Today you cannot turn on the TV, radio, or computer without being bombarded with articles, and newscasts about ISIS. We have read the news reports in horror as they described how ISIS has beheaded, burned alive, and shot their victims. Their terror has spread from the Middle East to Europe, and now possibly to the U. S. Their organizational prowess has been staggering, and the reason they have been able to spread the message of terror is because of their ability to use social media like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. ISIS has reaffirmed one thing, “It’s a small world after all.”
Some reports have said that at least 500 citizens from the United Kingdom have joined the fight with ISIS and at least five more join each week. It is also reported that over 100 Americans have traveled to join them in Syria and Iraq, and that the total number of Westerners to do so is estimated at nearly 4,000.
ISIS, through social media, has been able to recruit young men and women from many countries, and convince them to give up everything they have ever known, to travel to war zones and live under the strict Islamic Sharia law. They put out a huge amount of material on the Internet, and specifically target these young people. The problem is not so much about a preacher radicalizing young men in a Mosque as it is young people radicalizing other young people and using social media as their platform.
Ten years ago Al Qaeda was meeting with their recruits face to face, ISIS now dialogues one-to-one while sitting 2,00o miles away. Al Qaeda did have videos, with grainy footage, and a bunch of men ranting in Arabic, today ISIS run a very slick and modern media campaign across many different platforms. They maintain a 24-hour online presence, and are helped with a number of volunteers and fans who pass on their message, creating an even larger ring of potential recruits.
One story I have read in recent days is about a young midwestern teenager who was a Christian and even worked in Sunday School at her church. She was steadily drawn into radical Islam by speaking to a guy who was a radical muslim over the internet. It started out with him first questioning her faith. She went to her pastor and started asking him questions concerning Christianity. After 15 minutes of counseling the pastor just encouraged her to believe the mystery of the Trinity (which was one of the teachings her Muslim friend was attacking) and dismissed her.
She kept speaking to her Muslim friend. She was drawn to the idea of “living a faith more fully.” Her muslim “friend” was always there when ever she wanted to talk. He answered her questions and challenged her faith. He had her download the Islamic Hub app on her iPhone, which sends her daily quotes from the Quran, and a daily “hadith” or saying by the Prophet Muhammad. Her friend also sent her books, and a Muslim prayer rug.
She lost contact with her first friend (it is believed that he died as a combatant) but another guy picked up where he had left off. This second friend was a Twitter user called Voyager. He revealed through email that his name was Faisal Mostafa and that he lived in Stockport, near Manchester, England. They chatted online with each other everyday. When the young lady calculated the time difference she realized that Faisal was speaking to her from about 11 PM to 6 AM his time.
The ISIS recruiters have had great success using social media, for they are able to come into your home from halfway around the world. The person they are recruiting is sitting there in the comfort of their own home, staring at a screen. No one to see what is going on. The recruiters use a young 20-something to target teenagers, many times a female to target female teenagers, or an English speaker will target English speakers.
They latch on to the feelings of teenagers not fitting in and being alone, and exploit them. Teenagers want to “fit in” and “belong.” They are looking for a fulfilling life, and something to live for. ISIS promises to deliver all of that. Purpose, reason, and belonging are all things that ISIS holds out to young people through their different social media avenues, and they have pulled them in literally by the thousands.
Lessons to Learn
As Christians there are some things we can learn through all of this. One thing is for certain, we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, and as for the Christian, our war is not on the battlefield, but in the heart and minds of people.
In the first part of this article I have showed you how ISIS has used social media to recruit thousands of people to their cause. I know that as Christians we do use social media. You are reading this very article on a blog, and you could have been linked to it by an email, Twitter, or Facebook. We use social media, but can we use it more, and more effectively. Should we be doing more to target those who do not have faith in Christ? Christians in the past used the radio to great effect. Baptists were not very quick to jump on the TV bandwagon and actually many stood against it. What happened as a result of that? The charismatic preachers took TV and now they have spread their false prosperity gospel message throughout Africa, South America, and Asia. We must do more in this area of social media. We must take advantage of any new social medias that might pop up on the horizon. We have the greatest message known to man, we just have to make it known. Our message is a message of hope and love, not hate and violence. If terrorists can recruit thousands, why can’t we recruit millions?
Young People in our Churches
Something we have known for a long time is that young people are looking for purpose. They want to fit into the adult world, which is one of the reasons they are trying drugs, alcohol, and sex. I think we have done a great disservice in our own churches to our young people. We have regulated them to the “youth departments” and have told them they do not belong with the adults. Then we wonder why, when they become young adults, they don’t make the transition into the “adult church.” We should make the transition from youth to adult in our churches much earlier than what we are doing. Mentoring our young people should take precedent in our churches. We should be careful to take time for them, never brush them off or dismiss them. All their questions should be answered in a patient loving manner. If we don’t take time for them someone else will.
Young People Outside our Churches
What are we doing to reach the youth in our own community? Ask yourself, “What has my church done or what is my church doing to reach the teenagers here?” This must also be a priority of the church. Take a survey in your church and see how many people were saved under the age of twenty. In most churches the majority of people were saved before their twenties. If this is the case why don’t more churches do more to reach the teenagers in their area? ISIS wants our young people and they are willing to stay up all night to chat with them online to win them. They utilize every media that is at their disposal. My wife did not come from a Christian home. Her parents did not take her to church; she grew up completely opposite of my upbringing. She found her way into a church that reached out to her, and she came to Christ at the age of sixteen. Now she is a wife of a missionary, and is raising five children of her own in church, and teaching them about the Bible and about Christ. We need more stories like this.
Our war will not be won with drones, boots on the ground, or special ops. If we stamp out ISIS something else will rise and take its place. Really ISIS is only one out of many things that fight for the lives and souls of our young people. We fight against Hollywood, porn, the “American Dream,” our media, and many, many more. May God help us and enable us as we fight on the battlefield of the hearts and minds of men.