Tom Doyle, E3 Partners expert on the Middle East, says, “With Sunnis, it’s the Arab world. And with Shia, it’s the Persian world.”
He goes on to explain, “At the core of it is how Islam started and who is the successor to Mohamed. Was it his son, Ali Shia, that the Shiites follow? Or was it passed on, conferred, to someone that he designated as the leader (Sunni)?”
Now, it’s a Sunni-Shia war that’s threatening stability throughout the Middle East. “It started out of Iraq but went to Syria to get in the war, the Sunnis as they were going against Bashar Assad and the Alawites, but then transferred into Iraq wanting to stabilize that Sunni triangle, and then really take over.”
Specifically, Doyle says, it’s what’s happening in Iraq with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A lightning-fast advance by the militants caught the world off guard last week. Today, ISIS controls almost two dozen cities as they advance on Baghdad with the intent of turning the country and part of Syria into a Caliphate (Islamic law state).
Now, there’s word that the United States is considering teaming up with Iran (Shiite) against the ISIS (Sunni) advance. It is an extreme move, Doyle concedes. The enemy of my enemy is my friend? It might be much more simple, if Iran succeeds in protecting Iraq’s Shiite-led government. “We may have allowed the Persian Empire to be recreated if Iran takes over Iraq completely, which is very viable.”
Al-Qaeda also cut ISIS off from the main group in February for going over the top in the implementation of its ideology. This week’s gruesome massacre pictures were an example of the brutality ISIS utilizes in seizing control over so many cities. Doyle says they’ve been in contact with partners in Mosul, the first city to fall into extremist hands. “For the most part, people are safe right now. They’ve gotten out.” That’s the good news. The bad news: “ISIS has tried to cover their tracks, much like Hamas did in Gaza years ago to portray themselves to Christians as humanitarians.”
Doyle shared reports of ISIS fighters giving solicitous rides to nuns and other church workers as they ran errands of mercy. Nobody’s fooled by the wolf in sheep’s clothing, though. “That’s just really a chance for them to have Christians there to use as hostages or human shields.”
Specifically, Christians suffer from the anti-Western atmosphere in the country and are seen as collaborators with Westerners, a situation made more dangerous by military collaboration.
Still, believers call us to unite with them in prayer. “Pray for the church to be strong. They obviously know that they have the answer. We pray for their boldness. We obviously pray for the protection and that the gospel would be spread throughout wherever they are–in difficult cities like Mosul, the nation of Iraq, or Syria.”
Muslims around the world are sending up an SOS. They’re searching for hope and truth, and they’re finding it through Christ’s followers. “Many are calling them the ‘Bible people.’ The Bible people love everybody, so they’re seeing the difference. There’s a hunger.” MNN