Last Friday, writing in The Wall Street Journal, the noted French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, published a powerful jewel of an essay called “At a Monastery in Sight of Islamic State,” available here. In his essay, he describes his visit to the fourth-century Mar Mattai monastery in the Kurdish region of Iraq. ISIS fighters are no more than a few miles away. Until recently, the monastery housed several dozen monks, but today, only four continue to live at Mar Mattai. Mr. Lévy spoke with the monks about the savagery of ISIS. Raban Yousiff, one of the monks said, “Of course we had problems with the Persians, Mongols, Arabs and Ottomans. But never has this region seen such perversity as these men who, while claiming to be fighting in the name of God, are killing him.” The monk went on to tell about the fall of Mosul in June 2014, and about the “Nazarenes” [Christians] who were given but a few hours to choose between conversion to Islam or death by the sword. More than 300 families fled to the monastery. Several months later, fearing that the monastery would be destroyed by the ISIS jihadists, these same families fled again. Asked whether the nation might be cleansed of all Christians, the monk says, “Yes, barring a miracle, yes. What sort of miracle? That your countries come in to reinforce the brave Kurdish fighters who are protecting us, but who will not be able, by themselves, to liberate the plain of Nineveh.” The monk concludes, “Didn’t our Lord Jesus Christ say that we would be persecuted to the end because of His name?”
In recent months, ISIS fighters continue to commit with wanton barbarity demonic atrocities. A starving mother was fed her three-year-old child, ISIS “brides” have burned the breasts of Syrian women with hot coals, and hundreds of women are committing suicide to escape the sex slavery of ISIS. In early August, ISIS fighters also tortured and killed eleven indigenous Christian missionaries, along with a 12-year-old boy, the son of one of the missionaries. The missionaries, all converts from Islam and unnamed to us, had established nine house churches in the area. The twelve victims were captured on August 7 in a village near Aleppo in Syria. ISIS jihadists questioned the captives about whether they had converted from Islam to become Christians, a crime punishable by death under their sharia law. The Christians admitted that they had been Moslems. The jihadis demanded that they reconvert to Islam, but the Christians said that they could never renounce their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of the twelve captives, four were identified as “infidels” and crucified in front of a crowd. They were left on the crosses for two days, and no one was allowed to remove them. But before they were crucified, one of the four, the 12-year-old boy had his fingers cut off as his father was forced to watch. They told the boy’s father that they would stop cutting off his fingers if he would return to Islam. When the father refused, this is when they were crucified. The eight other missionaries were questioned in another village, and were beheaded after they refused to reconvert to Islam. Two of the missionaries were young women. Before the women were beheaded, they were publicly raped and beaten by jihadis. Throughout their abuse, the women prayed continuously. When the eight victims were forced to kneel for their beheadings, all eight prayed aloud. Villagers forced to observe the beheadings said that the missionaries prayed in the name of Jesus; others heard the Lord’s Prayer, and some simply commended their spirits to the Lord Jesus. It was reported that one of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she called out, “Jesus.” Thus, like the first Christian martyr St. Stephen, they prayed loudly and proclaimed the Holy Name of the Lord Jesus Christ with their last breaths. After the eight were beheaded, their headless bodies were also hung on crosses for several days.
Tertullian, the early Christian apologist, famously observed that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Even in this dangerous part of the world, many former Moslems are coming to receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Missiologists tell us that today millions of Moslems are coming to Jesus Christ each year; more are leaving Islam today than in any other period of its 1400 years of history. As ISIS continues to gain control of more areas in Syria and Iraq, more former Moslems are at risk of being killed and brutalized by this terror group for violating the caliphate’s apostasy laws. But even such a threat of persecution is not stopping Muslims from turning to Jesus Christ. Please pray for the victims and their families, and pray that many Moslems can come to Jesus Christ. And please pray for the vicious persecutors that they may, like Saul, meet Christ as Lord and Savior, and become His apostles just as the Apostle Paul was in his generation.