Iraqi Christians erect statue of Jesus

How about this for a defiant, death-defying public confession of faith?

The Christians of northern Iraq have chosen to defy mounting attacks by extremists by erecting a statue of Jesus modelled on the giant Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

The sculpture is only a tenth of the size of the 40-metre (130-foot) iconic statue that towers over the Brazilian city, but it has become a popular site for visitors in Hamdaniya, the north’s largest Christian town.

“The idea of the statue is not to say Christians were here in case we leave,” said Bashar Jarjees Habash, the city’s coordinator of Christian affairs. “But the idea of building the statue of Jesus opening his arms is to send a message of peace to everyone to say that we want to live in peace with all,” said the 48-year-old. “The people of this area have always tried to live in peace with everyone, even those who fight and threaten them.”

In February, Human Rights Watch called on Iraq’s government to do more to bolster security and protect Christians after a string of deadly attacks on the community ahead of last month’s elections.

“The statue might be small if we compare it with what Christians did for Iraq over hundreds of years. The statue is stone and can be removed at any time, but the history of Christians cannot be abolished,” said Habash. “We have a great history, we are very loyal to Iraq,” added the official charged by the church with preserving religious monuments.

The brick and plaster structure is in the middle of Hamdaniya, a city populated by 45,000 mostly Syriac Christians as well as a Kurdish Muslim community that makes up about 10 percent of the inhabitants.

Its construction was initiated and carried out by two local security guards who also have artistic skills. Using their bare hands, it was a labour of love. “With the help of 20 volunteers, we built the statue in less than a month and we spent about 150,000 dinars (128 dollars),” said one of them, Alaa Naser Matti. . . .

“We have chosen to make a Jesus with open arms because it means that the city has been placed under his protection and he wants to spread peace in Iraq,” said the 41-year-old.

via <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jwOrnvOa-jzNyIWYTOzeVtrlu7ag">AFP: Iraq Christians defy threats to erect Rio-like Jesus statue.

Click the link to see the picture, which I couldn’t copy for some reason.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    I suppose their heart is in the right place, but there is that whole Second Commandment thing about not making graven images.

  • Winston Smith

    I suppose their heart is in the right place, but there is that whole Second Commandment thing about not making graven images.

  • Joe

    Not following Winston – no matter how many times I read it. I don’t see that prohibition:

    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

  • Joe

    Not following Winston – no matter how many times I read it. I don’t see that prohibition:

    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

    What does this mean?

    We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

  • Winston Smith

    Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them …

    God wants us to know Him in our hearts, through the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through His inspired Word. Making an artist’s impression of Jesus is no substitute, and people tend to venerate and idolize the statue instead of the living God. Ironically, the muslims, with their iconoclastic disdain for images, seem to understand that idea better than some Christians. Putting up an image of God in a muslim culture almost seems calculated to offend them (if the offense of preaching Christ were not enough).

    Please understand that I don’t want to disparage the courage or the evangelical zeal of the embattled Iraqi believers for one second. Good intentions, however, should not trump God’s word.

  • Winston Smith

    Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them …

    God wants us to know Him in our hearts, through the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through His inspired Word. Making an artist’s impression of Jesus is no substitute, and people tend to venerate and idolize the statue instead of the living God. Ironically, the muslims, with their iconoclastic disdain for images, seem to understand that idea better than some Christians. Putting up an image of God in a muslim culture almost seems calculated to offend them (if the offense of preaching Christ were not enough).

    Please understand that I don’t want to disparage the courage or the evangelical zeal of the embattled Iraqi believers for one second. Good intentions, however, should not trump God’s word.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Now there is a religion of peace!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Now there is a religion of peace!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston,
    Just a question. Why did God command that the bronze sea be held up by bronze oxen? Or the ark be decorated with Cherubim?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston,
    Just a question. Why did God command that the bronze sea be held up by bronze oxen? Or the ark be decorated with Cherubim?

  • Joe

    Winston – I was just trying to get your goat (or perhaps golden calf). I am familiar with Exodus 20:4. However, I would point out that the idea that it prohibits an image of God is really a misapplication of it. 20:4 is talking idols not Christ images (unless you turn your icon into an idol, which admittedly does happen to some people).

  • Joe

    Winston – I was just trying to get your goat (or perhaps golden calf). I am familiar with Exodus 20:4. However, I would point out that the idea that it prohibits an image of God is really a misapplication of it. 20:4 is talking idols not Christ images (unless you turn your icon into an idol, which admittedly does happen to some people).

