In a passionate speech presenting the historic sacrifice made by Iraqi Christians on Wednesday, Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mar Sarhad Yawsip Jammo said that although Iraqi Christians have been slaughtered in masses by ISIS, Iraqi Christians have been proudly losing their lives in the name of Jesus since before Islam existed.
Speaking at Skyline Wesleyan Church's Future Conference in San Diego, Jammo, who's a native of Baghdad with ancestral ties to the Nineveh Plains and serves as bishop of a Chaldean Catholic Diocese that spans throughout the Western U.S., explained that the Chaldean Christian community's experience of being forced to choose between paying a tax for their faith or being killed predates ISIS' brutal demand.
In fact, Jammo explained that Chaldean Christians were first asked to pay taxes in order to celebrate their faith in the year 339 under the rule of King Shapur II, when he told Christians that they must pay double taxes if they wish to continue worshiping Jesus without being killed.
"[The Chaldean patriarch] said, 'No, this is my land. This is my right given by God to me and Jesus is my Lord and I will not pay taxes for that.' 'Then you will be killed. This is up to you,' Jammo detailed. "He and thousands others [became martyrs]. This is 339, much before Islam, much before ISIS. And then, Islam came."
Jammo also highlighted the kidnappings and murders of two Nineveh pastors in 2008 — one being the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul and the other being a priest who Jammo had the pleasure of teaching in Rome — who were kidnapped, tortured, killed, mutilated and dumped in the street simply because they were Christian.
As countless Christians have been martyred by ISIS in the last year for refusing to deny Jesus, Jammo urged Christians across the world, who are fortunate enough to freely enjoy their faith without it potentially costing them their lives, not to forget the fatal sacrifices that Chaldean Christians have made for the land of Abraham.
"This is the one side of the battlefield that you should observe. We should observe, this reality. It's one thing to be comfortable professing our faith, enjoy, clapping hands, singing, what a grace to have freedom to do that," the 74-year-old asserted. "But don't forget that this is not the whole field. Chaldeans were for 2,000 years and still now they are at the front. We must share our blessings. We don't complain. We are privileged to give our blood to witness that Jesus is Lord and that salvation is at hand."
"We are not disheartened. We are not discouraged. The Lord said that his church, that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church," Jammo continued, followed by resounding applause. "I always wondered — a gate does not fight. So Lord Jesus, what do you mean by that — 'the gates of hell will not prevail.' The gate doesn't fight. No, you attack the gates of hell and the gates will collapse."
As over 120,000 Christians have been displaced by ISIS and the militant group continues to maintain a stronghold in Mosul and Christian lands in the Nineveh Plains, the bishop argued that only Jesus will be remedy and the people must repent and share Jesus with the world.
"Where is Jonas? 'Jonas, please go to Nineveh.' So this is the message of Jonas, for us too — that we must repent and purify our soul to the Lord Jesus and share our faith with each other, and that is why I came here to you to share my faith, with pastor Jim [Garlow], with all of you, so that you know Jesus must be the remedy to this sick world," Jammo stated. "He is the remedy. He is the savior. He is the solution, instead of fighting each other. Now go together. Go together and confront the world. Go together and challenge the gates of hell."
San Diego-based Chaldean-American humanitarian, Mark Arabo, also spoke at the conference and was critical of President Barack Obama and Congress for not airlifting the displaced Iraqi Christians out of Iraq to safety.
"It's our disfunction in Washington, It's our dysfunction in Congress and the White House that has put [Iraqi Christians] to death. It's our disfunction. It's Obama's dysfunction," Arabo argued. "When Saigon fell, the United States airlifted 150,000 Vietnamese. In the 1990s, President Clinton saved the folks in Bosnia and Rwanda. This is our moment to save these people."
Arabo, who founded the Minority Humanitarian Organization, has lobbied for the passage of House Resolution 1568, the Protecting Religious Minorities Persecuted by ISIS Act, which would require the State Department to expedite visa processing for Iraqi Christians seeking refuge.
However, Arabo has been disheartened by the lack of concern shown by the president, who has all but completely disregarded Arabo's call to save the Christians.
"I have had the privilege of meeting a few different presidents. In my brief exchanges with President Obama, I said, 'Mr. Obama, this is your legacy. President Ford did it, President Clinton did it,'" Arabo explained to Obama. "'You should take Air Force One to Iraq and airlift all the children and all the Christians and bring them over to America.' He gave me a real political answer that was very long-winded and not really deep. I said, 'history is very patient and history is very objective.'"
"Our exchanges with the White House and president have been very direct," he added. "I think Jimmy Carter would have saved the Christians. The president has failed tremendously with the Christians and Congress has equally failed."