The following article was written for RaymondIbrahim.com by Joachim Osther
“What assistance, fellow warriors, can we hope for from God, we who, while His churches are perishing, not only do not come to their defense, but do not even put forward any word of objection?” – Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060-1100), late 11th Century.
And Then They Came
In many ways, Godfrey’s exigent appeal was centuries in the making. Amidst early persecution of Christians which can be traced back to the New Testament, the Gospel steadfastly moved outwards in concentric circles from Jerusalem, bringing the light of life to the deserts of the Middle East, the mountains of Asia Minor, and throughout North Africa. Ensconced by Constantine the Great’s (d. 337) Edict of Milan in 313, Christian communities flourished in these regions for hundreds of years.
That all changed in rapid succession in the 600’s A.D. with the rise of Islam from deep within the Arabian desert. Christianity was immediately in the crosshairs irrespective of praxis (by then, there were varying regional influences on Christianity including Roman Catholicism, as well as the Antiochene and the Alexandrian schools of thought) nor the ethnicity of the practitioner.
By the mid-630’s Islamic militants drove deep into Roman Syria and routed a sizeable Roman army at the banks of the Yarmuk River. In short order, the great Egyptian city of Alexandria succumbed to militant Islamists in the 640’s, setting in motion a gauntlet of terror against the indigenous Christians (Copts) of the Nile Delta region that continues to this day. Once Egypt was overrun, the pathway opened up to take the rest of Roman North Africa, including Carthage, a city which had significant formative influence on Christian doctrine through the likes of Tertullian and Augustine.
Widely regarded as the first Christian nation, Armenia was put under the ignominious scimitar of Jihad beginning in 705 as Christians were slaughtered, churches burned, clergy and nuns were murdered or raped.
With the rise of Turkic Islamists in the 11th Century, the former Christian Middle Eastern and North African regions had essentially transmuted into pockets of vassal communities under unremitting threat of annihilation.
In short, from the outset of Islam, Christians and Christian countries from across North Africa to Syria, to the Armenians and the inhabitants of Asia Minor region, were conjointly targeted for their faith by diverse people groups who were collectively unified under the banner of Jihad.
The Stirring of a Soul
As the 11th Century was concluding, militant Islam had feverishly engulfed much of the Middle East and North Africa. “The persecution and carnage had reached apocalyptic levels by the 1090’s,” writes Raymond Ibrahim in his book Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West, describing the slaughter and enslavement of vast numbers of Christians.
It was during this time that Godfrey, a nobleman and a warrior, reached a juncture that may be described as ‘sanctified indignation.’ This Christian man of station, wealth, and deep faith was not merely riled – he was moved. His impassioned and pragmatic exaltation seems to have been borne out of self-reflection as evidenced by his singular focus and manifest resolution to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and lift the scimitar from the necks of indigenous Christians in the region.
Likewise, Pope Urban II (d. 1099) who was similarly actuated, made his famous clarion call to arms from Clermont on November 27, 1095:
…they [Muslim Turks] circumcise Christians and smear the blood from the circumcision over the alters…They are pleased to kill others by cutting open their bellies, extracting the end of their intestines, and tying it to a stake…Who is to repair the damage, if you do not do it?…Rise up and remember the manly deeds of your ancestors.
Godfrey, along with a vast number of notable Christian knights, sold many of their lands and possessions to fund what became the First Crusade. When the dust settled at the end of their campaign in 1099, thousands of Christians from Asia Minor, Armenia, and Syria, were liberated along with Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher.
Learning From Godfrey
Fast forward nearly one millennium to present-day America where Christianity is increasingly the target of advancing secular atheists, and a consistent refrain amongst many Christians can be heard – what can I do?
Perhaps we should consider that our present storm clouds pale in comparison to the ongoing maelstrom of incessant persecution experienced by our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Syria, Armenia and a host of other countries. A persecution that started in the 7th Century.
Ibrahim recently described how Coptic Christian churches “and sometimes even of Christians [are] accidentally catching fire” in the Middle East in general, Egypt in particular.” Open Doors chronicled over 2,000 incidences in 2023 alone of churches and public Christian institutions being “attacked, damaged, bombed, looted, destroyed.” Frank Gaffney of Save the Persecuted Christians, recently detailed data that “the heavy persecution of over 360 million Christians in a record number of countries worldwide feeds into human trafficking supply-chains.”
Here is where Godfrey’s awakening and exhortation becomes immediately relevant.
Like Godfrey and his contemporaries, American Christians should: 1) Introspectively come to grips with this fact: we have also allowed the torment of brothers and sisters in Christ to become an abstraction and need to reach a similar point of sanctified indignation; 2) Apply our gifts on their behalf.
In terms of the latter, Godfrey applied his de facto skill set harnessed through living in an intensely martial age – namely his prodigious capabilities as a warrior. Hand-to-hand combat is not part and parcel to our times; however, our overarching and applicable strength as American Christians is most certainly in collective prayer and also in our comparative abundance of resources.
As for the former, if the burning of Churches and the crucifying of Christians doesn’t stir our souls, then let us dispense with any grand visions of Christian solidarity if the atheists come for us.
While the brontides of anti-Christianism in America portend an ominous future, perhaps it is time to ask:
What assistance, my American brothers and sisters in Christ, can we hope for from God, we who, while His churches are perishing and His people are persecuted in diverse countries, not only do not come to their defense, but do not even put forward any word of objection?
Joachim Osther is a multi-disciplinarian – a freelance writer focusing on the intersection of culture and Christianity. Osther holds a master’s degree in theological studies while working as a strategist, advisor, and published author in the life sciences.