The majority of posts and articles that I see about ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria are about how awful they are. And they are truly awful and barbaric. But I have yet to see many constructive suggestions for how to address the situation, other than “Take ‘em out!” or something similar. But we need to do more than just sit around and say how bad they are, or debate about whether they represent true Islam or not.
In the spirit of offering constructive solutions, the rest of this post contains recommendations for both state and church actions that should be taken, written by a Christian brother who has experience in the Middle East and is currently working with Muslims. He has given me permission to share these here:
- The Jordanians and Emirates should immediately equip aircraft loadouts with fewer dumb munitions to avoid collateral damage. If they're too expensive, countries like Saudi Arabia should help provide them to avoid the appearance of Western manipulation.
- Historically, bombing campaigns in the Middle East have almost never been effective without some kind of ground force. Muslim states that have less to lose by ISIS expansion (Egypt, Iran, Oman) should assemble an international peacekeeping force comprised of Sunni and Shia fighters. This makes ISIS's narrative about a God-ordained Caliphate less convincing.
- The Muslim countries from which the highest percentages of new ISIS fighters come should produce public-service campaigns describing a religious yet progressive Islamic narrative that appeals to disillusioned youth.
- Countries with numerous refugees of the Syrian and ISIS conflict should invite influential culture setters (Bono, Angelina, and similar people from places like India, South Africa, Pakistan, China, etc.) to meet the refugees in the camps.
- Countries in the United Nations should stand ready to begin reconstruction in areas previously held by ISIS within days of ISIS departure. This should be sustained and extremely public to encourage other towns and villages under ISIS control to defect.
- Pastors should take it upon themselves to lead times of prayer during service after service to demonstrate to God our willingness to partner with Him in bringing peace and to inculcate a love for Muslims in congregations.
- Mission boards should invest in radio, television, and social media outreach programs in the region.
- Courageous pastors and Christian counselors should go to Irbil to encourage the remaining Iraqi Christians and whatever underground movements are underway.
- Believers should prioritize disciple making on the outskirts of ISIS-dominated areas. When ISIS inevitably encounters these believers, there will be greater opportunity for them to, first, actually meet a genuine follower of Jesus, and second, perhaps come into the Kingdom.
- Believers who can reasonably maintain some anonymity in ISIS-dominated areas should consider going there to be underground change agents and disciple makers.
- Christians should love Muslims in their own neighborhoods sacrificially because it's the right thing to do, and because it discredits the ISIS narrative that Christians and Muslims are bitter enemies.