Iraq cemetery destroyed by ISIS, photo by Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As we enter 2018, it is fitting to remember that 2017 brought the end of ISIS as a caliphate. The Western media has hardly noticed, as if the carnage and raw evil of ISIS were of little importance.
Cameron Glenn, writing for the Wilson Center, points out that “by December 2017, the ISIS caliphate had lost 95 percent of its territory, including its two biggest properties, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its nominal capital.” We rightly celebrate the end of ISIS as a landed state. But let us not forget its trail of destruction in Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State entered northern Iraq in late 2013. Eventually, they slaughtered thousands of Shia Muslims. These Sunni militants virtually destroyed the Yazidi civilization, killing or displacing an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people. The Yazidi were an 800-year-old sect that formed a unique civilization. ISIS also attacked the Turkmen, a nomadic, Turkic-speaking people.
In June 2016, ISIS fighters selected nineteen women from thousands of Yazidi they had captured in August 2014. They locked these young women in an iron cage and burned them alive in front of hundreds of onlookers. The twisted justification for this horrendous punishment was their refusal to submit to sex with their ISIS captors.
The UN estimates that ISIS kept 3,300 Yazidi women as sex slaves.
ISIS brutalized Iraq’s Christians
Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, 1.5 million Iraqi Christians, five percent of the country’s population, worshipped in some 300 registered churches. The Iraqi church traces an uninterrupted lineage 2000 years back to the Apostle Thomas’s church-planting activities in the 1st century on his way to India.
After the fall of Hussein, hundreds of thousands of Christians fled Iraq. Ten years later, in 2013, the Christian population had been reduced to between 200,000 and 450,000. In early 2014, Mosul, the center of Christendom in Iraq, had 60,000 Christians living in relative peace among the city’s majority Muslim population.
ISIS’s bloody rampage into Northern Iraq decimated the Yazidi, Christian and Turkmen communities. When they swept into Mosul, they issued a typical Jihadist edict: convert to Islam, pay jizyah—a tax for non-Muslims who will surrender to Sharia law—or die. The deadline for compliance was noon, July 19, 2014. Samer Kamil Yacub, age 70, was perhaps the last Christian to leave Mosul, marking the end of a 2000-year-old church.
This is evil in its rawest form.
As we enter 2018, let us remember with grateful hearts the defeat of the landed caliphate. But let us remember that the ideology lives on and ISIS fighters are now dispersed all over the world.
Let us pray for the remnant of those Christians and Yazidi who survived the destruction and are now refugees at home and abroad.
Let us also pray, as our Savior taught us, for our enemy. Let us pray that the scattered ISIS fighters would be abhorred by what they have done and would turn to their Savior in repentance and faith.
- Darrow Miller