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry Wilson

    It’s an interesting question–one I’ve often wondered about (but it’s probably off topic) — that the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, and the rest of Protestantism have 3 different numberings of the Ten Commandments. But in answer to Bror, the Reformed have understood Exodus 20:4-6 as “the Second Commandment,” forbidding, not all images, but rather images of God, especially for worship (“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”). Many extrapolated that also to forbid images of the God-man, Jesus. See also Deuteronomy 4:15-19 — “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” See for example, Heidelberg Catechism, Q 94-98 . I just state that to inform, not to start an argument. But, for my own edification, I would be interested in being pointed to Lutheran interpretations of those texts.

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry Wilson

    It’s an interesting question–one I’ve often wondered about (but it’s probably off topic) — that the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, and the rest of Protestantism have 3 different numberings of the Ten Commandments. But in answer to Bror, the Reformed have understood Exodus 20:4-6 as “the Second Commandment,” forbidding, not all images, but rather images of God, especially for worship (“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”). Many extrapolated that also to forbid images of the God-man, Jesus. See also Deuteronomy 4:15-19 — “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” See for example, Heidelberg Catechism, Q 94-98 . I just state that to inform, not to start an argument. But, for my own edification, I would be interested in being pointed to Lutheran interpretations of those texts.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @Joe please understand that Winston is using the reformed number system for the Ten Commandments which divides the first commandment and combines the last two.

    Though iconoclasts seek to follow the commandments, in their legalism they have miss understood the prohibition of graven images. A graven image needs to be understood in the context of faith and worship as it ties in closely with the commandment to have no other Gods. In other words, they were prohibited from making an object to worship i.e. the golden calf made by Aaron.

    All I can say is that the Iraqi Christians are very brave or very dumb. To erect a statue in the likeness of Jesus in the middle of region already torn apart by muslim extremism, talk about baiting a rabid dog.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @Joe please understand that Winston is using the reformed number system for the Ten Commandments which divides the first commandment and combines the last two.

    Though iconoclasts seek to follow the commandments, in their legalism they have miss understood the prohibition of graven images. A graven image needs to be understood in the context of faith and worship as it ties in closely with the commandment to have no other Gods. In other words, they were prohibited from making an object to worship i.e. the golden calf made by Aaron.

    All I can say is that the Iraqi Christians are very brave or very dumb. To erect a statue in the likeness of Jesus in the middle of region already torn apart by muslim extremism, talk about baiting a rabid dog.

  • LAJ

    Winston-you might want to read State of the Arts by our blogger. He shows how art changed after Jesus became true man and lived on this earth.

  • LAJ

    Winston-you might want to read State of the Arts by our blogger. He shows how art changed after Jesus became true man and lived on this earth.

  • Kelly

    “God wants us to know Him in our hearts, through the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through His inspired Word. Making an artist’s impression of Jesus is no substitute…” It’s not very charitable to suggest that anyone who makes or owns a statue or other representation of Jesus is SUBSTITUTING the true knowledge of God for that, is it?

    “Ironically, the muslims, with their iconoclastic disdain for images, seem to understand that idea better than some Christians.” Good to know that we’re supporting an Islamic understanding of “You shall have no other gods, including making idols to worship” now.

  • Kelly

    “God wants us to know Him in our hearts, through the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through His inspired Word. Making an artist’s impression of Jesus is no substitute…” It’s not very charitable to suggest that anyone who makes or owns a statue or other representation of Jesus is SUBSTITUTING the true knowledge of God for that, is it?

    “Ironically, the muslims, with their iconoclastic disdain for images, seem to understand that idea better than some Christians.” Good to know that we’re supporting an Islamic understanding of “You shall have no other gods, including making idols to worship” now.

  • Joe

    Dr. L, I knew that. see comment 6.

    Larry – I think you mean three different ways are: Reformed, Orthodox and Lutheran/Rome. I do not believe we number differently than Rome.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls are in Milwaukee right now and Concordia-Mequon happens to have a Dead Sea Scrolls authority – Dr. Jastram on faculty. He actually work on the Scrolls as part of his Ph.D. work. Dr. Jastram gave a lecture at the museum and during it he pointed out that the Lutheran way of numbering the commandments is supported by the paragraph structure of the ancient manuscripts. 9 and 10 are broken out as two separate paragraphs in the manuscripts and graven images is not – it is included as part of the First Commandment paragraph.

