I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer. (John 16:1-4)
Relate: There is a bit of debate as to what exactly ISIL believes. They call themselves salafis. Basically that is an ultra fundamentalist movement to try and restore Islam to what it was in the first three generations. It should be noted that more than a fifth of those in Saudi Arabia view themselves as salafist and all twelve of the judges on ISIL’s kangaroo court are Saudi. Salafi detractors of ISIL call them wahhabi. Wahhabism is similar to salafism except it has a much more political and iconoclastic bent. ISIL’s destruction of certain muslim “saints” tombs fit nicely in line. Also, wahhabism is considered by many to be a derogatory term for salafis with delusions of grandeur. Declaring themselves a new caliphate and demanding all Muslims world over to recognize the spiritual authority of ISIL’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Badgdadi, might possibly be considered delusions of grandeur. It was also the one act that motivated many other Muslim leaders to finally condemn ISIS. Apparently, they didn’t want to do so until their own authority was in question. There are also those who claim ISIL are actually Khawarij. That is basically the Muslim version of “cult” or “apostate”, but it comes from a group way back in the seventh century who rejected the current caliph’s authority and emigrated into what is now southern and western Iraq. They are most noted for their belief that all who claimed to be Muslim but did not agree with them were deserving of death… sound familiar?
No matter what else is said, one thing even their strongest detractors would agree on, is that ISIS is passionate in their beliefs. No matter how warped and twisted those beliefs might be, they have demonstrated over and over again a willingness to kill and to die for them. When they murder the Shiite, when they kill the Kurd, when they execute the Christian, they truly do believe they are doing a holy service to God.
React: Persecution of Christians in Iraq isn’t anything new. It has been going on for years now. A decade ago, on one day, eleven people died as five churches in Baghdad and Mosul were bombed. The tally of bombed churches had climbed to over sixty long before ISIS took the town of Qaraqosh and surrounding areas sending over a hundred thousand cultural Christians running for their lives. Under Hussein, there were roughly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. That number “grew” to about 300,000 by 2012. Now it is much closer to 0. ISIS is only the last in a long line of Muslim groups persecuting and killing Christians while thinking they are doing a “holy service to God.”
Most of those interviewed now living as refugees in Baghdad or in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, claim they have no intention of returning to their homes. They are making the journey that over a million of their friends and neighbors made before them. The question is, if all the salt has left or is leaving, what will stop the decay from growing? If all the light is gone, why do we wonder if darkness reigns? ISIS will not be beat by guns and bombs. Darkness only truly flees when light returns.
God, I pray for those who have been forced from their homes and their lands at gunpoint. I pray that the refugees will find in You their refuge. I pray also for the friends and the families of those who had the boldness to stay and paid for that choice with their lives. I pray that the blood of your saints, that has been watering this land for over a decade, would begin to bear fruit beyond what any could have imagined. Most of all I pray for Your soon return. Come quickly, Lord. Bring a final end to all this horror and torment.