a globalized Christian response to ISIS

Globalization is a term most often applied to business and economics. But what about the church? The Internet has enabled far more than just stock market information to instantaneously sail around the world. It’s also allowed news about natural disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal to be instantly known about and responded to by the people and nations who have the means to help the most.

Christians who take their faith seriously know that, by definition, we are to be known by how we love. So it’s not surprising that Christians have been among the first and most willing mobilizers to the worst disasters in the globalized age, even if it means contracting Ebola or being taken hostage themselves.

But something different is happening in the case with ISIS–even while our own brothers and sisters in Christ are among those being systematically scourged from the region. The typical response from Christians has been one of fear, as if persecution was somehow a brand new concept in the church. Perhaps to most American Christians, it is. But something tells me that we are not supposed to be singing “LA-LA-LA’s” with our fingers in our ears while what has been called the worst humanitarian disaster of our time by the UN goes on right under our noses.

I understand there’s been no shortage of distractions lately. Violence is happening in our country as well, although not even on a fraction of the scale as Iraq and Syria. There’s an election coming up in our government, which has been busy making the kind of laws a government that is separated from the church would naturally make. There is much to talk about, like flags, marriage, and racism. And ISIS is half a world away. But thanks to globalization, that’s not an excuse anymore–for governments or for the church. It sure doesn’t seem to be an excuse for ISIS. They’ve mastered social media and reached disturbingly effective tentacles into what the FBI estimates is now all 50 American states. And yet we Christians would still prefer to pretend nothing is required of us. It’s their problem. Let the military blow them all back to the stone age. Or at best, keep a quiet and close eye on our Muslim neighbors. How do any of those responses ring of the Christian identity that has always been based on sacrificial love?

I understand that we will never make life perfectly peachy for everyone. I even understand that we can’t give to every cause claiming to serve a genuine need. But the problem is that most people rely on that kind of logic to do and give to nothing. And that’s just simply not going to cut it. If you give your time and resources to something and are passionate about making a difference with a different cause, that’s fantastic. But if you’re not giving to anything, this might be a great place to start.

When ISIS stormed onto our news feeds and cable networks a little over a year ago, I don’t think anyone was thinking they would be around for as long as they have been. It’s sad that we’ve become desensitized to mass killings and executions, especially in the Middle East. All the while, ISIS has entrenched itself deeper and made clear that they intend to stick around. They aren’t interested in making friends with any nation; they’re actually in outright war against all of them. That’s the very creed of the end times prophecy they believe they are ushering in. In the process, millions have been displaced with really nowhere to go. It’s so bad that there’s now headlines for the migrant crisis in Europe, which is where all those people are desperately trying to get to. And that is only if they somehow avoided being slaughtered or sold into sex slavery.

This crisis warrants a response–from the world and our own government, yes. That has already begun, albeit very slow. It’s clear that this is a much more complicated issue than anyone realized. Ninety different countries are now represented within the ranks of the self-declared caliphate, including western nations and even the U.S. But the crisis that has been brewing in Iraq and Syria also warrants a response from the international church, the local church, and from each individual within it. Governments are extensions of the people and ultimately must do what its people demand it to do. The church is no different. And so action from a rising group of individuals is the response that will provide immediate assistance and also spark a deeper reaction from a global perspective.

I know… it’s easy to look at the neverending lists of articles and updates and become overwhelmed. What can one church do? What can one person do? But my prayer is that no Christian who takes his or her faith seriously will reach the end of this crisis and have to explain why they decided to do nothing. Don’t be someone who sees these viral photos and videos of people being beheaded, shot, or doused in fuel and burned alive, and then goes on about their merry way because it’s not happening in our own neighborhood. Even if it’s a one-time, quick donation, we can all help. I found some solid organizations below you can easily give to. But don’t be someone who hears about how many millions of people–Christians in particular–have been forced from their homes with no safe haven to flee to and keeps scrolling so they can get to the more cheerful post of the funny prank video.

In the past year, countless little girls who are just like your daughter, or niece, or neighbor, have been sold into sex slavery simply because they were unlucky enough to be born in ISIS’ path. Countless people have been tortured, shot, and beheaded. These aren’t nameless, unknown people. They’re sons just like yours; husbands and fathers just like yours. They were each part of a family like yours, and their loss is still being mourned.

Meanwhile, many of us have our heads in the sand, pretending that the only thing we need to be worried about is keeping the stain of what’s happening over there from reaching here. As long as it’s away from our shores, we will continue to ignore. But I have an issue with that mindset. More than 250,000 Iraqi and Syrian people have been killed at the hands of ISIS. If you’re having difficulty letting that sink in, imagine a disaster in proportion to 9/11 happening in the U.S. every week for a year and a half. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the displaced families and the women who have been captured and sold as slaves to the very men who killed the rest of their families.

Something is happening right now. It may be on the other side of the world, but it’s still happening. And thanks to globalization, it can still be said that it’s going on right under our noses. We can do something about it if we choose to. We didn’t choose to be born in a wealthy country, just like they didn’t choose to be born there. But greater responsibility isn’t given to the poor. It’s given to the rich, whether we like it or not. The reality is that we are among the few who can make a distinct difference in how our brothers and sisters are cared for. We have the greatest access to information that allows us to learn what is really going on over there, and make it even more of an issue with our government.

If you need scriptural references, there’s no shortage:

  • “If one member of the body suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
  • “Remember those who are in prison as if you were in prison with them” (Hebrews 13:3)
  • “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11)

Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world, and in our own communities no doubt. But, again, this has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time by the international body that was formed to intercept and respond to all humanitarian crises. They don’t use “greatest of our time” simply as a sensational headline to increase their ratings. The UN uses language like that when they need to generate action–when they need help. And what better opportunity for the group of people who are called to be known by our love for each other to step up and give just that?

Three things each of us can do:

  1. Educate ourselves and others, and not just through CNN or Fox. Check out BBC and Al Jazeera, who are much closer to what is happening. Follow reporters who are embedded in the Middle East and reporting directly out of what they see with their own eyes. Talk about what you hear. Let others know how serious the problem is and help snap them out of the same American suburbia noise you were once caught in.
  2. Pray. Invite others to pray with you. Set reminders on your phones to pray. If prayer is what we say it is, this is the most important thing we can possibly do. What we are witnessing from the front porch rocking chair in America is one of the greatest attempts to persecute the church in world history. And no, that’s not an overstatement. Right now, there are families fleeing for their lives and others who have already been slaughtered because of their faith in Jesus. They became martyrs, which is a far more biblical word than the majority of American Christians realize.
  3. Give as you pray for the organizations who are present and trying to help from within the humanitarian crisis. It’s a daunting task, but the church has an opportunity to work through organizations like World Help or The Cradle Fund. We must be known by our love. Give yourselves the opportunity to tell your kids about the time you stopped eating out as much, or started making your own coffee so that you could help the people in the region where Christianity was born. Praise God for the chance He is giving us to give up the clothes we see hanging in the window so we can help a family that is literally fleeing for their lives to be fed until they find a new home. It’s not like they’re trying to be persecuted. It’s not like they were thinking to themselves how great it would be if they could just survive off the good will and generosity of those wealthy Americans. Many are in their situation for believing Jesus is who we believe Him to be. Yet we’re not having our throats cut for it or our homes raided. This is our chance to honor their faith. Now is not the time to do nothing.

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