We live in an increasingly dangerous world, with terrorism—specifically Islamic terrorism—on the rise in many areas. Even places long considered peaceful have recently been shaken by evil acts. The city of Kunming in southwest China—a place we have spent much time over the years—was left reeling in March after eight Uygurs (a large Muslim group in northwest China) stabbed 29 people to death and injured 140 more inside the Kunming train station.
Many people have opined as to why Islamic terrorism is on the rise. The world offers human reasons behind the problem: social displacement, cultural and ethnic conflict, political corruption, economic inequality, and more. While there is no doubt all these factors contain an element of truth, what does God say about the real cause of global terrorism, and what does the Bible say about how to prevent it from spreading?
In this newsletter we would like to look at five key reasons behind this global problem, and share five insights into what we believe is God’s solution. One thing for sure: the world is oblivious to the true source of terrorism, and what we share will never make it into the world’s media. Some of our statements may not be politically correct in today’s age where good is called evil and evil good, but our concern is not to be politically correct, but Biblically correct.
#1: The Battle is Spiritual
The first point the world misses when evaluating terrorism is that it comes directly from Satan. Jesus stated, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Every act of murder and terror is an act motivated by Satan. He is the Father of terrorism. With each passing day, Satan is becoming more active in the world. “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
While God expects civil governments to stem crime and protect their citizens, dropping bombs on Muslim communities will never result in the eradication of terrorism. In fact, it tends to stir up the pot and exacerbate the problem. The world doesn’t believe in a literal devil, so they have no way of discerning the cause of acts of evil. The Bible puts it bluntly: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
>#2: Terrorists Confuse Light and Darkness
Did you ever realize that about half of the New Testament was written by a former terrorist? The Apostle Paul was full of hatred and envy at the success of a new group called Christians, and his passion spilled over into violence and murder. It’s a good thing the Lord didn’t give up on Paul. We are still benefiting from his life and ministry two thousand years later.
The strongest enemies of the Gospel often confuse light and darkness. The Lord told us a day will come when “anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them” (John 16:2-4).
#3: The Rise of the Church
One reason for terrorism you will never see reported in the media—even though terrorist leaders including Osama Bin Laden have often alluded to it in their speeches—is the growing influence of Christianity in Muslim nations.
The stark reality is that many Christians in countries like Syria and Iraq face death right now. In the city of Mosul alone—a city that has a Christian history dating back 1,700 years—terrorists have given all Christians three choices: pay a huge “tax”, leave and never come back, or die. As a result of this tidal wave of terror, the number of Christians living in Mosul has fallen from 60,000 in the year 2000 to zero today.
In many parts of Asia, Christians and Muslims lived alongside one another for generations without any great trouble, but in recent decades the church has grown both numerically and in influence, which has caused a violent reaction.
Thousands of Indonesian Muslims have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Local religious leaders felt threatened by these developments, so they recently lashed out and murdered a number of family leaders who had converted to Christ.
God’s plan to bring the salvation of Jesus Christ to every ethnic group is progressing, and will not be thwarted! We anticipate that the more the Church grows, the more terrorism will continue to expand. Yet the more the Church is persecuted, the more it will grow, just like the children of Israel in Egypt: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites” (Exodus 1:12).
#4: Frustration and Envy
As the church has risen up and millions of lives have been transformed by the Holy Spirit, the leaders of other religions have been faced with a difficult reality. They know that their religions offer people little hope of real transformation. They may be able to give people discipline or focus them on a common goal, but only Jesus Christ has the power to change evil to good and to bring light and life to communities that for generations have lived in darkness and death.
When people are faced with a decision between following Jesus and the desire to retain centuries of tradition, they often choose to strike out against God’s people. Most are unwilling to face the reality that their own belief system is devoid of any real life changing power. The Lord Jesus summed it up: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:19-21).
#5: The Role of Shame
Most Westerners don’t understand the huge role that shame plays in Islam and other religions (including legalistic strains of Christianity). Shame is a powerful driving force that can compel people to take violent action.
Do you know that many Muslims feel deep disgrace that one billion of them are unable to wipe one tiny nation, Israel, from the face of the earth?
Millions feel shame that their religious zeal and dedication fails to give them inward freedom, while Jesus Christ is freely giving others hope, peace and joy.
The shame of realizing they and their ancestors have believed a lie is too much for most to consider, so they channel their frustrations and into violence against the Church, even to the point of being willing to murder their own family members who become followers of Jesus.
There are countless examples of the role of shame in terrorism around the world. The Mullahs and clerics of Iran continue to kill and punish Christians for their faith. Like school ground bullies, they think that inflicting pain on Christians shows strength and power, but in reality it just shows how empty and spiritually impoverished they are.
Meanwhile, the light of Jesus continues to shine through the good deeds of Christians. The evidence of the transformative power of Holy Spirit in believers’ lives is undeniable. Even while writing this newsletter, we received the following report from one of the Asian missionaries we support. After their team provided free medical and dental clinics for 700 people in a poor Muslim area, they wrote, “One of the Muslim leaders told us he wanted to know the teaching of Isa (Jesus) because of the care and love he has witnessed from us. An increasing number of people are attending our Bible studies and weekly discipleship training.”
The unselfish and compassionate acts of God’s people are gradually winning over the hearts and minds of many Muslims who are receptive to the truth. For, “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).
We have found that while all efforts to establish the kingdom of God are greatly needed, the most effective way to reach the Uygurs has not been through Western missionaries, or even Chinese missionaries. Rather, we have come to see that the most effective and long-lasting results occur when Uygur Christians reach their own people.
They put their lives at risk to do this work, and they need prayer and support to enable them to go more places and minister more effectively.”
Asia Harvest, August 2014
(Asia Harvest is an inter-denominational Christian ministry working throughout Asia. We work alongside Asian church leaders, helping and equipping them to reach the lost. Asia Harvest helps strengthen the Church in Asia by printing Bibles in more than 50 different languages, and we support hundreds of indigenous missionaries who are working among hundreds of unreached people groups throughout Asia.)