[14th August, 2014 – this blog was written before the most recent news came out of Iraq (in the Islamic State) of the fleeing Yazidis and Christians on Mount Sinjar. I still stand by my blog since there will still be victims of different religions in the IS, including innocent Muslims, and I am noticing a lot of Christian media seemingly ignoring the Yazidis and reporting this as ‘persecution of Christians’]…
I’ve noticed two things occurring a lot on the internet recently: First, different sites and sources stating that Christians are being persecuted, tortured and executed in places like the ISIS-controlled parts of Syria. Second, different sites and sources pinning blame on all Muslims, or just Islam, for all this trouble. Some even making claims like ‘99% of religious persecution is perpetrated by Muslims’. For me, it’s just ‘the new anti-Semitism’ and is almost ‘in vogue’ in some quarters.
At the outset, let me state where I stand; as a Christian, I see salvation only in one name; no other name has the power or is the medium by which we shall see God. Unlike deceivers like John Hagee, who could deceive ‘even the elect’ into a sort of syncretistic ‘super-religion’ of what I call Judaeo-Christianity, I stand by the very clear words of my own Lord:
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)
However, this does not mean that I can find no ground on which I can live with anyone of any other faith, or no faith. In fact, I am commanded to not only live peaceably with everyone (Romans 12:18), but to even love my enemies, and pray for my persecutors (Matthew 5:44). Jesus also gave us a caveat to warn us against stupidity:
‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’ (Matt. 10:16)
With this in mind, I must then seek to establish truth about any claims that I hear, to enable myself and others to discern just who are really perpetrators of wrong, and who are not, whom I can trust, and whom not, and to know how to deal with them. However, this in no way overthrows or supersedes his command to love.
I am also commanded to not let the world shape or infect my mind (Romans 12:2). In our modern world, we can fall into two opposing traps with politics and apply modern attitudes to Biblical truths: At one extreme, we must never let a blind devotion to any ideology to allow us to end up dismissing these truths if they don’t fit into that ideology. At the other end of the scale, indifference or cynicism with politics can lead us to treat anything we hear with a dismissive wave of the hand. Let us get this clear: Jesus did not say ‘love your enemies’ just for a quotable soundbite.
Now dealing with persecution of Christians; yes, there is a lot of it, and it is largely going unreported. For a very good explanation of possible reasons for this, here’s an excellent article. The problem I have with much of what is coming out of Iraq/Syria is that it is largely unverifiable, and much is subject to sensationalism and twisting for various political purposes. In one case I have discussed at length in many places, some have reported that Christians were crucified, yet all news sources that could be found reported that they were Muslims accused of apostasy i.e. they did not hold to the narrow interpretation of Islam that ISIS and their leader, Al Baghdadi, maintain is the only true Islam. More importantly, they were not crucified, but executed, then their bodies hung up on public display – WHY does this even need any misreporting to make it more brutally sensational than it already is?
Misreporting this does various things:
1. We set ourselves up to be knocked down. Once anyone can point out that we have misrepresented something, they become entitled to accuse us of doing it deliberately (whether their accusation is correct or not); deliberate misrepresentation is a fancy term for lying.
2. We distract attention from the real persecution of fellow believers that is going on, and possibly make others think we are crying ‘wolf’ when it needs to be highlighted.
3. We may be seen as partisan in that we only wish to highlight wrongs done ‘to us’ when we should really be defending all victims of persecution. We must learn that most politicians see politics as a game, and they play the ‘them and us’ card all the time. Those of us in Northern Ireland in particular should be wise to this! Let us rise above such pettiness. On the idea (or the prevalent trend) that it’s all coming from Islam, here’s just a few examples to bust that myth:
Atheists – http://tinyurl.com/NorthKoreaPersecution
Christians – http://tinyurl.com/ChristiansPersecuteMuslims
Even ‘pacifist’ Buddhists! – http://tinyurl.com/BuddhistsPersecutingMuslims
This was just a few short Googles worth! Now just think that right away, you could say “those so-called Christians don’t act or speak for me!” then surely you must allow Muslims the same chance to say that about ISIS, Hamas and Al-Qaeda!
Happily, though, it’s not all bad:
And even some Muslims are already standing up to ISIS:
These last examples serve to show the good people on all sides of religious and political divides, who will stand up for truth, peace and justice, for anyone. Shame on us if we do not do the same!
We need to defend those Muslims who are also suffering at the hands of extremists like ISIS, along with Christians and other religious groups, for ‘apostasy’ from the narrow ideology they adhere to. There are many other jihadists, like ISIS, who actually believe that their tiny group are the only true Muslims on Earth (sounds like some Christian denominations I know!), and even fight with other jihad groups within their own country! Adopting this way of acknowledgement and solidarity, we recruit many more to assist in the true fight against terrorism and jihadism, not the political ‘War on Terror’ that our leaders keep banging on about! And by following the command of our Lord Jesus to love them, we reach them with the true gospel in ways far beyond anything we could expect.
Grace be with you.