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Christian Groups to Rally for Protection in Iraq
By Susan Abram

Across the ancient cities and villages of Iraq, an "N" word also is used out of hate.

Members of the extremist group known as ISIS spray paint the letter "N" in blazing red on the homes of those they deem different. Scrawled in Arabic and pronounced "noon," the N stands for Nazarene, or follower of Christ, and to an outsider, it may look like a happy face.

But ISIS uses it as a mark of death. It warns Christian families who live in those homes to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax, or prepare to die.

"There is a Christian genocide happening in Northern Iraq and no one is doing anything about it" said Delilah George, a 31-year-old Assyrian woman and Valley Village resident. "My people are experiencing unspeakable horror and grief at the hands of these radicals."

Since the takeover in June of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS has targeted the Christian population, whose faith has been present for almost 2,000 years. In the last two weeks, Assyrians were forced to leave their ancestral homeland under the threat of death. Many have been beaten, robbed and brutalized, or killed along the way as they search for a safe haven.

The sadness, frustration with the lack of public awareness and even anger has prompted George and countless Assyrians to hold a rally Saturday at the Federal Building in Los Angeles. Dubbed "Demand for Action," the Los Angeles event is one of nearly 40 worldwide to be held also on Saturday across the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

"What I am is sad and very frustrated that there is an ethnic cleansing occurring on our homeland and no one is talking about it," said Nuri Kino, an investigative journalist and author from Sweden whose work has led him to become an activist.

Kino founded Demand for Action, which has taken off on social media, reaching Assyrians worldwide. At its heart, the Demand for Action is a rallying call to the United Nations to ensure that the Christian communities of Iraq are given safe haven in the Nineveh Plains, Kino said.

That the issue hasn't garnered much attention in the West doesn't surprise Amir Hussain, a professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University. He said the West can't seem to grasp that there are Christians living outside of Europe and the Americas.

"We don't pay attention to minority communities in general, and often lump all people in the Middle East as 'Arabs' or as 'Muslims,' " Hussain said. "In fact, many people in the Middle East are neither Muslim nor Arab. I remind my students that Jesus never went to Rome. He stayed in the Middle East, mostly in Israel and Palestine. Palestinian Christians pride themselves on coming from the same place as "the Man from Galilee".

Hussain said the West should care what's happening to Christians in the Middle East for several reasons.

"First, simply, because it is taking place,' Hussain said. "'Injustice anywhere,' as Dr. King reminded us, 'is a threat to justice everywhere.' These people are fellow Christians for the majority of people in the West. These Christians are some of the oldest Christian communities in the world."

At least 1,500 people are expected to attend the Los Angeles rally. Organizers said Chaldeans, Armenians, Copts and other Middle Eastern Christians who have seen their homeland's churches bombed and their religious symbols desecrated under extremism, also are participating and people of many faiths and backgrounds have pledged their support.

"Our supporters see this as a crime against humanity," said Sandra Assaker, 27. "It's not about one religion or ethnicity. That's why we are all coming together."

Several organizers gathered at Assaker's home Wednesday to prepare signs and banners. The signs include the Arabic letter N in red. Assaker and her friends marveled at the fact that it has been modern social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, that has revived an ancient people's struggle. One of the Twitter handles that has taken off recently is #WeAreN.

"We're taking this symbol back," Delilah George said. "We're proud to be Christians."

The Demand For Action rally will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

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