Voice Talk: A Believer’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Join me on this edition of Voice Talk as I’m joined by some very special guests to discuss a believer’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Hineni. “Here Am I. Send Me.”

Note Before You Read: I know I’m a little late in publishing this, but what can I say…sometimes life gets in the way and some things fall off the plate.

I originally began writing this right after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and continued working on it for a few days…until “life” happened. Even though I put it off and it might seem a little late to post this, I think there is still an important lesson for each of us to hear from these events.

So as you read this, keep in mind that the timetable may seem off from where we are currently. Enjoy!

By now I think most people have heard about the terrorist attack in Paris, France this week. It all started when two terrorists with links to Al Qaeda in Yemen stormed the office of a controversial magazine in Paris killing 12 people, including the magazine’s editor, and wounding many others.

The terrorists were on the run for several days, hiding out in a massive forest outside Paris and in a small nearby town. Then early this morning (Friday, January 9, 2015) we received word that the terrorists were hiding in a small printing office where they had one hostage and that not far away two more Islamic terrorists, believed to be part of the same terror cell in France, were holding hostages at a Jewish Kosher deli.

At the time of this writing on Friday, January 09, 2015, the media is reporting that three of the suspects were killed and that the fourth suspect (the only female) had escaped and that all hostages from both locations were freed, except for two hostages who were reportedly shot and killed. UPDATE: As it turns out, authorities now believe the female suspect may not have been with the other suspects as originally thought and may have left for Syria immediately following the attack at Charlie Hebdo.

This senseless violence is all very sad and heartbreaking. Initial reports say the motive of the attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Monday was the magazine’s repeated irreverent depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine has also caricaturized prominent figures of other religions and, yet, I can’t recall the last time I saw a Buddhist monk wearing a suicide vest and taking hostages…but hey, that’s beside the point, right?

As I read accounts and reports of the ongoing manhunt for the two radical Islamist brothers, I came across several reports that other European countries were also bumping up their terror threat levels in light of the attacks in Paris. Spain, Britain, and Germany were among these countries to bolster their security. In addition, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response against terrorism in Iraq and Syria.

But where were these countries when Israel was warning of the terrorist threat in the world? The people now sporting #jesuischarlie, where were they when Hamas was launching hundreds and hundreds of rockets into Israel this summer? Why is it that the world always waits to act against the threat of evil in the world until it touches their own lives? Why not stop it before it takes the lives of so many innocent people? Before families lose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and beloved friends? Why do we think we won’t be touched by the evil in the world?

Why do we believe that somehow this evil will be stopped before it reaches our doorstep?

And how do we think it will be stopped if no one stands up to fight it?

Why didn’t France do something before now? Before this heinous attack took the lives of 16 and forever changed the lives of countless others? France has long been the European Mecca for Muslim immigrants and has had to face new concerns in dealing with this influx of Muslim immigration. Several years ago I read an article detailing the legal battle over outlawing the burqa (the head-to-toe covering Muslim women wear) in parts of Europe. With the surge of Muslim immigrants coming into France and the dozens of security alerts that French citizens are returning from fighting in Syria and Iraq with ISIS, could the government not see this threat coming?In fact, the two brothers who carried out the attack at Charlie Hebdo and the man who held hostages at the Kosher deli were all French citizens who had recently returned from fighting alongside terrorists.

I have even read of France’s “no-go zones,” as they are called, in predominantly Muslim areas. They are areas in France that tourists, locals, and even police do not go into because of the violence and criminal activity that takes place in these areas. And even though the city of Paris is trying to sue Fox News for their report, there are indeed European no-go zones.

And now Spain sees the looming threat on its borders. But what will be done to stop it?

Today there was a Unity March in Paris that was led by dozens of world leaders in a stand against terrorism (it should be noted that the highest ranking person to represent the U.S. was the ambassador to France and not the President or Vice President, but hey, who has time to stand against terrorism, right?). But why did it take so long for the world to unite against terrorism? Why did it take so long for the leaders of the world to unite in this type of stand? Why didn’t world leaders unite when Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood were united against Israel? Where was the unity march when ISIS invaded Iraq and Syria? Where was the outcry and hashtags when dozens and dozens of Christians were beheaded, impaled, burned alive, or kidnapped by ISIS?

