In Richard Wurmbrand’s time (and in many communist countries still), persecutors did all they could to hide their persecution of Christ’s followers. Communists even gave Richard a different name in prison in an effort to hide him from the world and from Christians trying to find and help him. Communists in China have told us for years that there is no persecution of Christians there, that raids on house churches aren’t about faith but about government policy and Christians’ refusal to register their meetings. Hide, deny, obfuscate: the old-school persecutor’s playbook.
Radical Islam is different. They WANT you to know they are persecuting Christians and others. They WANT you to see their power. They want the whole world to know their devotion to Mohammed’s teaching and to following the example of his life. There is no hiding. In fact, there is promotion. They shout it from the rooftops. Islamists dive deeper into the pool of violence and depravity to find ever-more-creative ways to cause suffering. Beheading isn’t violent enough? How about crucifixion? Or what if we soaked a man with gas and then lit him on fire? What if we locked men in a cage and then sank the cage into a swimming pool? We’d keep the hi-def video cameras running, of course. If you don’t have video, it’s like it didn’t even happen.
If Richard Wurmbrand were alive today and held by ISIS, there’d be a live online video feed into his cell. ISIS is the most obvious example, but Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and others follow closely in ISIS’ footsteps.
This truth came home to me earlier this month when I was in northern Iraq. While there, we met a Christian worker specifically reaching out to Yazidi people displaced by ISIS. The Yazidis are not Christians, and because they aren’t what the Quran calls “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) they are treated even worse than Christians by ISIS.
We met some of the Yazidi elders our Christian friend is working with. One showed us a video on his phone, a video shot and released by ISIS. Here’s the video he showed us. I must warn you: there’s no graphic violence, but it is deeply disturbing.
The video, our Yazidi friend told us, shows ISIS fighters separating Yazidi women from men. The women are separated out to be given or sold as sex slaves, what Mohammed called “captives whom your right hand possesses” (Quran 4:24), essentially depraved door prizes for loyal ISIS fighters. The Yazidi men, likely, were killed after their women were taken away.
One of the pastors we met in Iraq gave us a deeper insight to what this scene means. “[In Middle Eastern culture] our honor is in our women,” he told us. “The Yazidis lost their women—and their honor.”
ISIS is proud of this video. It’s no accident their ugly black flag is being waved in the background. It’s no accident fighters shout “Allah is the greatest!” before they begin separating women from men. They want to create fear in their enemies, and they want to recruit more fighters. “Come and join us!” their recruiters shout. “Look at the rewards for fighting on the side of Allah! He provides for your every pleasure!”
I don’t have an answer to the desperation and hopelessness felt by the Yazidi people. I can’t even comprehend hoping that your wife or daughter is dead, because the thought of what she’s enduring if she’s still alive is simply too much to bear and stay sane.
But Jesus does have an answer. He told those “weary and heavy-laden” to come to Him. I’m thankful those reaching out to the Yazidi people offer help, hope and a window into Jesus’ heart for them.
ISIS is not hiding the depths of depravity that they’re willing to dive to. They aren’t hiding who they serve or under what authority they act.
As followers of Christ, we must be equally bold. We cannot hide the Light we have inside of us, whether we are dealing with displaced Yazidis or the family that’s lived next door to us our whole life. We don’t need to take video and post it online; but we must let His light shine.
Todd Nettleton has served with The Voice of the Martyrs for 17 years. He’s traveled to more than 20 restricted and hostile nations and interviewed hundreds of believers who’ve faced persecution for their Christian witness. As VOM’s principle media spokesperson, Todd has done more than 2,000 interviews with media outlets ranging from Moody Radio to the BBC and Los Angeles Times. He is the principle author of Restricted Nations: North Korea and was part of the writing team for four other VOM books. In 2014 VOM launched a weekly, half-hour radio show with Todd as the host.