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December 24, 2014
Column #1,739
The Islamic State vs. Christianity
By Mike McManus

The rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), dominated world news in 2014, with a violent reign of terror that swept across Iraq and Syria, seizing much of their territory, and such major cities as Kabul, second largest in Iraq.

The IS fighters have targeted religious minorities such as Christians who have been driven from their ancient communities and churches, with tens of thousands slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of Christians flee to Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and are living in tents as refugees, having lost all family possessions.

Christians have been told: convert to Islam, pay a tax to keep your faith or face execution. That’s why Iraq’s population of Christians has plummeted from more than a million to less than 400,000 today. And that includes those in Kurdistan.

Even in Baghdad, where Islamic State has been held at bay, Christians have fled. The ISIL offensive in Mosul, which wiped out Christians who have lived there since Apostolic times - has persuaded Baghdad Christians to leave.

The Washington Post reported this week that “Many who pack up and go, don’t tell their friends and neighbors, virtually disappearing overnight. In the precarious security environment, families fear that they will become a target for kidnapping in the days before they leave, as word spreads that they are cash-rich after having sold assets such as houses and cars.”

Father Miyassir al-Mokhlasee says his St. George’s Chaldean Catholic Church had 300-400 worshipers at an Advent service a year ago, but only 75 last Sunday. “If it stays this way, we will shrink to nothing,” he says, sinking his head into his hands.

We have witnessed four Americans – two journalists and two aid workers – beheaded by IS militants. What’s horrifying is that these broadcasts have helped recruit thousands of Muslim fighters!

IS extremists have also kidnapped 3,500 women and girls of the Yazidi religious minority, many of whom became sex slaves for IS fighters. One escapee told how women and girls were separated from their families and 200 were taken to a wedding hall which was a slave market. IS fighters came to take their pick.

“We didn’t dare look at their faces. We were so afraid. One girl came back after she had been used as a sex slave and told us everything…They took whoever they wanted by force. We were crying the whole time,” said an escapee.

She recognized one man who had a mobile phone shop. He was the loudest in mocking the Yazidi religion: “Yazidis are infidels. Now you will live as Muslims. Forget the life you knew.” Many were sold as sex slaves. One woman aged 30 was eventually freed when her family paid a $3,000 ransom.

What’s wrong with this? It is almost impossible for Christians and Jews to understand how anyone could believe it is right to force others to convert on the pain of death or to behead believers of another faith, or to take their daughters as sex slaves.

Nor are such horrors limited to parts of Iraq and Syria. In Sudan alone, a million Christians were slaughtered by fanatical Muslims.

The first thing to be said is that the traditional belief that the church grows when it is persecuted – is wrong. Due to persecution, the percentage of Christians in Turkey dropped from 32% to .2% in this century.

Second, most Muslims do not share these extremist views that lie at the heart of the Islamic State. For example, there are 150 million Muslims in Indonesia where people live peacefully.

However, millions of Muslims who are not killers – do have beliefs we find horrifying, such as the right of a man to have four wives. Muslim countries have suffered as a result. No Muslim country enjoys the standard of living of Europe or America.

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians wrote: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ…There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In God’s eyes, women are as important as men. This was radical 2,000 years ago – and is heresy to today’s Muslim world. In Ephesians Paul advises: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

In the West, women are as important as men – and our countries are vastly more productive as a result.

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