What makes the terrorist attack in Paris so different? Why did the attack on journalists affect so many more people than the deaths of Jews and Christians?

The response to the attack at Charlie Hebdo reminds me of the words spoken in 1946 by concentration camp survivor Pastor Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

The words of Pastor Niemöller should serve as a reminder to us that we are not invincible. None of us should think that we are somehow immune to the evils of this world. Yes, it is true that God is our strong tower, but does that give us license to hide our heads in the sand? Does that give us reason to look away from the wrong happening in the world; to not speak out against the injustice?

Since I began writing this two weeks ago, another terrorist attack has been carried out. This time in Tel Aviv. Once again, terror was brought to the streets of Israel. It was a stabbing attack on a city bus during the morning rush hour. At least a dozen people were stabbed in this horrific attack.

Immediately following the attack, stories of heroism and bravery emerged. The bus driver remained in control of the bus even after he was stabbed, possibly saving lives from not crashing into cars or pedestrians on the sidewalk. Then he wrestled the attacker and tried to fight him off before he could attack the other passengers. When the attacker moved toward the passengers, the bus driver slammed on the brakes of the bus causing the attacker to lose his balance, allowing the passengers precious seconds to run for their lives, possibly saving dozens more. When the bus driver could no longer fight, he called a friend and co-worker, told him about the attack and asked him to take care of his children. This man is a hero. He put thoughts of others before himself during this entire attack. If only we could all be this selfless.

Then there was a 13-year old boy on his way to school. He saw the attacker leave the bus driver and start walking toward him and the other passengers in the back of the bus. He threw his backpack at the attacker and bought himself a few more precious seconds. Then, in order to help the other passengers escape, this young boy broke the window with his elbow and helped others crawl out as well. This alerted the bus driver who then opened the doors allowing more passengers to escape. Would I be this brave and selfless in a situation like this? To risk my life for others? For strangers?

If we could save just one life from our actions, is that not the same as saving the entire world? Each life is precious and valuable. It doesn’t mean that we have to go to Syria or Iraq and fight ISIS ourselves or that we should pick up guns and fight in the war. But are guns the only way to fight?

Ideas, thoughts, words…aren’t these weapons in war as well? After all, aren’t battles won or lost in the hearts and minds of men? We have a responsibility to speak out against injustice; to do what we can for those in need. It will look different for everyone, but each of us has something to offer. Each of us has a part to play.

Then I heard YHVH asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

The word hineni in Hebrew is translated as “here I am.” But, as with most Hebrew words, the meaning goes so much deeper than that. Hineni carries the connotation of urgency. It reflects a completely open and willing heart to the urgent call of YHVH. When you use the word hineni, what you’re essentially saying is, “Here I am…with all of my heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit ready and willing to do all that You have called me to do.” It’s the response you give when you are fully present in the moment and you aren’t holding anything back from Him. It’s the response you give when you are fully prepared to do all that He has asked of you; even if it means sacrificing of yourself and putting your desires on hold.

The question is, will you be willing to go where He sends? Will you be willing to speak the words He puts in your heart? Will you be willing to go where He sends? Will you be able to stand up when He says, “Arise! The time has come.”

YHVH has a purpose and a calling for each one of us. There is a part in His plan that we each can play. But it won’t just happen or fall into our laps. We must have ears to hear His call and a heart that is willing to take that first step into the battle. It won’t be easy. We can’t hold anything back. It will require everything we have; it will require all of us.

So…how will you answer His call?

Iraq and the Threat of the Muslim Caliphate

I’m sure we have all been hearing about Iraq in the news lately. The situation over there is definitely tense and as the days go on, the situation becomes even more urgent. But what is really happening? And what does it all mean? Hopefully as you read this post, you’ll gain a little more clarity into what’s happening and why it’s so important.

After WWI, Iraq and its government was primarily Sunni. However, in 2003 after the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was overthrown and Shiites took power. Many believe the Shiites exacted revenge at this point in time for the brutal treatment they received at the hands of the Sunnis. The majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni, however, today they are a minority of the population in Iraq.

