Please Stop Sharing ISIS

Stop Sharing ISIS

 

For months now, ISIS has been waging their self-proclaimed Jihad in the Middle East. And their brutality knows few limitations. At least once a week they share- via various social media outlets- horrific videos of them executing captives who have fallen into their hands. The latest video was a choreographed killing of numerous Coptic Christians, captives from Egypt.

These are horrific atrocities, of the most heinous kind. And the various news articles testify to the brutality and evil of ISIS.

But please, think twice before sharing related articles on your social media.

I can understand (and-at times- relate to) the good intentions that may accompany one’s decision to share these articles. We want to get the word out, sound the call for prayer, petition for international intervention. I also understand that it can be cathartic- a means to vent the unspeakable anger and grief- to post a brief status damning this evil and it’s perpetrators with cited accompanying evidence.

But we are not helping by sharing the story. We are not helping the fight against evil by spreading articles testifying to its gruesome victories. What we spread when we share these news articles is anger, hatred, grief, hurt, pain and terror. We do not spread love or hope. We spread ISIS.

Consider the victims themselves. Often times they appear in their rehearsed executions dressed as criminals. They are forced in front of cameras knowing their imminent fate. They are presented as powerless against their captors, helpless prey in their claws, pitied examples of what ISIS claims will happen to all “infidels.” They are executed publicly, horrifically.

And then the video of their tragic fate is posted to the internet and its news is spread all around the world. The victims become household figures, shown in a state of terror and horror. Their life is taken and then their dignity is caught up in a wave of social-media virality.

Think also of the victims families. They have suffered unspeakable trauma; from the moment news of their loved ones’ disappearance first reached their doorstep, to seeing that their death has been recorded and is now broadcasting across the globe, the terror has infiltrated and destroyed every semblance of peace they will ever know.

We do not aid their sorrow by sharing photos of their loved one’s final moments.

I want to affirm and further the call to prayer and awareness that sharing these news stories raise. But as Christians we can, and should, be mindful of the fact that the world is vast and there are many dark corners in which evils we cannot imagine are occurring every day. We should never forget this. Nor should we cease in praying for those desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of death.

So please, hear me: we must be praying. We must be aware of the issues at hand. But this doesn’t mean we have to share videos and photos and archived descriptions of these cruelties.

Psychological terrorism is a real thing. And the cruelty of ISIS is that their hatred and brutality spreads beyond the immediate victims and into the homes of people across the world. This is why they post videos to the internet. It is why they have social media accounts that circulate their deeds to the public. They want to inspire hate. They want to inspire anger, fear and terror. And our egotistic, elevated view of “awareness” creates a social media in which second-hand trauma is defined as “news.”

But this isn’t news. It is terror. And the only one’s who win by us sharing these stories, by spreading word of the terrorists’ atrocities, are the terrorists themselves.

Lastly, the we need to remember the following: the reposting of these articles often serves to dehumanize ISIS. Again, the reaction to wish damnation and hell fire on masked figures who delight in executing men, raping women and mowing down children is understandable, human even. But we should not forget that- if we are to call ourselves Christians- then ISIS is not our enemy. They are personification of our enemy, yes, but they are not the real enemy. Christ’s commanded us to love our earthly enemies, to pray for them. In doing so Christ called us to stand for the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that was not of this earth though it came to earth and was announced in the person of Christ. Christians live in testimony to that kingdom: a kingdom that defeats- not instigators of death- but death itself.

Our enemy is not a terrorist organization or any earthly power alone. Our enemy is evil and death itself. And we are called to testify to this reality by praying for our earthly foe.

Of course, it is easy for me to say this nestled into my apartment in America, sipping on tea and stealing glances out the window at fresh snow as I write. It is easy for me to babble on and on about following Christ’s command to love vicious enemies on the other side of the globe because they’re on the other side of the globe. They are not a threat nor are they a perpetrator of unspeakable evil against me, my family, my home, my life. And I acknowledge that.

