Middle East (MNN) – There appears to be a glimmer of hope in the Middle East.
Several news outlets have reported that ISIS’ “business model” is failing as coalition groups take back territory and international airstrikes target oil fields.
The Independent reports that by November of last year, ISIS had lost 62 percent of its territory in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria since mid-2014, leaving the group fewer natural resources to control and businesses and individuals to tax. The group’s annual revenue has dropped from an estimated $1.9 billion to $870 million last year.
“On the world stage, I don’t think ISIS is perceived as being as scary today as it was two years ago when they rolled into Raqqa and they rolled right across into Mosul and it seemed like ISIS is on the march,” says Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that provides aid for persecuted Christians around the world.
“Today, they’re being pushed back in northern Iraq. They’re seen as being less influential, less powerful in Syria, and I think the world is saying, ‘OK, perhaps these guys can be defeated militarily. Perhaps they’re not as scary as we thought they were.’”
That doesn’t mean the fight is over, though, as ISIS continues to inflict violence, especially against Christians. According to Al Jazeera, hundreds of Coptic Christians in the Sinai Peninsula fled their homes after seven Copts were killed over 21 days of shootings and arson attacks.
Though no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, ISIS released a video on February 19 vowing to increase attacks against Coptic Christians.
“In northern Iraq, we see ISIS being pushed out of the city of Mosul, which was one of their strongholds, and now we see in Egypt ISIS releasing a video of the suicide bomber from last December and threatening that they’re going to kick out or kill all of the Coptic Christians in Egypt, which is 10 percent of the population,” Nettleton says. “I think it’s really an effort by them to get back on to the front pages, and obviously, at least in Egypt, its succeeded.
“Both politically and militarily, they need to be addressed as a threat. Certainly, we don’t want to see those who are pushing against them rest on their laurels and say, “Look, we’ve won a victory here. But it’s a long road ahead to try to completely overcome the threat that ISIS represents.”
Nettleton says it’s important to pray for these Christians, asking God to give them boldness so they don’t fall prey to fear and hopelessness.
“This video threatens them very directly,” Nettleton says. “In fact, it talks about the Coptic Pope, the head of the Coptic church there, (and) a number of wealthy businessmen who are Christians being the favorite prey of ISIS.
“One of the things we want to encourage people to do is to pray. Pray for boldness for the church in Egypt, that even under threat they will continue to be bold and stand strongly in their faith.”
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