Rebel militants from Syria are now crossing the border and promoting the violence and upheaval we see taking place in Iraq. These rebel militants, who have ties to al-Qaeda, are part of a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Today the Levant includes the island of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and part of southern Turkey but originally indicated Mediterranean lands east of Italy.

Main differences between Sunni and Shiites
The main differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims stem from political disagreement. After the death of Muhammad, Sunni Muslims believed that their new leader should be elected from anyone who was capable. Shia Muslims, however, believed that the new leader should come from the descendants of Muhammad. This question of leadership has caused a great rift between the two sects, especially in recent years as American and European leaders attempt to establish more “westernized” forms of government in the region.

However, another point of contention is the Mahdi. In Islam, the Mahdi is considered the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule before the Day of Judgment and will rid the world of evil. According to Islamic tradition, the Mahdi’s rule will coincide with the second coming of Jesus – whom they refer to as Isa.

***It is especially important to keep in mind from this point on, that the following information is from the Islamic perspective and is an exact mirror image of what we as believers in Yeshua the Messiah and the Bible believe. Please keep in mind, I am not agreeing or promoting the Islamic end-time ideology.***

According to Islam, Isa/Jesus will assist the Mahdi in the fight against the Antichrist. Muslims believe Isa/Jesus will return east of Damascus, dressed in yellow robes with his head anointed. At that time, Isa/Jesus will tell all Christians that they were wrong to believe that he was the son of god and will, instead, point them to the real messiah…the Mahdi. While both Sunni and Shiite Muslims agree that the earth will eventually become an Islamic world, the Shiites have a very particular, and somewhat alarming, view of end-times.

So what I’m saying here is the man we consider the Antichrist is the Muslim’s messiah and the man they consider the Antichrist will be Yeshua our Messiah. This is why it is so important to call Him by His real name Yeshua and understand that we do NOT all serve the same God. The enemy always tries to deceive people by imitating YHVH’s order and plan and then twisting it. We need to be on guard against the lies and deceptions of the enemy.

According to most Shiites, the Mahdi will be the Twelfth Imam. The Twelfth Imam, or Hidden Imam, is believed to be the infallible male descendant of Muhammad. He was thought to have already been born but disappeared and will one day return. The Shiites believe that chaos precedes the return of the Mahdi and marks the end of the age. It’s an apocalyptic time marked by wars, plagues, and famines, followed by the Day of Judgment. The Shiites believe a precursor to the return of the Mahdi will be the destruction/conquering of Israel and America. However, according to some Sunni Muslims, the Mahdi will be an ordinary man – most likely a politician – who will revolutionize the world according to the ideology of Islam and establish the caliphate.

According to Andrew McCarthy, author of The Grand Jihad, the caliphate can be described thusly:

“The caliphate is an institution of imperial Islamic rule under sharia, Muslim law. Not content with empire, Islam anticipates global hegemony. Indeed, mainstream Islamic ideology declares that such hegemony is inevitable…For Muslims, the failure of Allah’s creation to submit to the system he has prescribed is a blasphemy that cannot stand.”

The mounting threat is that the ISIS militants would try to establish a caliphate – or Sharia Law state – in Iraq, if they could gain enough ground…or the right ground. Namely, the city of Baghdad.

Movement of Rebels
The ISIS began its attack in the north and eventually gained control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a major city where U.S. troops took heavy casualties during the war.

The northwest Iraqi city of Tal Afar fell to ISIS, according to Iraqi Gen. Mohammed al-Quraishi. Many Tal Afar residents — ethnic minority Shiite Turkmen — fled the fighting north toward Iraq’s Kurdish region. Tal Afar is in Nineveh province, midway between the country’s border with Syria and Mosul, north of Baghdad.

Before Iraqi security forces lost Tal Afar, several mortar rounds landed on a busy area in the town and killed at least seven and wounded 33 people, security officials in Baghdad and Tal Afar have said.

Also Sunday, ISIS gained control of two villages in Adhaim, in its first push into Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.

On top of that, Iraqi security forces and gunmen believed to be ISIS clashed near al-Khalis, about 18 miles from Diyala’s capital, Baquba. Three mortar rounds landed near a recruitment center recently opened for volunteers to help the Iraqi army fight against ISIS.

Baquba is about 37 miles northeast of Baghdad. Baquba is an ethnically-mixed city, though Sunnis represent a slight majority.

