Any person who has paid the slightest attention to the news over the past few weeks has known about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France that have been claimed by ISIS. As a military man I will on purpose stay away from any comments or remarks concerning state or political matters. I will, on the other hand, use this time to respond to what I feel to be a troubling trend among Americans (especially the church in American).
In view of terrible atrocities that occurred when Paris was bombed by ISIS, Facebook allowed its users to change their profile pictures to contain a layover of the French flag in support of those who had gone through such a horrendous situation. This was accompanied by many hashtags and labels proclaiming that these people would ‘pray 4 Paris’ or ‘stand with Paris’. It was a social media sensation and it seemed to come quickly and leave just as swiftly.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying; I think we should always support those who go through terrible tragedy and pray for those in need. What angered me in this situation was that it appeared that so many of my compatriots in social media were only upset when terrorism came to France. They were virtually silent when acts of terrorism occurred in other countries even though they claimed many more lives and happened on a much more regular basis. Simply because it event occurred in Paris was enough to bring the American believers together regardless of all the other countries that needed ‘prayer’ and for people to ‘stand with’ them.
ISIS, as a terrorist organization has been hard at work publicly since 2014 when they proclaimed their ‘global caliphate’. You can follow a brief timeline of ISIS here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/14/world/middleeast/isis-expansion.html?_r=0 . During their rise to power from 2006 until now they have slaughtered over 100,000 and, while popular, are not the worst group out there when it comes to the death toll (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/world/africa/boko-haram-ranked-ahead-of-isis-for-deadliest-terror-group.html).
Yet, for some crazy reason no one seemed to care about all the other thousands of deaths that are occurring on a weekly basis. Where are the profile pictures that have a Syrian flag layover? Or an Egyptian flag layover? Or an Armenian flag? Where are all the ‘Pray 4 Iraq’ or ‘Stand with Nigeria’? They are mysteriously absent because I believe Americans do not care about what they cannot associate with.
Amerians have a connection through the media of what Paris is like so they are appalled at 140+ people being killed in a terrorist attack (as well they should). Yet since they do not have any connection to the other countries that have had thousands more slain or displaced they do not bat an eye, post a single thread, or say a prayer for those who do not live in Paris. They go on with life, happily ignorant of those who are daily dying because they live in the wrong country.
What, then, are we to do? What is my answer? I again proclaim the ‘both/and’ approach. Pray for Paris; but also pray for every other country that is suffering under the threat of terrorism from these evil organizations. Pray that God would protect people from tragedy and, most of all, that he would turn the hearts of these killers so that they can bring peace instead of terror. As crazy as this sounds, Jesus called his followers to do just that.
Jesus’ earthly ministry took place while Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. Jesus and his followers were very, very small in number in comparison to those groups who worship pagans God’s from all the territories under the Roman banner. The persecution that came on followers of Christ during the first 3 centuries after Jesus’ life would be intense and hundreds of thousands of Christians would be martyred by the Romans.
What would Jesus say to his followers, knowing that this terrible time of persecution would come? Matthew tells us:
 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5: 43-48 NLT)
Jesus directed his followers in this passage and in others to be willing to give these matter over to God and to seek God’s best for those who would bring their worst to the Church. We, as his followers as well, must seek to go to God on behalf of not just those being persecuted but also for those who are doing the persecution. And we must also remember that these terrible tragedies are daily occurrences all over the world. We cannot simply sit in our comfortable homes and comment from the sidelines.
How can you and I help? First, get out of your own life and think about others outside of your sphere. Then, share your time, talents and treasure to help them. Give time in prayer for those undergoing persecution. Give your talents in helping to raise funds and coordinate help for those in need. Finally, share some of your treasure to donate to those in need (Here is a good place to start https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/child-refugees/syria-crisis?ms=ref_dig_2015_web_homepage_20150903_hpsubhero).
Then we will truly be the Church and not just a group that meets once a week in a building.