The cross of Jesus Christ is an offense to Islamic militants who continue to perpetrate acts of violence, persecution and destruction against the Christian community throughout the Middle East.
The roots of the hatred of the cross go back to the earliest moments of Islam and Islamic tradition. To start, Islam rejects that it was Jesus who actually died upon the cross. Instead, it was one who was made to look like him. In the Quran 4:157:
And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
Islamic tradition teaches that Jesus will return in a second coming and destroy all crosses, effectively symbolizing Islam's triumph over Christianity. One record of this is found in Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 656:
"Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross..."
The 7th century Pact of Umar (also known as Conditions of Umar, or Pact of Omar) served as a contract between Christians who remained in their lands and the conquering Muslim armies. As this translation from Arabic to English shows, the Pact of Umar (or Omar) placed rigorous restrictions upon Christian life and practice in exchange for the right to keep one's life. One of these restrictions related specifically to the displaying of the Christian Cross, the symbol of the Christian message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his redemption of mankind:
We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims.
Over the last year, a number of incidents have been reported which show the level of offense to radical Islamists caused by the sight of the physical cross:
- During her June 25, 2013 testimony before the Committee On Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute's Center For Religious Freedom, recounted the assassination of one a Syrian Christian: "Ordinary individuals, too, have been summarily killed after being identified as Christian. An Islamic gunman stopped the bus to Aleppo and checked the background of each passenger. When the gunman noticed Yohannes’ last name was Armenian, they singled him out for a search. After finding a cross around his neck, ‘‘One of the terrorists shot point blank at a crossing—at the cross, tearing open the man’s chest.’’"
- In December 2013, a group of 12 nuns were kidnapped in Syria. A video release of the nuns from their captors showed them wearing their traditional long black robes absent one thing: the cross that usually hang around their neck. One woman recounted as she saw their video: "They didn't even let them wear their crosses," she said. "This just shows they aren't capable of respecting Christians." And as reported by Raymond Ibrahim in his February 18, 2014 blog post, a new video released earlier this month of the nuns showed, once again, the nuns in their traditional garb - absent of their crosses.
- In the Syrian town of Raqaa, a militant group "set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group's black Islamic banner." Iranian based FARS News Agency reported that one church in Raqaa was actually converted into Al-Qaeda's "Raqaa Bureau" - only after "all the exterior and interior symbols and signs showing the building is church have been cleared."
In August 2013, when Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi attacked Churches, monasteries, and other Christian property in Egypt, the cross was often a target: "Three nuns expelled from a burning 115-year-old Franciscan school were even "marched through the streets like prisoners of war" until given shelter by a concerned Muslim woman. The Associated Press said the rescued nuns "saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida." The story said police promised aid, but it never arrived."
- During attacks against Egypt's main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo last April after a funeral for four Christians who had been killed in a dispute with a Muslim neighbor, Coptic Christians pledged to give their lives as a sacrifice for the cross. Some of the young attackers of the cathedral "switched to taunts, making lewd gestures involving the sign of the cross."
The Apostle Paul taught that the message of the cross would be an "offense" to those who would reject its claims to offer redemption for humanity (Gal 5:11).
Now, nearly 2000 years later, this offense continues.
Please join The St. Charles Institute in prayer for Christians who are suffering isolation, violence and persecution because of the cross of Christ.