Genocide of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East

2016 Ramadan GraphicWho is Daesh? Daesh is the jihadi group known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), or ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) or as the group likes to refer to itself as simply the Islamic State. Some western leaders feel using Daesh, an acronym formed from the Arabic, challenges the legitimacy of the group.

On March 17, 2016, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry announced, “My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.” This announcement came after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning ISIS atrocities as genocide.

John Kerry’s statement coincides with the European Union’s resolution in February 2016 that also declares Daesh commits genocide. The term genocide is defined in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. There are two elements of the crime of genocide:

  1. The mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” and
  2. The physical element which includes five acts:
    1. Killing member of the group
    2. Causing serous bodily or mental harm to member of the group
    3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
    4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
    5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Islamic State or Daesh has committed all the elements of the definition above. By asserting that Daesh is guilty of genocide, the United States and European Union have a legal duty to prevent the campaign of genocide and punish those who are committing the acts of genocide.

One would think that Christians, Yazidis, and even Shia Muslims would receive preferential treatment as refugees since western state departments have recognized that these groups are being targeted for genocide by the Islamic State, yet since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, approximately 96% of the refugees from Syria that have been admitted to the United States have been Sunni Muslims. Because ISIS has its roots in a puritanical form of Sunni Islam, Sunni Muslims are not threatened by genocide like the other groups.

Between January 2016 to May 2016, 2,099 Syrian refugees were admitted to the United States. That is almost as many as were admitted for the entire year of 2015. Out of the 2,099 refugees, only six are Christians and ten are Yazidis.

Prayer Point:

Pray for the Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims who have been targeted by ISIS for genocide, and pray that western governments will fulfill their legal obligation to prevent the genocide of these groups.

Is Islam Monolithic?

2016 Ramadan GraphicMuslims and Western apologists often claim that Islam is misunderstood in the West. Articles listing myths about Islam are easily found on secular, Muslim and even Christian websites. In the next few days we will be examining a wide range of some common assumptions non-Muslims may have about Muslims and Islam to determine their accuracy.

Assumption: Islam is a monolithic religion in which people all practice and believe the same thing.

First it is important to understand that there is much diversity among the 1.6 billion followers of Islam. Often Westerners see Islam as a Middle Eastern religion, however the nation with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia with over 209 million Muslims. Indonesia is followed by India (176 million), Pakistan (167 million), Bangladesh (134 million) and Nigeria (77 million). Collectively these five nations contain 48% of the world’s Muslim population.

Just as there are many denominations within Christianity, there are different sects within Islam. The two major sects in Islam are Sunni and Shi’a. The split between the two sects occurred following Muhammad’s death over a dispute regarding his successor. 85% to 90% of Muslims are Sunni, and among Sunni Muslims there are four major schools of thought. Shi’a Muslims make up approximately 10% of all Muslims, and there are also sub-sets among Shi’a Muslims with three main schools of thought.

There are multiple branches from the main schools of thought of both Sunni and Shi’a Islam. In addition, there are Muslim sects that have formed in more recent history such as the Ahmadiyya Movement founded in India in 1889, and as Islam has spread throughout the world native folk beliefs and practices have also been incorporated in some regions. Folk Islam can include belief in traditional magic systems and ecstatic rituals along with the use of shrines and amulets. Sufism, a mystical form of Islam and a form of Sunni Islam is often integrated into folk Islam.


Shi’a and Sunni Muslims use the same Qur’an, agree that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and follow the five pillars of Islam. The main difference is that Sunni Muslims rely on the Sunnah (the teachings and sayings of Muhammad) to guide them while the Shi’as rely on their leaders to be their spiritual guides.

Just as Christians in different denominations may have vastly different beliefs, Muslims also vary in their beliefs. We must see Muslims as individuals created by God in His image in need of an encounter with Jesus, God’s Son.

Prayer Point:

Pray that you will see your Muslim neighbor, coworker or friend through God’s eyes, and then pray that he or she will have a divine encounter with God’s Son, Jesus.


Graphic  Attribution: By Angelpeream (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Ramadan 2013 – Day 19 – Sunni, Shiite and the Many Sects of Islam

2013 Ramadan PrayerAlthough Islam divides the world into two parts Dar-al-Islam (the world ruled by Islam) and Dar-al-Harb (the world ruled by non-Muslims), many westerners do not realize that Islam itself is divided into different sects.

Muhammad did not leave any instructions as to who should lead his followers after his death, which eventually led to a split within the group of early followers. The Shia Muslims, making up approximately 10% of the Islamic world, believed only Muhammad’s direct descendants could succeed him, and acknowledge Ali as the first successor to Muhammad. In addition there are sects of Shia Islam such as the Twelvers and Ismalilis.

The Sunni Muslims (approximately 85% of the Islamic world) acknowledged Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law and friend as the first caliph (leader). They believed the first four caliphs were the true successors of Muhammad. Wars and disagreements between Sunni and Shiite Muslims have continued since the split of the two groups.

Islam expanded its empire across Persia, Egypt, and North Africa during its first century of existence. Because of the wealth Muslims acquired through their conquests, many Muslims lived a life of ease. Some within the Islamic community began to protest against the secularization of Islam and actually began to wear clothes made up of coarse cloth much like that of Christian monks. The cloth was called “suf”, and these Muslims became known as Sufis. The Sufis sought an experience with Allah, and Sufism emphasizes personal experience with the divine rather than focusing on the teachings of human religious scholars.

Other groups emerged from Islam throughout the centuries including the Baha’i Movement – which in now not recognizable as Islam. The Ahmadiyya Movement, an Islamic reformist movement was founded near the end of the 19th century. Followers believe Ghulam Ahmad, their founder was sent in the likeness of Jesus to end wars and divest Islam of fanatical beliefs. India has a significant Ahmadiyya population. Fundamental Islamic groups however have declared the Ahmadiyya as kafirs (unbelievers).

The Nation of Islam had its roots in the African American community of the United States in the 1930s, and is more of a cult of Islamic teachings than an actual sect. Followers of the Nation of Islam were taught that Black Americans had “adopted” Christianity, the religion of their slave masters and that their true religion was Islam.

Some members of the Nation of Islam followed reformer W.D. Muhammed as he integrated the Nation of Islam teachings into an orthodox community of Sunni Muslims. This group came to be known as the American Muslim Mission.

In the Islamic hadith, there is a statement that says, “My Ummah will be divided into seventy three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except one. “ (Saheeh Muslim, no. 976). In actuality, it is estimated that there could be 150 sects of Islam.

Prayer Points:

As Christian believers we recognize that all sects of Islam need a revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their Savior. Pray for these sects, that laborers will be sent to them to share the truth of the gospel.

The vast majority of citizens in western nations believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Pray for the church and our leadership – that they will recognize the great differences between the two religions and have a heart to pray for them and witness by sharing the love of Christ.

Ask God to continue to visit all sects of Islam throughout the nations with dreams and visions!