Saint Michael, the archangel of battle, is tattooed across the back of a U.S. army veteran who recently returned to Iraq and joined a Christian militia fighting Islamic State in what he sees as a biblical war between good and evil.
Brett, 28, carries the same thumb-worn pocket Bible he did whilst deployed to Iraq in 2006 – a picture of the Virgin Mary tucked inside its pages and his favorite verses highlighted.
“It’s very different,” he said, asked how the experiences compared. “Here I’m fighting for a people and for a faith, and the enemy is much bigger and more brutal.”
Thousands of foreigners have flocked to Iraq and Syria in the past two years, mostly to join Islamic State, but a handful of idealistic Westerners are enlisting as well, citing frustration their governments are not doing more to combat the ultra-radical Islamists or prevent the suffering of innocents.
The militia they joined is called Dwekh Nawsha – meaning self-sacrifice in the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ and still used by Assyrian Christians, who consider themselves the indigenous people of Iraq.