I sit sipping my latte, surrounded by people chatting, laughing, eating, drinking. We continue our regular day as across the ocean Paris is shut down after yesterday’s events. Most of us post a picture of Paris on social media, change a filter on our Facebook profile picture, and for the most part, move on.
A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook this morning. Her husband is Middle Eastern and between that and her attention to current events, she has had a greater focus on what’s been going on with ISIS and the middle east for some time now. She said:
My husband asked me this morning if I was going to change my profile picture to support Paris like so many other people have done. I asked him why would I change my profile picture for Paris when there are so many other terrorist attacks, and deaths caused by terrorism around the world?
I said that just today, after the Kurdish Peshmerga liberated Shingal, the place of ISIS genocide against the Yezidis in August 2014, the Peshmerga discovered a mass grave of 80 Yezidi girls and women. The Peshmerga believe there are 15 such mass graves and they will have to go through each of them to identify victims. I don’t recall anyone on Facebook posting in support of the Shingal when it was under siege. Even today, as it was finally liberated, most people don’t even know about the horrific events of Shingal which were much worse than anything that has happened in Paris, or the fact that there are still hundreds of Yezidi girls and women that are sex slaves for ISIS. Where are the profile pictures of support for them? What about the terrorist attack in Lebanon yesterday? What about all the violence and incitement by the Palestinian Authority over the past several weeks calling for Jews in Israel to be knifed?
I guess when religious minorities in the Middle East are killed by terrorism it is not as big of a deal as when Europeans are killed by terrorism. It appears that terrorism in the west is more of a trendy terrorism with many people and celebrities showing solidarity. For those that post support for Paris but never showed support for the immense suffering of Christians or the Kurdish people under ISIS, you are part of the problem. The lack of empathy and lack of action by the world for the suffering of people in the ME under ISIS is one reason that ISIS was able to move on to Europe. I am incredulous that people seem shocked by the terrorist attacks in Paris. ISIS has been posting graphic videos of death and destruction for over a year, specifically to let the world know their intentions. ISIS is an established caliphate and the concept of a caliphate means to expand its dominion. How is anyone surprised by what happened in Paris?!
The world saw what ISIS was doing but has been unwilling to do what is necessary to stop them. So don’t be surprised when events like what happened in Paris start to happen more in the West. And no, this is not blowback for foreign intervention. This is an ideology of apocalyptic Sunni Islam. This is a caliphate. Foreign intervention or the lack thereof will not affect their desire to expand and bring about more death and destruction.
So no, I will not change my profile to support Paris. I am saddened for the people of Paris and I will pray for them, of course; but I have been posting about the suffering of others (Kurds, Christians, Israelis) as a result of terrorism since the moment ISIS stepped onto the scene! Most people on my Facebook ignore my posts. Most people prefer to remain ignorant of what is going on in the ME, and that is their choice. But unfortunately ignoring reality does not make one immune to the consequences of ignoring reality. ISIS seeks to spread their caliphate, death and destruction…. and they will come to the West if they are not stopped. A lack of empathy and action towards those dealing with ISIS right now will some day come back to haunt the West…and we are already seeing that with Paris.
I had had similar thoughts as I read with great sadness and alarm the news reports from Paris last night and this morning. It has seemed that it would only be a matter of time before an event of this sort hit the West again. It seems it is only a matter of time until the next one. As I was thinking through the fact that these tragic events in Paris are what so many innocents in the Middle East have been facing day after day, I thought of the words of another man, from another era, who saw genocide unchecked:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
-Martin Niemöller (prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.)
When ISIS persecutes the Yazidis we haven’t responded because we are not Yazidis.
When ISIS persecutes Middle Eastern Christians we haven’t responded because we are not Middle Eastern Christians.
These people seem removed from us.
But the Parisians are Western. We have much more shared history with them. They feel like our cousins. Paris seems like our neighborhood.
I don’t profess to have the answers. I don’t pretend that I have sacrificed much in my life on behalf of any of these people. My heart feels heavy thinking on all of this. I think that is an appropriate response. The chatter continues around me as my eyes well up with tears for this fragile broken world. For all the torn up messy hearts. It is so easy to just go back to the levity of daily living. Instead of changing the channel and distracting myself with easier, happier things, I want to keep responding. I implore you, and myself, to speak on behalf of all of these people. We may feel overwhelmed, but rather than shutting down, how can we respond?
Oh that we would hit our knees for every ISIS target, for every persecuted people. Pray daily. Set reminders to yourself to pray daily. You don’t have to pray for every group every day, but every day pray for a group. Post a picture of a map in your house and pray for various parts of the world every single day.
Let us find ways to give. Let us allow our minds to think through these issues rather than flipping the channel to something easier. Let us stand up for injustices daily, that it would be a way of life for us to help the vulnerable. Psalm 82:4 says “Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”
Let us wake ourselves up from the comforts we feel so insulated by, instead realizing that they are fragile, vulnerable, and something to be grateful for. As we go about our day, taking our kids to their soccer games, drinking our coffees, attacking Christmas shopping lists and all the things we have to do, let us do so with tremendous gratitude. Let us hold it all lightly.
Let us dialogue with our family and friends and keep all of these topics alive. We can come up with ideas of what we can do in our spheres of influence to help some group of oppressed or needy people. Then do it.
Below are some ways you can give monetarily. There are so many organizations, you may want to research on your own. My husband and I personally give to World Vision and to Open Doors, but you may feel more comfortable with another organization or more connected to another cause. These are just a few ideas.
And lastly, let us pray for our enemies. It is difficult at times to know what to pray. I am filled with hatred and anger much more than I am filled with compassion. The justice of God appeals to me greatly when I think on these things. Yet I know that these people are trapped in an evil world view. They are blind to truth. They are zealous in doing what they believe honors their god. Often times when I read through the Psalms I am reminded to pray about ISIS or Hamas or Hezbollah, or any of these terror groups in the Middle East. Sadly these countries have seemingly been in endless turmoil since their beginning. The Psalms are full of God’s people pleading for relief. For justice. Even for the death of their enemies.
But these verses from Psalm 83 really struck me the other day. I was already praying them over ISIS, and now I am even more determined to come back to them, again and again:
“Utterly disgrace them that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be ashamed and terrified forever.
Make them failures in everything they do, until they learn that you alone are called the LORD, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth.” (emphasis mine)
Basically I pray that God would bring the people of ISIS and other terrorist groups to truth or judge them quickly, that He would spare innocent lives, and that He would frustrate their plans.
We do not know what He has already stopped from happening. We do not know what else He may allow. But we do have great hope in what we DO know.
“All the nations- and you made each one- will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your great and holy name” (Psalm 86:9).
May we neither wring our hands nor sit on them as we anticipate that day.