Prelude to Apocalypse
Standing atop a mountain plateau in the stark Judean wilderness, one can look down at the remains of Roman siege camps that eventually trapped some 960 Jewish men, women, and children who had fled Jerusalem to Masada while the Romans slaughtered Jews by the thousands in the Holy City in AD 70.
Masada stands as a stark testimonial to a chapter in history most thought would never happen again. The scope of Roman savagery is a study in the fallen nature of godless, corrupt tyrants who have no regard for human life.
However, almost 2,000 years later, I am writing this editorial as Christians and an estimated 40,000 people of the Yazidi sect sit trapped on another mountain, awaiting death by starvation, exposure, or execution while praying for deliverance.
This horror involves the annihilation of Christians and others who refuse to submit to the demands of the jihadist ISIS hordes running rampant through Iraq and Syria.
ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), now calling itself IS (Islamic State), is a barbaric terrorist group bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East. Then it plans to move west to create a global Islamic empire. Christians and Jews are marked for annihilation unless they convert to Islam, as are dissenting Muslims and anyone else refusing to submit to ISIS’ outrageous demands.
ISIS’ stunning barbarism was displayed in the beheading of American journalist James Foley in August. Foley’s decapitation was similar to the slaying of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl by Pakistani terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in 2002. Beyond this reprehensible savagery is an inﬂexible ideology. There is no appealing to these people. They will not cede to Western demands. Establishing a triumphant, global Islamist caliphate is their goal, and spreading fear among their enemies is their tactic to silence opposition, as is making their enemies believe concessions equivalent to surrender will bring peace.
ISIS’ satanically motivated mass murderers demand acceptance of their concept of Islam. Failing to comply brings death. Being killed for refusing to renounce one’s faith in Christ means decapitation, crucifixion, or an assortment of demonically concocted horrors designed to inflict the most appalling torture achievable.
In the pagan world of the ancients, watching ravenous beasts tear the innocent limb by limb was a blood sport that entertained the masses. People who delight in murdering, raping, and ravishing the helpless, as ISIS does, are driven by the same passion as their ancient counterparts: They love to kill. However, their lust for carnage is disguised as a commitment to religion. They do it in the name of their god.
Early Christians assembled in small groups on the floors of pagan theaters and arenas because they would not trade their faith for freedom; and they were murdered as a result. The same was true of believers who were bound to stakes, waiting for flames to consume them because they refused to forsake their Savior.
No one anticipated that the most egregious crimes against Christians would be perpetrated in our lifetime. The evil equals or exceeds that of previous eras.
Open Doors USA serves the worldwide persecuted church. Each year it compiles its World Watch List. In no fewer than 50 countries, Christians suffer extreme to moderate persecution. In Nigeria the Islamic Boko Haram terrorists’ brutal abductions and assaults on schools, churches, and entire Christian communities have forced even the silent mainstream liberal media to report on them.
If the secular media’s silence is due to its ideological prejudice or animosity toward Christianity, how does one explain the muteness of the majority of American Christians? Christians should be speaking out because the jihadists who now seem far away proclaim their intent daily for America.
There is no better statement on the perils of apathy than that of German Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller, whose outspoken opposition to Adolf Hitler earned him seven years in a fetid Nazi concentration camp:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.