Caucasus (MNN) — The Islamic State group is looking at the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Indonesia as new territories for recruitment, according to a new report.
The Caucasus portion of the report has startling confirmation from Mission Eurasia. “They expand the ISIS recruiting services to the area, finding ground for a very good response, because of the radical Islamic influence previously and currently,” says Mission Eurasia President Sergey Rakhuba. The Islamic State is targeting the disenfranchised young people in the restive areas of the former Soviet bloc. “Autonomous regions or provinces that are under the Russian Federation or Russian ‘umbrella’ are like North Ossetia, South Ossetia, we’re talking about Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, but especially Chechnya.”
During the Soviet era, Islamic tradition was controlled, which fostered resentment. In the post-Soviet period, the emergence of tensions fully blossomed between traditional and fundamentalist Muslims.
Social media plays a key role in the Islamic State group’s recruitment strategy, allowing it to span distance. It also means they’re targeting one group: the users of these platforms. As young people find purpose, they can become vulnerable to radical issues.
Given what’s taking place today in Russia, Rakhuba says, “When they see that Russia is positioning itself as a supreme nation and fighting against the rest of the world, for values against Western influence, they find that probably fighting for radical Islam, that it’s presenting some moral values.”
Why young people? “[They] are looking for a place where they can fight on the side of radical Islam, so that’s why it’s happening there,” muses Rakhuba, adding, “Young people want to get into this adventurous situation. They want to fight, plus they’re paid for it.”
That puts double pressure on evangelicals, too. “The authorities in the Northern Caucasus…create a lot of pressure on evangelicals because of the order from Moscow to watch religious extremism; and they see that evangelicals probably are even more dangerous for them.” Rakhuba says that’s why the School Without Walls (SWW) program is so important in these areas. SWW’s mission is to “train young people in the church, in the evangelical community, to be more on the pro-active outreach side.”
However, he admits, “It’s difficult now in Russian, and evangelicals are regarded as a ‘Western influence.’ There’s lots of opposition from the Orthodox Church, lots of opposition in the area from [the] pro-Islamic community.” Still, through this program, more than 2,500 young leaders in 13 countries of the former Soviet Union and Israel annually obtain the biblical foundation and practical ministry experience they need to impact their communities and nations for Christ.
SWW has a different message. Their biblical worldview has impact. “They bring love through their actions in these communities. From Muslim communities, we see that families and people…respond very positively,” explains Rakhuba. Plus. a new component of SWW is their Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI). It’s designed to train at least 1,000 young professionals annually to reach their peers and professional spheres of influence for Christ.
The Islamic State will continue to call young people from the Caucasus, but just as deep calls unto deep, pray that the hope of Christ calls and resonates with others. ”In the midst of this trouble, in the midst of all this destruction, [pray] that they bring the light of Jesus to young families, to young kids, and to youth. We have to pray that God will empower them in a special way that they will be able to bring the Gospel to those areas there.” For details on School Without Walls, click here.