Central Asia (MNN) — Like an aggressive cancer, ISIS is deepening its roots in Central Asian gateway nations Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Trademark signs of ISIS invasion began surfacing this week.
- As in Iraq, religious minorities in Pakistan were told to “convert or die.”
- A new ISIS recruitment video is calling Afghans to wage jihad against Jews and Christians.
- Before landing on United States soil, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani publicly acknowledged — for the first time — the Islamic State’s imminent threat to his country.
Earlier this month, Turkmenistan began sending troops to its border to ward against the growing ISIS presence in neighboring Afghanistan. In February, dozens of Hazara Shi’ite Muslims in route to Kabul were kidnapped by suspected ISIS terrorists.
“Maybe ISIS is losing steam in some areas–some holdings they have had in Syria or Iraq, but they’re gaining steam in other areas,” observes Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).
Fight or flight?
While Afghan President Ghani asks for U.S. help against ISIS this week, Pakistani officials are flexing their military muscles.
“For the first time in seven years, the government is saying, ‘Let’s play this up big:’ lots of military parades, air shows of the Air Force, things like that,” says Allen, referring to Monday’s Republic Day celebrations.
Republic Day, also referred to as Pakistan Day, is a national holiday commemorating the establishment of Pakistan in 1940 as the world’s first Islamic Republic. No parades have been held to mark the holiday since 2008, when Taliban-military conflicts reached a peak.
Many could interpret the grandiose military demonstrations as a “renewed” feeling of patriotism, Allen says, but he suspects ulterior motives.
“Really what I think the government is trying to do is send a message to the terrorists: the military [is set] against terrorism,” Allen states.
Most of Pakistan’s splintered Islamic terrorist cells have sworn allegiance to the black flag of jihad, he adds.
“If ISIS says, ‘Jump,’ some of these groups will say, ‘How high?'”
The Good News
FMI-supported pastors are responding by teaching Christians how to avoid trouble yet still share the Gospel.
“We have a lot of good things coming up, even in the midst of all this havoc,” Allen shares.
Next month, FMI’s national partners will be gathering pastors and their families together for a leadership conference. It will also be a time of mutual encouragement.
“They also have some plans, after that conference, to be doing some ongoing theological training in three different cities,” adds Allen.
Normally, FMI empowers indigenous church leaders in Pakistan. But in light of all that’s transpired, FMI-supported pastors felt it was important to extend this training to their lay members.
“Anyone associated with that church–whether an elder, a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, or even just church members, [the pastors] want to get them more theological training, more understanding of the Bible,” Allen explains.