More than 200 Assyrian Christians have been kidnapped by the terrorist organization ISIS, and prayers have gone out around the world for their safe return. Two members of the Assyrian Church of the East spoke with The Christian Post about the situation in Syria and the loss of several religious artifacts at the hands of ISIS.
Jennifer Griesenauer and her aunt, Toni Abraham, who live in the United States, have watched in horror as members of their faith are systematically being targeted for kidnapping and execution. This week it emerged that ISIS fighters also destroyed religious artifacts, reaching new levels of destruction and animosity.
"Oh my God it's horrible," Toni told CP late Thursday. "Khabour River area is where my great grandfather held a priest school. Under his teachings, we have many well-known bishops, priests and deacons who are scholars in Aramaic, the language Christ spoke, currently the Assyrian Church of the East. It's sad to see that church destroyed and our Assyrian people still being targeted because of our Christian religion."
"We have no country, we abide by that country's rules but we exercise our Christian beliefs," she added. "We have no country to speak for us and defend us. This insanity is against humanity, still our Assyrian brothers and sisters are paying for it with their blood. It's been 100 years since the Semeleh Massacre. My ancestors, family and relatives have lost their lives since. Today, history is repeated."
The Semeleh Massacre took place in 1933 in 63 Assyrian villages, with estimates of between 600 and 3,000 deaths. The armed forces of the Kingdom of Iraq carried out the massacre in order to gain territory. Women and children were reportedly left alone, but the men were instantly killed and the villages looted.
"Our church officials are in contact with the congress here and all over the world [people] are trying to do something for those poor, helpless people," Jennifer said. "For me, it is very frustrating to know that not only a genocide against my Assyrian people is happening, but there is also an attempt to cleanse our culture and history from the land. No one is doing anything about it or acknowledging it. I haven't been able to sleep for days thinking about these poor, innocent people and what they are going through. The whole world is watching as history repeats itself."
One way Americans can help is to sign a petition urging the White House to "condemn this act of genocide and get involved in protecting minorities in Syria." The petition needs 100,000 signatures to garner a response from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, which could take a long time, as the administration has failed to respond to several petitions on its "We the People" website. As of Friday morning, the petition has reached 2,657 signatures.