“Some people wonder all their lives if they made a difference,” Ronald Reagan once said. Then he added, “The Marines don’t have that problem.” That was certainly true of the Marines who fought and died on a little island called Iwo Jima seventy years ago now.

In the final phase of the war in the Pacific, Iwo Jima was strategic and essential to America and Japan — and it would cost them both dearly. Two out of every three Marines on Iwo Jima were killed or wounded before the Americans took the island. The fierce, heroic struggle was captured in what would become the most famous photograph of the war: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945.

Joe Rosenthal’s photograph, like the larger-than-life men he captured on camera, became the basis for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Though dedicated to the service and sacrifice of the Marines in all of America’s wars, it is still often referred to simply as the “Iwo Jima Memorial.” It is the tallest bronze statue in the world. The soldier figures are each over thirty feet tall, and the rifles are sixteen feet long.

Photographs, to use Lance Morrow’s phrase, “imprison time in a rectangle,” but they can never tell the whole story. Raising the flag on Mount Suribachi wasn’t the moment of victory — a triumphant point between war and peace. Three of the six men who raised the flag on February 23 would be killed in action on Iwo Jima in a battle that would rage on for another month. The flag represented hope when it was raised — it did not represent victory.

Worthy Sacrifices

The last time I visited the Iwo Jima monument, it was a lovely evening in Arlington. Visitors who walked around the base of the great bronze spoke with hushed voices. Even the selfie-snapping was reserved. The bronze giants basked in the warmth of the last light, and the flag snapped in the wind, much like the first time. It made me feel proud and humble at the same time.

From the bluff, I could see across the Potomac the tops of America’s other monuments huddled along the great expanse leading to the Capitol. Marble and bronze — the stuff of enduring memory — worthy of the sacrifices they commemorate.

At the time I was at Arlington, Christians were being shot, beheaded, even crucified by the Islamic State, and whole Christian populations were being utterly obliterated in Syria and Iraq. I thought to myself, “Where’s the monument to their sacrifice? What’s left for the generations to follow to remember?” Tragically, all that remains are smoldering ruins, bloodstains, and boot prints, as their killers move on.

Sometimes, even less than that remains. In November, a Christian couple in Pakistan were incinerated. Here’s their story.

The Barbarians Are Back

Debt peonage has long existed in Pakistan, keeping generations of Christians in slavery working in the brick kilns. Once I walked through such a slave colony near Lahore when the master was away in order to hear the workers’ stories. Little children stacked bricks, men tended the massive furnace firing the bricks, and women washed clothes in a stream that doubled as the sewer. It was in this same area last November that two brick workers, Shahzad Masih and his wife Shama, were killed. They were in a debt dispute with their owner, and in order to settle the score, he accused them of blasphemy, of burning pages of the Koran.

The blasphemy law in Pakistan is a convenient way of dealing with inconvenient people and usually works like this: kill first, then maybe ask questions later. The setting was readymade for a mob. Bricks were handy for stoning, the legs of the husband and wife were broken so they couldn’t escape, and then they were thrown into the furnace. Shahzad and his wife, who was five months pregnant, were burned to ash. This didn’t happen centuries ago in barbaric times — it happened in November. The barbarians are back.

Written by Tim Keesee
Read more at Desiring God

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