” for Nazarene (the hometown of Jesus). According to reports, Christians have been given a choice. They can leave the country, convert to Islam, or be killed.
Hollywood celebrities are often involved in humanitarian and environmental efforts — from Sudan to the Amazon rainforest. Christian causes? Not so much. However, one Hollywood couple is stepping up to help displaced Christians in northern Iraq and Syria.
Actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, himself a television producer, are doing everything they can to raise money for those who have survived the brutal attacks against Christians. Readers may recall that Downey and Burnett produced the acclaimed series “The Bible” for The History Channel, and are reportedly working on another biblical epic, “A.D.”, which NBC will broadcast next Easter season. The couple has said they are intent on raising $25 million to aid homeless Christians in the region, and they are donating the first $1 million themselves.
Downey and Burnett should be an inspiration to us all. They have set up a Web site called “The Cradle of Christianity Fund” (www.cradlefund.org), where they are taking donations. They promise the money will go directly to the churches for distribution to those in need, and I believe them. I can’t think of a better place for church groups to send their Christmas contributions. These are our Christian brothers and sisters — the family we have never had the pleasure to meet, but family nonetheless.
Thousands of years ago, the people of God were made free at the Exodus; this was due to the actions of God. Now, another plague exists in the area, which is based not in good but in evil, and it is up to the people of God to help.
After all, if not you, who? And if not now, when?
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.