Given Baquba’s proximity to Baghdad, if Baquba were to fall, it could give ISIS militants three-pronged access to Baghdad — from Anbar province to the west, Ninevah and Salahuddin provinces to the north and from Diyala province from the northeast.

The important thing to take away from all this is that the ISIS is marching across Iraq with the capital city of Baghdad its ultimate goal. If Baghdad were to fall, the battle would be over. It is crucial the Iraqi government secure Baghdad. If the ISIS can gain control of Baghdad, there is a very strong possibility that a caliphate would be established in Iraq.

So What Does it Mean for Us?
So what does all of this have to do with us in America? Well, first of all, it’s important to understand that the moving and shaking we see sweeping across the Middle East – going back to the Arab Spring as well – has important spiritual implications for us as believers. Remember all the end-times stuff we talked about earlier? It’s important for us to remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual matters of wickedness in the heavenlies.” We also need to understand how important it is for us as believers to know the real name of our Messiah Yeshua. The Muslims also believe in a man named Jesus but this man is going to lead countless astray when he turns them to the Mahdi – the true, Biblical Antichrist.

When President Obama removed American troops from Iraq, he claimed that he had left behind a “stable and secure and sovereign Iraq.” However, it’s now evident to see that this is not the case and, in fact, essentially removed the glue holding Iraq together.

The Iraqis have asked the U.S. for help by way of airstrikes, which, President Obama has been hesitant to provide. However, President Obama is considering sending Special Forces to Iraq to “advise and train Iraqi troops.”

Additionally, 170 armed troops have already arrived in Baghdad to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy…an embassy which cost the U.S. a reported $750 million to build.

In addition to sending troops, the U.S. is also contemplating the possibility of cooperation with another country in order to keep the ISIS from advancing on the country. Which country? Iran.

Possible U.S. Military Cooperation with Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over the situation in Iraq and is not ruling out a potential military cooperation with Iran. Both the U.S. and Iran have a similar interest in preserving Iraq’s Shiite government. Iran and Iraq are the only countries in the region with a primarily Shiite majority. There are, however, large minority Shiite communities in some countries.

While the U.S. and Iran may have similar short-term goals with regards to Iraq, they certainly have different long-term goals. The U.S. would like to see an inclusive, representative democracy in Iraq, while Shiite Iran is more focused on protecting Iraq’s Shiite population and bolstering its own position as a regional power against powerful Sunni Arab states in the region. In fact, Iran’s military leaders are already begun taking a leadership role in Iraq.

However, getting involved with Iran, in any way shape or form, could have dire consequences. An Iranian video titled “The Coming is Near,” reported the Iranian government views the unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi is about to appear. The video, which was produced by the Iranian regime, says that the Iranian regime believes all the signs are moving into place and that Iran will soon help usher in the end-times. The Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand. The video also noted that Iran was destined to defeat America and Israel.

Any sort of cooperation with Iran seems directly at odds with our best interests.

Implications for future
So this big question for us right now is, should we get involved? This is a tough question. On one hand, we have spent the last 10+ years at war with our troops overseas. Many feel we should just let the Iraqis handle the situation and fight amongst themselves. However, there is another side to consider. We have an interest in securing the region. Not only did we fight for so long to give some sort of stability to the region, we have spent millions upon millions of dollars on this initiative.

So it seems there is no easy answer to this question. While I don’t know if we should send troops or if we do, how many we should send, I do know that we have a definite interest in securing the region. The result of not securing the region is the potential caliphate that these Sunni militants want to establish. And the result of an established caliphate takes the world one step closer to the end-time events we read about in Revelation.

While I do not think, at this point, the Sunni militants will take the city of Baghdad or Iraq as a whole, I do think that Iraq will not easily recover from this battle. It is possible at this point for another country – like Iran – to come in while the Iraqi government is especially vulnerable and begin to “help” them rebuild and in the process establish themselves as a regional power. At this point, only time will tell how this will play out but a few things are certain. We, as believers should be praying about this situation. This situation will have ramifications not only for us but for Israel. Second, we are most certainly witnessing the birth pains Yeshua spoke of in Matthew. We are watching prophecy unfold before our very eyes. Like the five wise virgins, will you be found ready and prepared?