To some, my position may even be wildly offensive. But so was Christ’s command. Christ ordered his listeners to love their enemies as they stood surrounded by them. The Roman army was infamous for it’s domineering cruelty. At the time Jesus was born Herod ordered that every boy under the age of two be executed by the sword because he’d heard one of them was to be king. Another Roman ruler ordered a mass crucification of Jews outside Jerusalem, such that the Romans actually ran out of wood with which to build the crosses. Roman tactics were cruel, torturous and highly-calculated acts centered on conveying the message: “We are powerful. This is what we do to those who stand against us. Look and be terrified.”

By sharing videos and pictures of ISIS murdering their victims, we take the crosses of Rome and parade them through every corner of the wired world. We advance the message of ISIS’ Rome- “look at our power and might- look at our ability to humiliate and brutalize whomever we please”- and we carry it into our schools, our workplace, our churches, and our homes.

In doing so we forget that Jesus stood in the middle of a society where people travelled on roads lined with their crucified brothers, sisters, parents, children, leaders and hopes. And Jesus told them: “Love your enemies. Pray for those who kill you, mutilate you, terrorize you and exercise earthly authority over you.”

Please, pray for the victims of ISIS. Pray for the families who’s lives are ripped apart by their terror. Pray for the men, women and children who’ve fallen into their grasp. And call others to pray. Pray for peace in the Middle East and everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with posting a status that says “ISIS just killed more victims. Please pray for their families, pray for the captives, pray for peace.”

And as we pray, let our voices join the testimony of Christians past, martyrs who followed Christ’s command, who proclaimed with their words and their lives the story of Christianity. It is not a power story, but a love story. A love story capable of covering the sins, griefs, terrors and injustices- not just of ourselves but the perpetrators themselves.

If we must share something on social media- let’s share that story.

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An Open Letter To Christians, Regarding The Middle East

Christians among the 500,000 fleeing Mosul after ISIS took control of the city. Photo from Catholic News Service
Christians among the 500,000 fleeing Mosul after ISIS took control of the city. Photo from Catholic News Service

To My Fellow Christians Everywhere,

As I’ve been reading news headlines over the past few weeks, my heart has been breaking. In the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul, our Christian brothers and sisters are being forced to either submit to a strict Sunni Islamic law at the hand of invading ISIS forces or face martyrdom for their faith. The rule instituted by ISIS is so historically unprecedented, that a prominent Catholic leader in the country said it surpassed the brutality of even the likes of one Genghis Khan who ransacked medieval Baghdad.

We must pray for Christians in Iraq. 

Furthermore, west of Iraq in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian civilians are repeatedly caught in the crossfire of a war between Hamas and the Israeli government, the death toll in which is disproportionately staggering. On Monday, the death count in the conflict reached 548 after the UN reported that a hospital was hit in the Gaza strip, killing at least five civilians, including medical staff. Since then it’s climbed past 700. The Israeli attacks are in response to the Palestinian based Hamas’ repeated rocket attacks on Israeli settlements over the previous months.

gaza-crisis

My heart breaks for all of these people: for terrified Israeli civilians who have lived in fear of rockets being launched into their neighborhoods, for Christians in Mosul who have been forced to flee or face the sword and for civilians in Gaza who have seen family members gunned down and labeled as “collateral damage.”

And yet, when I read headlines of Christian papers, when I read Christian status updates, when I attend Christian prayer meetings, I hear requests for the Christians in Iraq, I hear people praying for the civilians in Israel suffering under Hamas’ attacks, but rarely do I hear mention of the 700 Palestinian civilians who are now dead as a result of Israel’s invasion.

And I ask myself:

Why, Church, why is this? How can we not possibly pray for the plight of the Palestinians? How can we not possibly sympathize with the civilians who have been murdered by invading Israeli armies in the last week?

