Around the world, the advance of Islamic extremist groups is creating increasing difficulties for Christians, as Islamists seek territory and political power. Islamic groups often terrorize Christians by chasing them off of their property, appropriating Christian properties, and even kidnapping or killing family members.The increasing threat of extremism was highlighted this year with the advance of the Islamic State (IS) terror group from Syria into Iraq.
Taking advantage of the war between Muslim rebels and the Syrian government, IS militants begin seizing control of cities in both Syria and Iraq and declared a “caliphate” in June 2014. As celebrations were held, video cameras rolled showing Islamic supporters in Raqqa, Syria, firing guns into the air, but few took notice until IS overtook Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in a matter of hours in July. Thousands of believers living in the historically Christian areas nearby were given few choices: convert to Islam, pay a high tax, leave the area, or face death. To save their lives, nearly all of the estimated 100,000 believers fled their homes. The ongoing war in neighboring Syria has claimed the lives of another 100,000 people, both Muslim and Christian.
Even while extremists appropriated nearly one-third of Iraq and Syria as their caliphate, some Christians continued to reach out to those around them. As many Muslims impacted by the war were driven from their homes in Syria, Christians began distributing “outreach packs” to Muslims who had largely been ignored by their Muslim leaders. The packs were simple gifts of clothing and food, but they spoke of Jesus’ love for everyone, even those who don’t love Him. Similarly, when the influx of refugees came in from Mosul after the IS takeover, Christians began reaching out to the Muslim refugees with quiet evangelism. At the same time, local Christians in Kurdistan have been serving their now-homeless brothers and sisters from Mosul.
Violence against Christians by terrorist groups isn’t limited to the Iraq/Syria conflict. In Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Christians are also subject to the brutality of groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There, Christians are opposed openly and there is little opportunity for evangelism. Islamic insurgents often kidnap individuals in exchange for money or prisoners.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Christians face the Taliban. In the worst attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history, two suicide bombers from a Taliban faction attacked the All Saints Church in Peshawar last year, killing at least 87 people and injuring more than 120 people. But in spite of the attack, believers continue to worship in the church.
While facing huge obstacles, Christians throughout the Middle East are remaining faithful. They continue to meet together, and they evangelize those around them. They look to support from their Christian brothers and sisters who will pray for them and help them access materials like Bibles, gospel tracts, Christian literature and media.
This report was originally published on www.Persecution.com.