It really is the stuff of hellish nightmares. While 19 of the Assyrian Christians kidnapped by ISIS in north-eastern Syrian have been released, around 200 are still being held hostage.
The kidnapped Christians must surely be enduring hell on earth, dreading the time when they’ll be chosen to die by decapitation. There are conflicting reports that 15 of them have already been killed.
It’s an uncomfortable fact that a number of their vicious oppressors are British. Last year, James Foley’s apparent murderer spoke in a distinctly British accent. Future members of ISIS may currently be walking next to us on our streets.
I agree with Fr Alexander’s honest assessment that if ISIS could kill us, they would and I think he’s right when he states that ISIS “are inspired by an ideology that we need to root out and overcome”.
It will, however, take years to ‘root out’ the ideology. Time is not on the side of the persecuted Christians. There is one solution that we can practice straightaway. We can pray for the ISIS terrorists, and pray that they have a change of heart. It is possible for us to form a worldwide movement of prayer, such as offering the Rosary daily for the young men who have become ISIS butchers. This is something that British bloggers could spread immediately; they could blog on the necessity of rosaries and novenas and invite other Catholic bloggers around the world to join in.
We can’t ever forget that the ISIS terrorists have been seduced by a most dreadful evil. While we may deplore their blood-spilling, we need to do as Christ instructed. Our Lord said that prayer and fasting are the sole means to get rid of some demons. Taking Christ at His word, we must use this Lent as an opportunity to offer up our fasting and boldly pray to St Michael “to thrust down into Hell Satan and all the other wicked spirits”. It’s timely that Pope Francis has said that Lent is a time of spiritual combat. At the very least, every Catholic should offer the St Michael prayer daily for the protection of Christians in the Middle East.
By prioritising prayer, we may get jeered at; and I’m willing to bet that many people will jeer at me for being a holy half-wit. I understand that prayer for murderers is very difficult. I have that sanctimonious stirring in my stomach that the ISIS thugs do not deserve our prayers. But it is self-indulgent to waste time debating as to who deserves prayer and who doesn’t. The example of James Foley’s mother who is unreservedly forgiving her son’s murderer should awake us from feelings of reluctance to forgive and to pray for the Islamic terrorists.
Here also is where the example of the persecuted Christians must move us. There are millions of Christians who would have an easier life if they gave up following Jesus. If they stick with our faith, even when the axe lingers over their heads, why can’t we take Christ’s instruction to pray and fast seriously enough to the point where we fast and pray for them and their brutal captors?
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