Many, like Dr. Dennis Prager of Prager University, claim there is a simple answer to this question: Arabs in the Middle East have a singular goal: annihilation of the Jewish nation. To support this thesis, Dr. Prager cites evidence from numerous events post-1947, concerning how since the foundation of Israel as a nation, the state has faced constant opposition by every Arab country in the region. With a broad stroke of generalization, Dr. Prager states that the problem in the Middle East is simple: “one side (Arabs) wants the other side (Israel) DEAD.” As it stands the death toll is at 700. Of those only 32 are Israeli, 75% of them are civilian (meaning they had absolutely no connection or affiliation to the Hamas organization) and an unjustifiable 33% are children. Dr. Prager’s logic does not seem to co-align with facts from the front lines.

The point of this letter is not to debate whether or not we should all be Zionists. It is not to dissect Scripture on the issue and dive into relevant exegesis in order to come to a firm conclusion. Because yes, maybe it is possible to find Biblical support for a pro-Israeli stance, one that would provide adequate reason to label Hamas and their Palestinian counterparts as “the enemy.”

But even if this disputable point were the case, how does the Bible say we should treat our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”         Matthew 5:43-45a

Is this not the most basic and most recited tenant of our faith? So why do we praise the Israeli army for their actions in killing, not even Hamas, but civilians, mostly women and children who are explicitly NOT the enemy. The UN has now confirmed that Israel missile strikes have hit a school, a hospital, numerous civilian shelters and a refugee camp.

Israel’s Prime Minister said earlier today that Hamas’ notorious use of civilians as human shields and endangering of civilians is a “travesty”. And yet, with no admission to irony, Israel’s ambassador stated on Monday that Israel’s troops should all receive a Nobel Peace Prize for their restraint, despite the fact that, according to the Washington Post, at the time of the report there were over 400 civilian deaths an estimated 25% of which were women and children. 

The hypocrisy is scathing.

The point is: Palestinian civilians are not Hamas. Yet they have been caught in the cross-fire; their borders are literally barricaded (in 2010 the British Prime Minister described the accessibility of the Gaza Strip as “an open-air prison”). They are unable to flee and their refugee camps are being bombed.

And so I want to make this case to you, my fellow brothers and sisters: the global Christian community does grave injustice to those we are called to care about most and grave disservice to our Savior by choosing to paint the entire Palestinian population in this same light as one rogue terrorist organization. They are “the least of these.”

I’ve heard numerous Christians say things like: “all the Koran talks about is killing the infidels, Muslims are all just set on killing people.” Such statements ring of ignorance in the same way that saying all Christians are bent on genocide of Canaanite-pagans. These generalizations ignore the present day reality of the Muslims in Baghdad who, seeing their Christian neighbors facing imminent persecution and possibly martyrdom, have sided with them against their persecutors. In a recent rally in Baghdad, over 200 Muslims gathered outside a Christian Church holding signs saying “I am Iraqi, I am Christian” to show solidarity and support for the Christians facing persecution. 

A Muslim standing outside a church in Baghdad holding a sign that reads: "I am Iraqi, I am Christian"
A Muslim standing outside a church in Baghdad holding a sign that reads: “I am Iraqi, I am Christian”

The point being: not all Muslims are bent on killing Christians and not all Palestinians are Hamas’ terrorists bent on destroying Israel. Yet, at this time, most if not all Palestinian civilians are caught in a deadly crossfire. And all too often our prayers are slanted in Israel’s direction, our favor towards Israel’s forces.

Fellow Christians: we need to stop praying for just Israel’s protection. We need to stop praying just for the softened hearts of those in Hamas. We need to stop seeing this as a black and white issue but as an issue splattered in the blood of innocent people and covered in the weeping cries of numerous mothers, brothers, parents, sisters and daughters who have been affected by this violence.

Pray for peace in the Gaza Strip.

Pray for cease fire.

Pray for compassion in the hearts of Israelite soldiers and Israelite leaders.

Pray for protection for civilians on BOTH sides of the conflict.

Pray for Christians in Mosul and their brave Muslim neighbors in Baghdad.

Pray for God’s will to be done in and through the Middle East.

 

Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,

have mercy upon us.

 

Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,

grant us thy peace.

Pray For Peace.