Author: Persecuted Christians in Middle East Are ‘Defying ISIS by Their Faith’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | April 28, 2015 | 4:37 PM EDT


Iraqi and Syrian Christians who fled ISIS erected crosses on top of their tents in Jordanian refugee camps. (Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore)

( –  Although they are facing the worst religious persecution in centuries at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Christians in the Middle East are “defying ISIS by their faith,” says Johnnie Moore, author of Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and Your Own Back Yard.

“When you go to these refugee camps, you see crosses everywhere,” he told

“It’s the cross that nearly got these people killed, and yet the one thing they won’t do is deny their faith or shield their faith,” added Moore, who visited several Middle Eastern refugee camps last October.

“I found myself feeling like I was walking in the book of Acts, walking in the first century when I was talking to these Christians,” said the former senior vice president of Liberty University and the co-founder of the Cradle Fund, which provides humanitarian assistance to displaced Christians in an area often referred to as “the cradle of Christianity”.

“I just remember in particular talking to the Syriac Orthodox archbishop of Mosul,” Moore continued. “We were just talking about the situation in Mosul, and how he had to leave in the middle of the night, and I remember him telling me he had to leave everything behind. He left without a Bible. He left without any extra clothes. His church was spread all across various refugee camps.

“And he said, ‘I’m an archbishop and I have nothing. I have no church. I have no Bible. I have no future. All I have is Jesus.’ That’s what he said.

“And I remember [Cradle Fund co-founder] Chris [Seiple] and I standing there talking to him, and it’s just like the power of the Holy Spirit in that conversation, this archbishop telling us about how he was taking up his cross because Jesus was requiring him to take up his cross.

“And then he started telling us the story of when ISIS bombed the tomb of Jonah in Mosul, which was both a Christian and an Islamic shrine that had been celebrated for centuries. And he said that when they bombed the tomb of Jonah, they inadvertently uncovered the ruins of an ancient church that they didn’t even know existed.

"And he looked at us with this defiance in his eyes, and he said: ‘The gates of hell will never prevail against the church.’

“And it really, really impacted me because I thought, most Christians I know in the West are barely willing to live for their faith, much less being willing to die for it.

“And there’s something very first century about this 21st century archbishop from a stream of Christianity that I had hardly any connection to and knew very little about. And yet I felt like I was standing with a hero, just a hero, and I just wondered whether I would have the strength and resolve of faith if I was in the situation he was in.”

“This is the Christianity of the first century,” he added. “Jesus is not only worth living for, He’s worth dying for. And the strength of their faith and the strength of their love is in defiance of all that hate.”

Moore said he was also impressed by the leadership of Pope Francis, who last month condemned the “intolerable brutality” of ISIS. The Vatican confirmed that the pontiff has been threatened by ISIS.

“As a Protestant, I am incredibly grateful to, and inspired by the leadership of Pope Francis on this issue,” Moore told “He has spoken when other people haven’t. He is - in black and white, in ISIS literature - a direct target of ISIS, and yet he has been totally fearless in taking his mantle and his responsibility to speak for the persecuted church. And I just thank God for his voice.”

Moore pointed out that the militant Islamists used the vacuum of power created by the Arab Spring, which he called “a winter for Christians,” to ramp up their persecution of religious minorities.

"In its aftermath, we've witnessed an eruption of persecution against Christians threatening the total elmination of some of the most ancient and perserverant Christian communities in the world. Rarely in Christian history have we witnessed brutality against these communities on this scale," he told

The Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, five miles from the Jordan-Syria border. (AP photo)

During a visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan six months after the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moore says he was startled to discover that many of the refugees there were members of the middle-class before they were forced to flee for their lives.

“The thing that I remember the most from my initial trip to Zaatari is the wounds. Every single person I met had a bullet wound or a knife wound or a shrapnel wound,” he told

“And I remember sitting in these tents talking to these people whose lives were not dissimilar from mine. They had jobs, and cars, and houses, and kids in college. This wasn’t the conflict of an already impoverished country facing worse suffering. This was a conflict of middle-class people experiencing horrific things.”

Moore attended meetings with religious, political and humanitarian aid leaders in the region who all warned of the growing threat against Christians in the Middle East.

“They were all predicting that things would only get worse and were screaming for the world to pay attention,” Moore recalled. “But it seemed like hardly anyone was paying attention. I wrote an oped for FOX News on how we must stand up for Middle East Christians, which was shared all over the world. All of a sudden, I became a spokesperson on behalf of these people.”

“In May 2014, I was part of a group in Washington that signed a pledge of solidarity in support of Christians in the Middle East. And it was in June, July, and August that ISIS made their lightning-fast march across Iraq and basically took the whole Nineveh Plain.”

Moore returned to the Middle East last October. “I was there on the very day when ISIS got within eight miles of the Baghdad airport," he recalled. “There were these ad hoc refugee camps with crosses on top of tents everywhere. And people were dressed like they dressed in their homes, yet they were living in these deplorable conditions.

"Everyone I talked to had the most horrific story I ever heard in my life, like ISIS fighters entering a town and asking whether they should behead the women, children or elderly first." The Cradle Fund has compiled a video of some of the refugees' stories.

“Honestly, at first I was a bit skeptical.” Moore admitted. But after he listened to Christians describing the sounds of women being raped in neighboring buildings, watched a mother weep for her kidnapped three-year-old daughter, and heard a blind Yazidi boy lamenting that ISIS had poisoned his family’s well, he realized that the ISIS atrocities were all too real.

“ISIS has price lists for their slave markets that characterize the slaves by religion and by age. And so you can buy a Christian or Yazidi girl from one to 9 years old for $170. These are the worst crimes against women and children that we can ever remember seeing.

“No one was protected from ISIS’ evil,” Moore noted. “And that’s when I decided I need to capture their stories." The book was released on April 21.

“The second meaning of the book’s title is that we have to defy ISIS as individuals by choosing to raise our voices, provide humanitarian assistance to those in harm’s way, and pressure government officials to do everything in their power to help them. It would be a tragedy if all these refugees survived the threat of execution only to die because of a lack of food and water.”

Much of the initial United Nations funding for the refugees has dried up, he added, and despite the fact that this is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the modern era, countries and private donors have not stepped up to replace it, he said.

“The world is exhausted with the Middle East, particularly Iraq,” Moore pointed out.

Jordan, which has already taken in two million Syrian refugees, is willing to provide protection and humanitarian assistance, but lacks the resources to do so, he added. “There’s two billion Christians on Planet Earth and no more than 300,000 Iraqi Christians left. Surely we can take care of these people.”

Fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. (Screenshot: ISIS propaganda video)

Moore warned that Westerners cannot afford to be complacent, as ISIS has recruited thousands of jihadis from 90 countries, some with Western educations, to fight its apocalyptic holy war.

“The world has been sleeping. It used to be that you had to go to a training camp in Afghanistan to join a terrorist group like this.

"But now the training camps are in front of your computer screen in the privacy of your own home in suburban America or Europe in your own language,” he pointed out.

“The threat of ISIS is a threat to the livelihood of every sensible person on the planet, and in its crosshairs is the faith of the world’s two billion Christians and nearly all of its Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists,” notes Moore, adding that he wrote the book so that “the world will have the opportunity to remember those who stared down the hell of ISIS with the love of Jesus.”

“I think every act of love in defiance of ISIS is a dagger in the heart of their faith,” he told  “And I’m just committed to doing everything in my power to save every person they aim to kill.”

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