This persecution has reached well beyond Mosul. As recently as 2003, roughly 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. After more than 60 church bombings and ISIL’s recent campaign to exterminate religious minorities, the numbers have dwindled. Syrian Christians are under equally serious assault, as are Coptic Christians in Egypt.
But history offers a glimmer of hope in the midst of this darkness. It is not just that refugees from persecution often find a home in new countries where their beliefs can flourish, as Catholics and Jews did in 19th century America, and Protestants did before that. The more profound truth is that violence rarely has the final word, even in the country from which a religious minority has been excluded.
The Roman Empire sought to snuff out Christianity on several occasions, most famously during the reign of Nero.
Even when they were not actively persecuted, Christians often were forbidden from owning property and subjected to social stigma. Yet Christianity survived and eventually thrived. Ironically, Christianity’s own commitment to human rights ”” such as the dignity of women ”” was a key feature of its success.