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Church Bell Rings in Iraq for the First Time in Two Years

Note from Jim: I am grateful to Nick Pitts, our Director of Cultural Engagement, for writing today’s Cultural Commentary. You can subscribe to his Daily Briefing, an overview of the news with biblical insights, by clicking here.

A church bell rang for the first time in two years as Iraqi Kurdish forces continued their push toward Mosul. Located in Bartella, this primarily Christian town is nine miles from the ISIS stronghold. Kurdish forces secured around thirty-eight square miles and “a significant stretch” of the highway as they sought to retake the city from ISIS. The night was longer than expected, but the joyful ringing of the bell in the morning was sweeter than anticipated.

Around thirty thousand Iraqi security force personnel, assisted by US-led coalition air strikes, launched the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul over a week ago. But tragically, these great gains accompanied heartbreaking losses.

UN reports indicate that ISIS fighters killed fifteen civilians and threw their bodies into a river to spread terror and send a signal. A Middle Eastern news service noted, “ISIS terrorist gangs executed nine of its members for fleeing the battle against the security forces in Mosul, by throwing them in trenches containing a burning oil.” In 2003, Iraq boasted an estimated 1.3 million Christians. Now, leaders put that number at fewer than four hundred thousand.

Despite their dwindling numbers and dire circumstances, the bell in Bartella rang. For those who have ears to hear, the ringing of the bell sounds like Jesus in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Jesus never promised his followers a comfortable life, but he did assure them he would provide comfort in this life (2 Corinthians 1:2–4).

The situation in Iraq provides perspective when considering the difficulties in the American context. Our circumstances are different, but our mission is the same: his kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Christians take part in a global movement that seeks to make peace in the chaos and bring hope to the downcast. Peace never comes idly; rather it requires hard work against the status quo. Hope is not found in a political candidate but a resurrected King. Christians are more than a voting bloc; we are people who deeply believe that God is good regardless of what is happening and Jesus is Lord regardless of who is elected.

The vehicle for this global movement is the church. This body of believers remind each other of the good news of Jesus. His love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14), his grace equips us (2 Corinthians 12:9), and his promises sustain us (Psalm 54:4). We are more than a Sunday morning gathering. We are his hands and feet throughout the week as we meet needs and serve others.

The church bell rings in Bartella because of the great sacrifices many made for their community and their steadfast love for God. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

Chesterton understood that love is a far greater motivating factor than hate. Love launched a thousand ships, made an innocent man fall silent before a tribunal, and raised a dead man to life. Without love, bells clang noisily like gongs (1 Corinthians 13:1). Bells are welcomed, but gongs are avoided.

Today, let freedom ring. The enemy may be near, they may be strong, but they will not be victorious. If it is a work of love, it cannot fail (2 Corinthians 2:13-15, 1 Corinthians 15:58).


Nick Note: This week, I am honored to be in New York to participate in the Movement Day Global Cities conference. Movement Day is catalyzing leadership teams from the world's largest cities to serve their cities more effectively by advancing high-level, city-changing collaborative partnerships. For updates throughout the week, check out my videos on our Facebook page.

Publication date: October 26, 2016

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