(RNS) #WeAreN is sweeping the Christian Twittersphere as churches, organizations and individuals change their avatars to the Arabic letter “Nun.”
It’s the symbol for “Nazarene,” or Christian, used by Islamic State militants in Iraq to brand Christian properties in Iraq as part of their effort to drive out an ancient Christian community with threats to convert or die.
Today, the trending avatar is intended as a global message of solidarity in the place everyone now turns for that — social media.
Switching to the Nun avatar is a gesture reminiscent of the long-standing (although factually debunked) legend that Danish Christians adopted Jewish star armbands during World War II in solidarity with Danish Jews.
Christianity Today magazine modified its usual @CTmag avatar to a Nun with a T:
Churches large and small chimed in, from The Church of England to the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its leader, Russell Moore, and Lifeway Research President Ed Stetzer also made the switch:
We've changed our avatar to include the Arabic letter ن (n), used by ISIS to mark Christian homes in Iraq. #WeAreN
— ERLC (@ERLC) July 24, 2014
Catholics, too, are on board. Traditionalists at Rorate Caeli claim they started the trend:
Vatican media strategist Greg Burke in Rome went Nun with an illustration from Iraq.
The Archdiocese of Washington kept its own seal for the avatar but tweeted the image with a plea:
Ethics professor Charlie Camosy was blunt:
Indeed, Jeremy Courtney, who says he launched #WeAreN, told RNS senior columnist Jonathan Merritt that global media — including social media — are missing the point of the awareness campaign. “I don’t know that it has done anything except make people feel like they are doing something when they are doing nothing at all,” he said.