Iraqi Christians, who fled the violence in the northern city of Mosul after Islamic State militants took control of the area, arrive for a mass at the Syriac Catholic church in the Ashti camp in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on 8 Nov., 2015.

A report looking into the ways Christians respond to persecution has found that their “survival strategies” require a lot of “creativity, determination and courage”, while violence is seldom used.

“Christians are the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally,” according to the University of Notre Dame’s report, In Response to Persecution, which says that Christians tend to choose “a creative pragmatism dominated by short-term efforts to provide security, build strength through social ties”.

At the release of the report, Pakistani Archbishop Sebastian Shaw highlighted Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian minority, encouraging them not to give up as “they have made vital contributions to the country’s history and must not refrain from professing their faith in the midst of the current persecution”. Christians played an important role in building and unifying the country when it was founded in 1947, the Archbishop said, and many of the current leaders have come through the social institutions they helped to establish.

Meanwhile, in an article for The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Mindy Belz writes of the many ways in which Christians have responded to persecution by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

Many have fled from their homes and communities, while others have remained. Those fleeing hoped to find shelter outside of IS-controlled areas; the churches of Iraqi Kurdistan, for instance, have taken in the homeless and collected money to provide for them.

Iraqi Christians ask the international community for help. In the absence of outside support, some of them have decided to take up arms themselves.

The Church itself became “its own guarantor for safety, insofar as it was possible”, notes Belz. “The paralysis of coalition nations long engaged in Iraq stood in contrast to the flights of the threatened Christians, to their desperate efforts to care for one another.”

Sometimes Christians decide to actively oppose their oppressors. Christians in Iraq, for instance, after years of facing violence and “certain annihilation” by IS, and in the absence of any outside help or protection, decided to take up arms. Belz quotes Odisho Yousif, an Assyrian kidnapped by militants in 2006, when he explains: “It’s not acceptable to watch our lands taken by terrorist groups and expect Kurds to come to liberate them, and we just watch while Kurds fight. It’s our land and our people, so we have to be active”.

‘Not taken seriously’

Cheryl K. Chumley, writing for The Washington Times, notes that although Christianity has played a major role in the foundation of many modern societies, including the United States, it rarely seems to feature very prominently on the agenda of the US government or media.

How can a nation that has Christianity as its DNA not rally around those who are persecuted because they share that same DNA, she asks.

As World Watch Monitor reported earlier this month, the persecution of Christians is often “still not taken seriously”.

Canadian MP Candice Bergen wrote on her Facebook page: “More Christians die and suffer for their faith than any other religious group in the world. The elite, including liberal media, not only ignore this fact but most often are the ones who treat Christians with mocking, stereotyping and disdain. It’s a rare sight to ever see Hollywood portray a Christian in a positive manner, much less talk about the plight of Christians in places like the Middle East.”