    Here is his lecture: http://martin.cuw.edu/CourseCast/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=8a56a8eb-d309-43d3-87bd-3dbdbc248741

  • Joe

    Dr. L, I knew that. see comment 6.

    Larry – I think you mean three different ways are: Reformed, Orthodox and Lutheran/Rome. I do not believe we number differently than Rome.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls are in Milwaukee right now and Concordia-Mequon happens to have a Dead Sea Scrolls authority – Dr. Jastram on faculty. He actually work on the Scrolls as part of his Ph.D. work. Dr. Jastram gave a lecture at the museum and during it he pointed out that the Lutheran way of numbering the commandments is supported by the paragraph structure of the ancient manuscripts. 9 and 10 are broken out as two separate paragraphs in the manuscripts and graven images is not – it is included as part of the First Commandment paragraph.

    Here is his lecture: http://martin.cuw.edu/CourseCast/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=8a56a8eb-d309-43d3-87bd-3dbdbc248741

  • Jonathan

    God also commanded Moses to fabricate a snake on a pole, and everyone who looked at it would be saved if bitten by the poisonous vipers.

  • Jonathan

    God also commanded Moses to fabricate a snake on a pole, and everyone who looked at it would be saved if bitten by the poisonous vipers.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But in answer to Bror, the Reformed have understood Exodus 20:4-6 as “the Second Commandment,” forbidding, not all images, but rather images of God, especially for worship (“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”).”
    Larry,
    First, as others have pointed out that isn’t the second commandment, but….
    Am I supposed to believe that Winston is breaking the 8th commandment, and supposing that these Iraqis are worshiping this statue of Jesus in their town square?
    The reformed view on this leaves so much to be desired. But others have made that point quite sufficiently by now.
    I applaud these Iraqis for building this statue, and reminding their brothers and sisters of Christ and his teaching, while showing such charity to their fellow country men.
    As for DL21 C. (please, get a shorter name, and I refuse to address a blogger with that one) a rabid dog bites provoked or not as has been shown throughout the history of Islam, and something I’m sure this village knows. But these men have succeeded in getting some favorable publicity for Christ and his teachings, and that should be celebrated.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But in answer to Bror, the Reformed have understood Exodus 20:4-6 as “the Second Commandment,” forbidding, not all images, but rather images of God, especially for worship (“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God”).”
    Larry,
    First, as others have pointed out that isn’t the second commandment, but….
    Am I supposed to believe that Winston is breaking the 8th commandment, and supposing that these Iraqis are worshiping this statue of Jesus in their town square?
    The reformed view on this leaves so much to be desired. But others have made that point quite sufficiently by now.
    I applaud these Iraqis for building this statue, and reminding their brothers and sisters of Christ and his teaching, while showing such charity to their fellow country men.
    As for DL21 C. (please, get a shorter name, and I refuse to address a blogger with that one) a rabid dog bites provoked or not as has been shown throughout the history of Islam, and something I’m sure this village knows. But these men have succeeded in getting some favorable publicity for Christ and his teachings, and that should be celebrated.

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry Wilson

    Well, please correct me if you think I’m wrong — as if that invitation is needed! — but is it not actually the case that Orthodoxy and most of Protestantism numbers the commands the same, while Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism agree except that they reverse the order of the 9th and 10th commandments? Also, in my earlier post, I had included a link to the relevant portion of the Heidelberg Catechism in case any one wanted to see a primary document, but for some reason it didn’t appear with the post. So I’ll try again — Getting back to the point of Dr. Veith’s post, I thank God for our Iraqi brethren and I pray that our brothers and sisters may overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.

  • http://www.IndyOPC.org Larry Wilson

    Well, please correct me if you think I’m wrong — as if that invitation is needed! — but is it not actually the case that Orthodoxy and most of Protestantism numbers the commands the same, while Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism agree except that they reverse the order of the 9th and 10th commandments? Also, in my earlier post, I had included a link to the relevant portion of the Heidelberg Catechism in case any one wanted to see a primary document, but for some reason it didn’t appear with the post. So I’ll try again — Getting back to the point of Dr. Veith’s post, I thank God for our Iraqi brethren and I pray that our brothers and sisters may overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X