“By fasting it is possible both to be delivered from future evils and to enjoy the good things to come. We fell into disease through sin; let us receive healing through repentance, which is not fruitful without fasting.” — Saint Basil the Great
Fast of Nineveh, February 6-9, 2017
The Iraqi Christian Relief Council is petitioning all Christians in the United States to join their Assyrian Christian brothers and sisters around the world in observing the three-day Fast of Nineveh, known also as the Fast of Jonah, this February. For the last 13 years – and especially during the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – Assyrian Christians around the Middle East have paid a heavy price for their faith in Jesus Christ.
In order to promote solidarity with the persecuted church in the Middle East, beg the Lord for his mercy, and to usher in peace in war-torn Iraq and Syria, churches and communities across the United States are also invited to host a prayer vigil that will follow on the fourth day, the day of “giving thanks”.
What is the Fast of Nineveh?
The Fast of Nineveh, also known as the Rogation of the Ninevites, is an annual three-day fast that usually is observed three weeks before Lent. This year, the Fast of Nineveh will take place February 6-8, followed by a day of thanksgiving and prayer on Thursday, February 9.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”-2 Chronicles 7:14
How is the Fast of Nineveh observed today?
The tradition of observing the Fast of Nineveh began around the 6th century A.D, in what is now modern-day Iraq. During that time, the cities of Nineveh (Mosul), Erbil and Bet-Garmeh (Kirkuk) fell victim to a deadly plague that lasted for 12 years and took countless lives.
The bishop of the Church of the East, Mar Sabrisho, called for the entire Assyrian nation to pray and fast for three days, begging the Lord to rescue them from the plague upon their people. This fast was later incorporated into the tradition of the Church of the East and is now observed by many other Eastern denominations like the Coptic and Armenian Christians.
Who are the Assyrians?
The Assyrian Christians (also known as Syriac and Chaldean) are an ancient nation, descended from the same Ninevites who repented when they heard Jonah’s message. The Apostles Thomas and Bartholomew preached the gospel to the Assyrians of Iraq soon after Christ’s resurrection, and the Assyrians became one of the first nations to convert to Christianity.
Assyrians have inhabited their homeland of the Nineveh Plains, a swath of fertile land in Northern Iraq surrounding Mosul (Nineveh), for more than 5,000 years.
Convert or die
However, a steady century of escalating persecution at the hands of tyrants and radical Islamists has scattered the Assyrians around the Middle East. In 2003, there were approximately 1.2 million Assyrian Christians living Iraq and Syria; now, only 200,000 remain. The rise of the Islamic State in 2014 devastated the Assyrian Christian community of Iraq and Syria, as churches were destroyed, families fled their homes, women and children were sold into slavery and untold numbers lost their lives for refusing to deny their Savior Jesus Christ.
How to fast
The Fast of Nineveh traditionally is from midnight until sunset during these three days. Those who choose to fast traditionally abstain from food and drink. If for health reasons you are unable to do without food or drink during the day, try to abstain from meat, fish, or dairy products during the fast. The purpose of the fast is to give up a normal part of everyday life to reach a higher spiritual place.
Download our Fast of Nineveh information packet to learn more about this tradition of fasting. Donate to rebuild the Nineveh Plain after ISIS in Operation Return To Nineveh. Use hashtag #FastofNineveh on social media and tag @iraqichristian.