Brute force from ISIS could backfire

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Australia)

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Australia)

Iraq (MNN) — A recent story from Al Monitor questions whether or not the Islamic State terror group’s methods might be backfiring on them.

There may be some flaws in the juggernaut’s underbelly. According to Al Monitor, the Islamic State’s absolute brutality may be fomenting a rejection of the group, its ideologies, and by extension, its grip on the city of Mosul. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, commented, “It is interesting to see how quickly the tables have turned across northern Iraq. We know in some parts of Syria, the Sunni population sort of welcomed them.”

Nettleton goes on to explain that part of the terrorist’s strategy to occupy cities originally relied on taking advantage of Sunni complaints about Baghdad. “When the Islamic State came to power, they made kind of a PR campaign that ‘We are the defenders of the Sunni. We are taking care of the poor. We are setting up a court system.’ They really made an effort to present themselves as a legitimate government.” In fact, when Sunni anger at the Iraqi government reached its peak, I.S. swept in as the “white knight.” After they entrenched, residents realized that life under ISIS really was more a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. “The population is starting to say, ‘Wait a minute. These guys, who were supposed to be our defenders, are arresting our family members on trumped-up charges. They’re executing people. They are brutal. Is this really what we want?’ So, it seems like they’re losing the confidence of the Sunni population that initially they had.”

ISIS brutality spared no one. Reports surfaced of massacres that included women and children. Within two months, Sunni sympathy for the terrorists cracked. Nettleton doesn’t think the residents will be able to dislodge ISIS, though. “Does the Sunni population have the power to rise up against the Islamic State, even if they want to, even if they’d like to see the Islamic State lose that control?”

Violence is increasing as fighters from elsewhere join the group, which is calling for ever more volunteers from other countries. Plus, Nettleton adds, “They are exercising a very high level of control. They have spies within the neighborhoods. They have the religious police that are keeping an eye on things. Any real move against them is going to take a lot of work and come with a great deal of risk.”

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

The future of Christians in Iraq remains grim. In July, hundreds of families fled Mosul, after I.S. members demanded that Christians remaining in Mosul convert to Islam, agree to pay a tax, or face execution. The fleeing Christians left most of their possessions behind, and many who were stopped at checkpoints were stripped of items such as money, vehicles, jewelry, phones, IDs, and even food and medicine.

Some Christians, such as the elderly and infirm, were unable to leave Mosul. While Muslim neighbors have protected some of those remaining in the city, other Christians have been forced to convert to Islam by reciting the Islamic prayer of faith in a Sharia court.

As the group enlarged its caliphate, more Christians fled Iraq. Nettleton spoke with church leaders who stayed behind: they are discouraged. One pastor stated, “There is no future for us here. Even if the Islamic State is gone, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t trust the government. We don’t trust that there won’t be a new version of the Islamic State a year from now, or five years from now.” However, telling their stories and advocating for the remnant Church lets them know others are being their voice.

Todd Nettleton

Todd Nettleton visits with a displaced Iraqi family in Northern Iraq.

To that end, they’re simply asking: “Pray that God will call the Christians here to stay, that God would specifically place on their hearts: ‘We need to stay here. We need to be ministers of the Gospel in spite of the danger.'”

Pray that God would send workers for His Kingdom, as many services and relief deliveries have been delayed due to a shortage of workers. Ask God to save misled young people from ISIS and judge the leaders who are aware and yet still misleading youth with their evil desires and ideologies. And finally, pray that the Church would pray with one heart: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”