Persecution of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) has become so serious a problem that it has been recognized as genocide. Some Christians in the region are unwilling to go like lambs to the slaughter, however, and have begun forming militias to fight back.
One such group is the Babylon Brigade, some 500 to 1,000 Christian fighters who mobilized after ISIS took control of their hometown in Mosul, Iraq in 2014. Christians were forced to leave, convert or pay bribes, and many were expelled from their homes. Women were raped and sold into slavery or killed.
Not content to let things be, the members of the Babylon Brigade are offering resistance to ISIS forces. They are a part of a larger group called the Popular Mobilization Forces, which qualifies them for funding from the government.
ISIS “displaced us from our houses, they took our money, killed our young men and women and they took our properties,” the group’s commander, Rayan Al-Kildani, told NBC News. “Therefore, Christians decided to fight the terrorists of ISIS.”
This is a far cry from turning the other cheek as typically mandated by Christian doctrine, but the Babylon Brigade is not alone. Dwekh Nawsha, which translates from Syriac to “one who sacrifices”, was formed the same year to protect Iraq’s Assyrian Christians from ISIS. Dwekh Nawsha operates in coordination with the regional and international security forces and counts several foreign fighters among its ranks, including from the US, France and Australia.
Meanwhile, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units consist primarily, though not exclusively, of Christian fighters. Most of Iraq’s Christians are concentrated in this region.
Not all the Christians standing up for themselves, their people and their homes are men, either. In Syria, the “Female Protection Forces of the Land Between the Two Rivers” of the Syriac Christians Brigade celebrated its second class of fighters in early January.
“I’m a practicing Christian, and thinking about my children makes me stronger and more determined in my fight against [ISIS],” one fighter named Babylonia, who graduated with the first class in December, told AFP. She said she is fighting for her children’s future and “against the idea that the Syriac woman is good for nothing except housekeeping and make-up,” something her husband, also a soldier, encouraged her to do.
Just last year, Iraq also welcomed its first all-Christian brigade to its regular forces, as well. The “Tiger Guards” answer to the government of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
“Around 600 peshmerga from our Christian brothers in the Nineveh plain joined this course, which focused on physical training, military lectures and shooting exercises,” said Abu Bakr Ismail, the commander of the training academy.
“All the participants are volunteers…and want to liberate their land from ISIS and then protect it,” the Kurdish special forces major general told AFP, according to its report carried by al-Arabiya.
As King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for peace, but there is also a time for war.