ISIS is without question one of the worst persecutors of Christianity in the world. Barbaric, well-funded and well-organized, the terrorist organization is a formidable, malignant foe both to democratic countries and our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
One of Jesus’s most challenging instructions is to pray for our enemies, which means we are called as Christians to pray for ISIS. To help understand who ISIS is and how we can pray regarding them, here are four facts you might not have known about the terrorist group:
ISIS’s origins start with al-Qaeda
ISIS was originally founded by Osama bin Laden protégé Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and for a brief time, combined with al-Qaeda. They were known as “The Land of Two Rivers,” or more popularly as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
… but were too extreme, even for them.
For Al-Qaeda, the problem in the world is all infidel/non-Muslim cultures, specifically Western Christian cultures; however, Zarqawi and ISIS believe the “umma” (global Islamic community) needs purging. For ISIS, much of Islam is apostate for failing to adhere to Sharia law. Both in rhetoric and in action, ISIS quickly went farther than al-Qaeda was willing to go, and when Zarqawi refused to listen to al-Qaeda’s warnings, the groups separated. After Zarqawi’s death, Muharib al-Juburi took charge and announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). In 2013, the name was changed to ISIS when the new leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the territorial expansion of the state into Syria.
ISIS’s radical ideology targets more than just Christians
While Christians certainly are ISIS’s primary target, they have also committed genocide against Shia Muslims, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks and Mandeans. Basically, anyone who disobeys Sharia law are infidels. ISIS’s mass executions and horrific sexual assaults of women and young girls are carried out against any group they deem an apostate. According to a New York Times report in July of 2016, more than 1,200 people have been killed by ISIS—or ISIS inspired attacks—outside of Syria and Iraq.
ISIS wants to be more than just terrorist group
ISIS’s ultimate aim, as their name implies, is to form a massive Islamic nation ruled by strict Sharia law. To that end, ISIS is highly organized, establishing governing structures throughout the territories it rules. ISIS has a cabinet, governors, financial and legislative bodies, and a bureaucratic hierarchy that is run by a council.
ISIS releases annual business reports, most recently releasing a 400-page document with detailed mission reports, achievements and strategy. Some of that included over 1,000 assassinations. They also mentioned in their reports social media-friendly infographics of their operations.
ISIS is one of the well-funded terrorist groups in the world
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in 2006, when ISIS was still known as AQI, “it was already bringing in approximately $70 million through criminal activities.” ISIS today is funded largely through oil smuggling and exporting, as they currently control seven oil fields and two small refineries in the northern part of Iraq.
They also pillage resources from any territory they take. When ISIS took control of Mosul, they stole $425 million from the city’s central bank alone. However, today, according to CNN, ISIS earnings have plunged by 80% in the last two years due to loss of territory and restricted access to oil.
So how do we pray?
-Pray that God would enable those fighting against ISIS to continue to gain ground. The less territory ISIS holds, the fewer people they can oppress, the fewer resources they have and the less powerful they look.
-Pray for the leadership of ISIS, that God would miraculously soften the hearts of the hundreds of men who make up the leadership hierarchy.
-Pray for ISIS’ allies to continue to distance themselves. Even among militant Islamic terrorist groups, ISIS is seen as extreme. Pray that ISIS would become increasingly isolated and vulnerable.
-Pray for those indoctrinated and brainwashed by ISIS. ISIS is very good at giving aimless, directionless and lonely people a sense of mission. They make them feel powerful and important. Pray for those caught in the lies of ISIS, that God would shine His truth.
-And of course, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters bravely resisting ISIS. Pray that God would give them favor, protection and use them to show the love of Jesus that extends to even those who hate Him most.