October, 2014—All of the visits I have made in the Middle East are in the context of Christians reaching out with aid and prayer in Jesus’ name to feed the physical and spiritual hunger of suffering families. One Christian worker told me what a local taxi driver had said to him: “We are taught to hate you Christians, but you still love us. This I cannot understand.”
If it wasn’t obvious before the ISIS attacks, there can be no doubt that Christians are hated in this part of the world. The extremists have become our enemies whether we like it or not. As Canadians, we aren’t used to having enemies, yet they are recruiting from within our cities and from our youth. Their mission is to destroy all those who do not submit to their way—the very definition of intolerance and a contradiction to the only universal value we have left. Our reaction is a natural sense of fear and to organize a multinational coalition to degrade and destroy this enemy. Yet we Christians are commanded to love our enemies.
We are 6,000 miles away in Canada and yet we fear what these terrorists might do. Fear is exactly what they want. Tonight I attended a prayer meeting with about 200 people, many of them from the church in Mosul (the city that is now ISIS Iraq headquarters) who fled here in June. The one emotion I have not detected here is fear. How can this be?
The prayer meeting was the most thoroughly joyous three hours of prayer, worship, and praise I have ever experienced. I wish everyone could have been there to share it. It was incredible. The pastor said, “We have been surrounded by the evil works of Satan for years. It is time to stand up and be counted for God. We must boldly proclaim the Gospel and show the love of Christ to everyone.” The music was loud, the singing and prayer louder. It went on for over three hours. No one wanted to go home.
After the meeting, I talked to a pastor and his wife from Mosul. They shared a dramatic story that should inspire fear, but they are filled with praise for God’s goodness and mercy to them. Their church had gathered together and prayed during the three days of the ISIS siege of Mosul and when the city fell, they fled to Erbil. Praise the Lord, they all made it safely. “God has been so kind to us and is providing all we need,” they said.
Another young woman who looked to be less than 20 said she and her family had been in hiding for eight months in a town captured by ISIS. “It is nicer here in Erbil,” she said with a laugh.
Where is the fear that we imagine they ought to feel? I am left to conclude that His perfect love has driven out all fear. There can be no more perfect love than to love your enemy. I believe that is impossible for us without the intervention of the Holy Spirit. The last thing I expected was this exuberant joy and praise to the glory of God from Christians who fled for their lives from the “convert or die” threats of ISIS, and as a result have lost everything but their lives. I did not expect to hear these Christians say, “We were created for such a time as this. Now is the time to be bold and share God’s Gospel of love with our neighbors.”
If ISIS is destroyed, you don’t have to be cynical to believe some other hideous group will emerge to carry on their campaign of hate. What is really needed is a multitude of Christians armed only with His love for them.
Help families in the Middle East who have been displaced as a result of violent conflict and religious persecution receive the physical and spiritual aid they so desperately need to cope with the resulting poverty and trauma.