Most of us who use social media choose pictures of ourselves or things we are interested in for our profile pictures, the pictures that people see first when they visit our sites. So I was quite surprised when I saw an unfamiliar symbol, pictured here, in the profile picture of an acquaintance.
The symbol made me think of the religion of Islam but I was pretty sure that the person using this symbol was a devoted Christian. On further investigation I discovered that this symbol ties in with both Christianity and Islam.
In the darkest days of the ISIS occupation of the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, the Christians in that city were told to get out of town or face dire consequences. To show that they meant business, ISIS went around and marked the homes of the Christians with this symbol. Once Christian homes were marked with this symbol they became fair game for anyone who wanted to kill them and help themselves to their property.
This symbol is actually the fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet. It is pronounced “Noon” and is equivalent to the letter “N” in the English alphabet.
This letter was chosen for the homes of Christians because Jesus, the most important person in the Christian religion, was a Nazarene, a native of the city of Nazareth. (Luke 4:16) Truly, these were perilous times for followers of the Nazarene in the city of Mosul and other areas controlled by ISIS.
Christians are taught to think of themselves as members of the body of Christ. What happens to one or more members of the body affects us all. The Apostle Paul speaks of this in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (I Corinthians 12:16, ESV)
So when Christians around the world found out that the Arabic Noon was being used to identify the homes of Christians and target them for persecution, they started using this symbol in their social media pages to show their support for their fellow believers in Mosul. So that’s how this symbol ended up on my acquaintance’s social media profile picture. One member of the body of Christ showing support for another part of the body.
The most common Christian symbol is the cross, the device used by the Roman government to execute Jesus. Some see the death of Jesus on the cross as the tragic end to an otherwise successful career as an itinerant preacher. Christians see the cross as the decisive moment in God’s plan to save the world, which is why we take every opportunity to display and proclaim the cross. Rather than let humans die an eternal death as punishment for their sins, God the Father sent his Son, Jesus, to the cross to take all our punishment and set us free from sin and death.
The cross is the reason why so many Christians over the centuries were willing to give up their lives rather than give up their faith. And the cross is the reason why so many Christians today are willing to do the same. In view of the cross, many churches still ask members when they join if they are willing to “suffer all, even death,” rather than fall away from the Christian faith.
Some folks have come up with designs that incorporate the cross into the letter Noon to show the connection between Jesus’ death-defying sacrifice on the cross and the Mosul Christians’ bravery in the face of modern persecution.
The cross also helps make sense of the ongoing suffering in this world. Jesus’ suffering on the cross was not a random accident, it had a purpose. The same is true of all suffering, even that endured by the Christians in Mosul. It has a purpose that may be hidden from us now but will someday be revealed.
ISIS’s reign of terror has subsided but that does not mean the end of the persecution of Christians. Opendoorsusa.org is one of several organizations that are devoted to helping persecuted Christians around the world. Facebook users can go to https://www.facebook.com/WeAreAgainstChristianPersecution/ for more information and Twitter uses can check out #wearen.
With the use of the Arabic Noon on social media we see once again how members of the body of Christ always find ways to support each other in whatever difficulties or persecutions they face.