by Ralph H. Sidway
|Coptic Icon of St Anthony the Great|
In the ‘Sayings of the Desert Fathers’, that collection of the wisdom of the early Christian hermits, there is recounted a saying of St. Anthony the Great, founder of monasticism:
Abba Anthony said that the time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him and say, “You are mad, you are not like us.”
It seems to me that this saying is inextricably linked to a prophetic warning Jesus gave to his disciples during the Last Supper:
“The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (JN 16:2)
Christians — especially those in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan… well, really throughout the entire Islamic world, according to the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List, which reports that 80% of the fifty worst countries for persecution of Christians have a Muslim majority — as I started to say, Christians may be forgiven for taking Jesus’ words to apply to our own day and age. After all, in case after case, Christians are targeted, persecuted, kidnapped, raped, killed, their churches burned or bombed, crosses broken off, all because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
And in the vast majority of attacks on Christians, there is heard the infamous “Allahu Akbar,” the Muslim jihad battle cry meaning “Allah is greater.” As Raymond Ibrahim persistently points out in his reporting on Muslim Persecution of Christians, these attacks are often in direct response to Friday prayers at the local mosque, where firebrand imams whoop it up with their own “Allahu Akbar”-ing.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State, is not merely an educated man, he is a fiqh scholar, which means he knows Islam, and is able to issue fatwas, religious rulings. He must be presenting a compelling case, as he is convincing tens of thousands of Muslims to leave their comfy homes and jobs in the West (and in Muslim nations) and join up with ISIS to expand the nascent caliphate.
Much of their jihad involves persecution of Christians, but the Islamic State is not the only Muslim group targeting the followers of Jesus. Look at the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whose followers have been known to rampage through buses and trams checking passengers’ wrists for tattoos of the cross, the telltale sign of Coptic Christians, and kill them on the spot. Then there is the Taliban, and of course the chief group to give ISIS a run for their money in terms of sheer ferocity, Boko Haram in Nigeria (who have just recently pledged their loyalty to caliph al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State).
Time does not permit us to go around the globe in our survey, but suffice to say that each of these Muslim groups are striving to adhere to Islam in something approaching its purest form, and they proudly cite the Koran and the example of Muhammad as mandating their actions, including verses even some Westerners are beginning to recognize:
Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Sura 9:29)
Kill the mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. (Sura 9:5)
I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes. (Sura 8:12)
Of course, persecution of Christians is not the Islamic State’s sole objective. That may be merely a tactical component of their overall jihad strategy to usher in the Islamic ‘end of days’. But whether tactics or strategy, it is all driven by their intoxicating (for more and more Muslims) brew of ‘Apocalyptic Islam’.
Yet how does the West respond to this global tidal wave of Islamic jihad?
With a pathological denial which can only be described as a form of madness.
|Devout adherent of the 'Religion of Peace'|
with its holy book, the Koran.
All these authority figures are telling us not to trust what we plainly see. Yet that is not enough.
The ones with political power are ever more ominously threatening us, with not so subtle hints at free speech restrictions, censorship, and hate crime prosecutions. Recall that the only person to serve jail time in the wake of the 9/11/12 attacks on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi was a Coptic filmmaker in the United States, whose video ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was blamed by President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the “spontaneous protest” which took the lives of four Americans. As President Obama said at the United Nations, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
In the view of the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and observant Muslims the world over, the mere existence of Christian communities in Islamic lands is an insult to Islam. For Muslim zealots, Christians must be given the three choices: convert to Islam, or submit to Islamic rule and pay the jizya and “feel themselves subdued,” or if neither of those, then they must be killed.
Indeed, we are truly living in the times Jesus foretold, as Muslims who kill Christians clearly “think that they offer God service.”
And we are likewise living in the time Abba Anthony spoke of, as Western leaders retreat ever deeper into their intellectual cocoon of jihad denial, even as they target “men of good sense” who strive to warn and educate about the threat of Islam itself.
For Christians, the times call for perseverance in keeping the faith in the face of rising persecution. And for all people still possessed of common sense and integrity, the times call for courage and virtue to continue to speak the truth to power, even as the madness increases all around.
In our times, preserving one’s faith, hope, love — and sanity — is perhaps the most important victory.