Islamic State: helping or hurting the Middle East?

By September 14, 2015
islamic state
islamic state

Flag used by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Middle East (MNN) — You may have seen this headline recently: “How the Islamic State has helped the Middle East.”

Helped?! The Islamic State has driven millions of people from their homes and killed countless more.

This summer, International Business Times reported the displacement of an estimated 14.7 million Iraqis and Syrians as a direct result of Islamic State expansion.

So, how could the Islamic State possibly be a source of help? Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) USA spokesman Todd Nettleton provides some clarification.

“I think of the old saying, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ and that’s kind of what has come together,” he says, reflecting on points made in Al-Monitor’s article.

“Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia: all of those groups want to see the Islamic State defeated. And so, they are willing to talk to each other and cooperate, more than they were before the Islamic State advanced.”

Pros and cons of the Islamic State threat

In his September 8 report, author Kayhan Barzegar outlines three primary “benefits” of Islamic State expansion:

  • Collaboration between regional “powerhouses” (Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia)
  • Collaboration between regional governments and the West
  • A change in how Middle Eastern citizens view their governments

“IS ([slamic State] is in fact gradually strengthening the state’s role as the pivotal actor in regional politics,” claims Barzegar.

(Photo courtesy Kodak agfa)

(Photo courtesy Kodak agfa)

Strengthening national institutions throughout the Middle East may provide a stronger front in the battle against ISIS. But, how will the side effects of that action impact Christians?

“As you strengthen the military, as you strengthen the police force, as you strengthen so-called ‘anti-terror efforts,’…sometimes Christians are sort of ‘caught up’ in the cross-fire of that,” Nettleton warns.

For example, a law may be enacted to forbid groups of people from gathering together at a home. The law could be intended to stop terrorists who are gathering to plan an attack.

However, it would also put Christians meeting for worship or Bible study at risk.

“The same laws that can be used to arrest radical Muslims can be used to arrest Christians,” says Nettleton.

“As we look at these countries and we see the strengthening of laws against so-called terrorism that are designed to counteract the Islamic State, we have to be aware that our Christian brothers and sisters could be affected by those laws as well.”

What should we do?

Lots of prayer is needed for the future of Christians in the Middle East. But right now, believers need your help.

Chicago demonstration stop Islamic State

Demonstrators march through Chicago holding Assyrian flags and calling for the support of Assyrians, many whom have become victims of Syria’s brutal civil war at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
(Photo credit: Scott L via Flickr)

VOM’s primary focus is supporting the Persecuted Church. Part of that involves coming alongside Christians persecuted by the Islamic State.

By helping VOM fill an Action Pack, you and your family can give Christians in the Middle East a tangible reminder that they are not alone.

Most importantly, please keep these believers in your prayers.

“Pray that God will call Christians to stay, because so many Christians are leaving the region,” requests Nettleton.

“There is an openness to the Gospel among people being displaced by the Islamic State that there wasn’t two years ago or five years ago.”

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