International news coverage on the radical militant group Islamic State, formerly ISIS, has surfaced and made countless breaking headlines on all media fronts in the last few weeks. Reports of the Al Qaeda spinoff’s grisly murder rampage in the name of Islam have set off a wave of political, religious, cultural, and racial dissension, outrage, and tears for and against the revolutionary movement in the Middle East.
Islamic State’s goal is to purge all of northwestern Iraq, an Islamic region by law, of its Christian and Yazidi populations, as well as other smaller religious groups, some of which are Muslim like the Turkmen and Shabaks. Iraq’s highest population of Christians is in Nineveh, an ancient province that is a landmark to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Almost 50 Iranian Christians are known to be in custody at the moment, and it is believed that the actual number of Christian prisoners is much higher.
Since its capture of the second-largest Iraqi city and capital of the ancient province Nineveh, Mosul, early last June, Islamic State has set an ultimatum for its Christian victims: either convert to Islam, pay jizyah taxes charged to religious minorities, or die.
On July 24, 2014, Islamic State blew up the Mosque of Prophet Yunus and its Tomb of Prophet Jonah after ordering everyone to evacuate. The radical group acted on the declaration that “the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer.”
In an article posted on Aug. 5, 2014, on TheAquilaReport.com, writer Kristen Powers wrote, “Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: ‘(The Islamic State) took the Christians’ houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, “Can I please have 100 dollars?”, and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn’t get the ring off.’”
Christians are being driven out of their homes and fleeing to refuge in Kurdistan as Islamic State violently loots the homes of valuables and takes captive every vestige of Christianity, like churches, monasteries, crucifixes, and statues, and does away with it. Nearly 700,000 people have been displaced to the region, living in unfinished buildings, churches, mosques, schools, and parks.
Photographs and filming of child beheadings, sexual assaults, hangings, and other executions, including the beheading of American journalist James Foley, are being publicly released onto the internet and spread by those sympathetic to Islamic State.
American president Barack Obama calls Islamic State “barbaric.” As the killing continues, harsh criticism of Islam, Christianity, Iraq, Barack Obama, and all those in between is seeing an uproar as more people around the world turn their eyes to Islamic State and its self-named “religious cleansing.”
In the wake of this massacre and the inevitable global chaos and aggressive side-conversation it stirs, however, many groups are banding together for the sake of prayer and practical progressive thought on how to stand steady in the turbulence. As the rampage continues, an increasing number of impassioned prayers are being lifted up to the divinity each individual respectively believes in, all for the same cause.
Communities of people from the Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. religion are among the many prayer groups reported to have offered heart for the events.
As these prayers are offered, there is a positive movement that is revolutionizing the global community just as quickly as the torrents of anguish and loss are spreading; it is unity within hope.
What chases the pain at its heels is everyone’s collective effort to pray for the genocide, its victims, and its primary perpetrators. As religious individuals maintain this hope, they perhaps unknowingly become united with billions of other religious people around the world through the commonality of hope.