A number of Christian sites have reported the horrors that are occurring in ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East. One such report coming out of Iraq is that members of ISIS have marked Christian homes with the Arabic letter n, standing for “Nazarene.” The message sent tells believers to flee or face death.
The tragedy of the situation is indeed shocking. The inhabitants of the 1600-year-old Syriac Catholic monastery of Mar Behnam near Mosul were told to vacate. The monks there had to leave everything behind, taking—literally—only the shirts on their backs. Militants refused to allow the monks to take anything else with them. And 1800-year-old church in Mosul and its library have been destroyed, and most of the city’s Christian population have fled. Believers were given the options of paying a jizya (a fee) or face the sword. One estimates put the number of Christians in Iraq at just under half a million, down over fifty percent from 2003.
We could ask why world governments why are allowing this outrage to continue. We might question our more peaceful and liberally-minded Muslim neighbors why they do not openly denounce the activities of these extremists. But I say we pray for ISIS. This may sound strange. Please allow me to explain.
The extremists in ISIS have been duped by a false prophet offering empty promises of pristine virgins and salvation by death. They consider themselves crusaders of righteousness when they are in fact victims of the Enemy. They have been fooled into thinking that violence and terror–rather than peace and love–are the means to achieving the future.
I pray that these fighters come to understand the nature of their deeds and repudiate them. I hope they turn to the God who raises the dead instead of one that raises the sword. They are not struggling in pursuit of the truth, but in opposition to it.