Church attack in Chechnya builds ISIS concern in region

By June 19, 2018

Russia (MNN) — As May turned into June, the Republic of Chechnya, an area in the Caucasus region of Russia that’s nestled between the Caspian and Black seas, experienced yet another church attack. This time, the attack took place against the Russian Orthodox Archangel Michael Church in the capital city of Grozny.

Church Attack in Chechnya

On May 19, four gunmen killed at least seven people at the church. Two officers and an attendee of the church were also hospitalized. Per Persecution International Christian Concern, the gunmen shot through the front door of the church.

Although divisions are somewhat arbitrary, Western Asia encompasses the Middle East and countries that surround the Caspian Sea, including Kazakhstan and Russia. (Photo/Caption courtesy of MODIS/U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/bZSiEA)

Two church members had rushed to shut those same doors upon hearing a commotion outside and people shouting “Allahu Akbar”, which is an Islamic phrase translated as meaning “Allah is greatest”. The church members were able to close the doors before the gunmen could enter, but bullets still shot through the wood. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analyzing the event, Open Doors USA’s Dr. David Curry says;

“There’s been a lot of tension over the years in these regions against Russian Orthodox church, but there wasn’t a sense of a strong ISIS movement there. So, it could be a signal that some of the Chechen fighters that had been with ISIS are coming home and they used attacks on Russian Orthodox and Christian churches as a tactic to stir up people and to cause terror.”

Fermenting Extremism

Chechnya’s history is entangled with a strong Islamic presence. This has created dissonance between people in the region and Russia, which is Orthodox Christian. Regardless of politics and tensions plaguing this region, Open Doors asserts all people should be able to worship in peace.

Chechnya’s history of religious tension has fermented a growing radicalism in the region. Open Doors has said it before; ISIS doesn’t need land to cause terror. The terrorist group is equipped to operate remotely through lone wolves and technology.

(Photo and header photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

“They don’t have the caliphate they once had, but they don’t need it. They have the money, they have the infrastructure, they have the will and the way of sharing technology in North Africa, in Chechnya, in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, some of these places where ISIS is popping up and making attacks against Christian churches,” Curry explains.

“It’s something that we need to be aware of and the governments need to be vigilant on because they will be using Christian churches as a target for sure. And this attack on the church in Grozny is but one example of [what] potentially could grow.”

Be Prayerful, Be Active

Curry asks Christians to keep their Chechen brothers and sisters in their prayers. Pray for the perseverance of their faith, their ability to worship together, and their witness in their communities. And please, also pray for the freedom of religion in this area and people’s rights to worship and believe what they want.

“These are places that…could go either way where faith could grow and people could get more religious freedom or it could contract…but just continue to pray for those countries,” Curry shares.

Another way to help is by sharing this story. Let people know what is going on in Chechnya and how they can help. Advocate for the Christians who are facing outside pressures against their faith.

Find more ways to get involved through Open Doors here!

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