“It’s really scary, but they need Jesus, man,” Manuel told Rapzilla. “You’ve got to go where the gospel is needed. The light shines the brightest in the darkness. If they’re going to open the doors, let us rap and share our faith on tour, we’ve got to at least explore the opportunity.”
Last month, CNN reported that death threats by the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forced Christians to flee Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. As many as 100,000 Christians have abandoned their homes in Iraq, according to The Guardian. Approximately 70,000 religious minorities are reportedly trapped on Mount Sinjar of northern Iraq, much of which ISIS controls.
The mission trip would take CTZN to ISIS-free southern Iraq, which remains under government control. However, ISIS intends to conquer the entire country. Even if it fails, Iraq ranked the fourth-worst nation in religious persecution in the world before its atrocities this summer, according to Open Doors.
This June, CTZN flew to Turkey for a mission trip. Turkey is 99.8% Muslim and neighbors Iraq, but it ranks outside the top 50 most persecuted nations. Manuel and Decipha still thought they could die at one point in their trip, though.
CTZN and a team of entertainers toured Turkey, performing and sharing the gospel through a translator at a dozen venues. Their largest and most intimidating audience was formed by about 3,000 hungry Muslim men—hungry because CTZN performed before Iftar, the Muslims’ evening meal which breaks their day-long fast during the month of Ramadan.
“If we’re going to die,” Manuel told Decipha, “it’s going to be here.”
They performed. They shared the gospel. And the Muslims responded how they usually did on CTZN’s trip.
CTZN shared the gospel with attendees after the dinner for two hours. When atheist hecklers wanted Manuel and Decipha to stop sharing the gospel at another performance later that night, the confidence built earlier that day kept them preaching. It’s also the confidence that has CTZN willing to tour Iraq.
“God can really do anything,” said Manuel. “If he’s for us, I’m just learning more and more that nothing can be against us. That doesn’t mean we won’t get beat up, persecuted or even killed. But even then, the best thing for Kareem—for any person who follows Jesus—is to die and go be with the Lord. Now, I’m not looking to die. I would love to see my kids grow up ... But our ultimate gift is to be with the Lord, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Between now and then, CTZN will work on releasing an album and three more EPs in a series of five. It dropped Christus Resurrexit and Parapiptó earlier this year and will visit JahRockn Studios in August to record its album.
Manuel asked prayer, and financial support can be offered at CTZN’s official website.
David Daniels is a writer for Rapzilla.com. He graduated from Geneva College and lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.