As ISIS took over Mosul “nun”, a letter in the Arabic alphabet was written on the walls of every Christian’s home. The nun stood for the nasrani (Nazarene), which is a reference to Jesus, who was from city of Nazareth.
This symbol marked the home for pillage and attack and, similar to Jewish stars put on Jews throughout the centuries, was meant to degrade Christians by singling them out.
This symbol of hate, however, was turned around. A reporter in Iraq started a twitter and then a t-shirt campaign dubbed “We are all Nazarene.” The campaign was meant as an act of defiance against their oppressors and a rallying call for everyone around the world to stand in solidarity against this tyranny.
There’s a much older story told within the Coptic Christian community. After the Arab conquest in 7th Century Egypt, many Coptic Christians converted. Those who did not were tattooed with the cross as a sign of denigration that they were Christian. Later it became a sign of pride and identity, with kids as young as two years getting the tattoo. It a symbol and statement of proud identity against those who try to stamp them out.
I met one such Coptic Christian tattooist in Jerusalem who has a long history of giving tattoos. You can read about him and the rest of the Razzouk family here.