This is no potential friend or even a little bit of fun. And furthermore, these 4 little letters strike fear in my cowardly heart.
What is ISIS, though? Why do we keep hearing about it? We can hardly avoid it. Ah, but wait…If we just close our brains and numb ourselves with the kitty cats and the celebrity drama of our newsfeed, pretty soon we're blinded to important realities.
If we know nothing, we have no responsibility. Things are simpler, easier, cleaner.
We call B.S. on that.
Let’s peek out from behind our blinders regarding the chaotic dynamics ever-shifting in the Middle East and Europe. Let’s engage, interact, know.
HERE WE GO...
What is ISIS, anyway?
ISIS is a Sunni Muslim group whose aim is to follow prophecy to the apocalypse. They wave black flags.
What does “Sunni” mean?
Sunni’s and Shiites are branches of the Islamic faith. They have had at least 1400 years of conflict between them based on who took over when the Prophet Mohammed died in the 600’s B.C (hint: it was the Sunni’s).
How did ISIS start?
Last summer, a caliphate was formed (a religious group claiming that adherence is the only way to salvation) with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its head, or caliph. A caliphate forming is a huge deal, people. It triggers the start of all kinds of Muslim prophecy towards the end of the world.
A caliphate (a group of people in allegiance to caliph Baghdadi) is commanded by prophecy to wage war and to not ever stop until the end of the world. If they do anything less than this, they lapse into sin and their caliphate becomes invalid. The means by which they plan to accomplish this goal are medieval (think crucifixion, slavery, genocide, torture).
Is ISIS basically just another Al Qaeda?
Let’s put it this way; ISIS thinks Al Qaeda is way too loose with its rules and regs even though they’re both Sunni. The experts we’ve read say that ISIS is an unusual Muslim group because they seem to be holding the line on said rules and regs. This “purity” lends credibility to their group.
What does ISIS think of Jesus?
They like him a lot. He’s their number 2 guy (the Prophet Mohammed is number 1). In fact, ISIS thinks Jesus will ultimately help them achieve supreme victory in the end.
Christians must submit to the caliphate by coming under its authority and paying a tax. A Muslim is considered apostate (and worthy of death) by participating in modern-day activity like running for office, wearing Western clothes, selling drugs/alcohol, men shaving their beards.
Are you saying Muslims are in more danger than Christians?
Don’t get us wrong, Christians have been beheaded and persecuted as ISIS has risen in its’ power. But Christians are not the only target. Rather, ANY group that is not willing to align themselves with ISIS’ interpretation of the Koran are to be dealt with.
Why should we care?
The good ol' U.S. of A. has LOTS of oil interests in that region. These kinds of conflict affect the things made with oil (examples: crayons, hair color, DVD’s, ice cube trays, gas for your mini-van all require oil).
Many in the Middle East are being persecuted. If we value human life, this is something to which we should pay attention. When Jesus was walking the earth, you would find him with the marginalized. If you ignored the plight of “the least of these” you would never have seen Him. And the same is true this very day. If we’re looking for Jesus, He is where the poorest, most persecuted are.
There is a toxic potion being shared by millions of people in the Middle East: without a healthy economy, without jobs, without proper education, without healthcare and a without a working government, men and women are seeking meaning and purpose.
This potion leads people to become attracted to radical groups like ISIS that will give them focus in life, even if that life is a terribly brutal one. Better to be part of a big, exciting, apocalyptic narrative than to scrounge around year after year just to survive a dead-end life.
There is a generation of children and young adults who will succumb to joining some type of radical Islamic group so they can live a bigger story than the one they are living currently.
How can we pray?
We came upon a profound comment underneath one of the articles that seemed to sum it up. Don F. in Portland wrote:
“…Peace will come to the Middle East when Shiites and Sunnis love their children more than they hate the other sect…”
I know these parents love their children – no one is suggesting they don’t. And I became well acquainted with the fact that these conflicts are very complex. But I DO see that love is the trump card here. Let’s pray for that.
The Bible tells us that when our mind is on the Lord, peace in our hearts will prevail (Isaiah 26:3). And John 16:33 tells us that Jesus’ desire is for us to be whole and at peace even though there is trouble in this world - fear isn’t necessary.
Maybe part of walking in faith is taking Him at His Word. Can we lean on Him when sorting out the worst evil in the world and still have peace? The answer is: YES we can.
What can we do?
If you’re willing to take off the blinders along with us, you may feel an impulse to do something that matters for the situation. When you see a situation more clearly, it’s natural to consider how you can AFFECT this situation in any helpful way. But it’s not like we can organize a 5k and YAY!...everyone is okay over in the middle east. So what is there for us to do? How can we act?
Here are a few organizations that are doing relevant, “boots on the ground” work with the marginalized people in the wake of all the chaos:
Here are a couple of ideas you may not have considered:
The Iraqi Children Foundation assists "the families and communities of Iraq by mobilizing a life-changing “Surge of Love” for millions of children orphaned by violence in Iraq."
The Quilliam Foundation claims to be "the world's first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity and belonging in a globalized world."
We think awareness coupled with action puts us squarely in the center of a rich life in Christ. With knowledge we have the chance to pray and act -- especially once we take our blinders off to really SEE.
What are you pretending not to really SEE? We’d love to hear from you...
First off, Christina, I am so proud of you for bravely tackling this post! If I am the only one that reads this I think it's worth it. Really! The big, black letters of the acronym alone makes me want to change the channel or switch my newsfeed. The persecution and horror of this group is so intense. BUT -- that doesn't mean my fleshly response is right. In fact, as you point out, it is counter to the filter Jesus asks me to look through. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10). I love your line, "If we are looking for Jesus, He is where the poorest, most persecuted are." This situation is excrutiatingly complicated at best. Thank you for the encouragement to press into God's heart on this issue, relying on God's ultimate victory for good and not for evil and for providing tangible avenues we can partner with to truly make a difference. If it matters to HIM, it should matter to me.
After reading this, I kind of want to unread it. The complexity of all the situations in the Middle East, is what hit me the hardest. With this kind of religious complexity, my first reaction is, "there is nothing I can do . . . I sure hope this never affects me." I am asking myself, is there anything wrong with my reaction? Is it OK to not do anything? Do I only have to do something if I feel like God is impressing it on my heart and what on earth could I really do? But what if everyone has the same reaction as I do? Will anything change, over there? Would my quiet little prayers ever invade the loud terror over there? I don't feel like it. But something is stirring in my heart. Will I investigate that stirring or not? I don't know, to be honest.