What's Going On in Iraq and Why You Should Care About It {Part I}


What's Going On in Iraq and Why You Should Care About It {Part I} - Tirzah Magazine If you’ve been paying any attention to the news over the last couple weeks, you’ve probably heard of the tragedies committed in Iraq by ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever they’re calling themselves now. Subsequently, there have been many blog posts and articles discussing the various perspectives of the issue, some calling into question the veracity of the reports, some questioning the role of the Church in this, etc.

This has become a heavy burden on our hearts over the past few weeks, so we decided it was time to raise this issue in our Tirzah community. If you’ve been wondering what exactly is going on in the Middle East right now and what you can do about it, read on.

This article will explain what's happening and how it relates to us; tomorrow, we'll publish the second part explaining what exactly you can do about it.

How It Began:

Basically, a breakaway faction of Al Qaeda, a well-known terrorist group, has decided to expand its territory with the aim of establishing an Islamic Caliphate. ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (which is a larger region covering from Southern Turkey all the way down and around into Egypt), also known as IS, the Islamic State (for time purposes, we will use the moniker IS for the rest of the article), was birthed out of Al Qaeda, but soon cut off. Al Qaeda disagreed with IS’s differing religious ideology and brutal tactics, and did not wish to have its name tainted by association. That’s right: this group is too extreme even for Al Qaeda.

The leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, and thus proper heir of the Islamic Caliphate (kingdom or empire, essentially) that was long ago destroyed.

If you’ve never studied the history of Islam, here’s a brief explanation of why this matters: after the founder of Islam, Muhammad, died, there were four caliphs (rulers) who succeeded him in turn. The last one was assassinated, and then there were two back-to-back dynasties that stretched from 661-1258 AD. The last dynasty was eventually broken up by an invasion of the Mongols. After this, there was a succession crisis - no one could agree on who the next rightful ruler of the Islamic world should be. From this came two major factions - the Shiites and the Sunnis. Both had differing opinions on how the next heir should be chosen, and how political and religious power should be administered.

Enter today: the majority of the Muslims involved in IS are Sunni extremists who believe that al-Baghdadi is a legitimate heir to re-establish an Islamic Caliphate, which has not existed since since the 1200s. This is the driving force behind their quest for domination: to establish an Islamic Caliphate that spreads over the world, thus establishing Islam as the reigning religion. Everyone who is not their version of Muslim - meaning other religions and other Muslims who don’t believe the same things they do - is seen as an "infidel," someone who must be destroyed.

IS first gained traction in Syria, when they took over Raqqa, Syria. Far from controlling territory alone, they are controlling as many aspects of social life as possible, imposing strict rule of Sharia law.

Now, they have spread from Syria into Iraq, overtaking both Mosul (historic Nineveh), the second largest city in Iraq and home to many Christians, and Qaraqosh, the largest Christian-populated city in Iraq. IS has proclaimed intent to take power and establish as large of an Islamic State as possible, threatening in videos they've posted that they will not rest until they see their flag flying over the White House. Regardless of whether or not that is a viable threat, the fact is that IS is not a group to be flippantly disregarded.

The Problem Is:

Having now established a foothold in Iraq, IS has been pursuing the genocide of various religious minorities, including Christians. Christians in Iraq were given the option to convert, flee by July 19th, or die. The vast majority of Christians fled and are now on the run as refugees - without a clean source of water, food, or reliable shelter. They have no home to return to.

[pullquote width="300" float="right"]Christians and other religious minorities are being persecuted to the point of genocide.[/pullquote]

Some claims have been made about the beheading of Christian children - others have disputed the veracity of those claims. But regardless of whether or not IS is “systematically beheading children,” the news is agreed that Christians and other religious minorities are being persecuted to the point of genocide - killed or forced to run for their lives as refugees.

Why You Should Care:

Dearest, I know it’s far away. I know we all have our own lives, problems, limited resources; and when the plights of others are far removed from us, it’s easy to think that it’s not as bad as it sounds, or that we are not responsible to do something about it.

But as Christians, we are. If you need proof, read Matthew 5:1-12 and Matthew 25:31-46 to see what Jesus thinks about this.

"Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily." -Hebrews 13:3

Darling, we must take off our blinders and wake up - there are hurting people out there, people who are loved dearly by Jesus. Although we’ve never met these people, because they are bought by the blood of Christ, that makes them just as much family as the people dearest to your heart.

We must care for them, because no one else will.

Come back tomorrow to read Part II: a list of specific things you can do to help those affected by the crisis.

// image via cnn