When Mosul Falls & ISIS Flees
We watched in horror as stretches of territory fell to the burgeoning Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the middle of 2014. We scrolled through our social media in bewildered disbelief as the real-time reports of the jihadists' carnage filled our timelines with hashtags and city names most Western civilians had never heard of before. Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) inflicted a kind of acute trauma on isolated areas difficult to understand from a world away, with a brutality scarcely conceived in the minds of men. Even survivors struggled to comprehend it. We grieved a year later, as unprecedented scores of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa drowned in the frigid, frothy waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We were appalled and argumentative when crowds walked the highways in Hungary to make it to central Europe, yet were without words when we found Aylan dead on the Turkish shore. The world has watched its own suffer like no other time in human history. We have been, inevitably, traumatized by it; will we allow ourselves to be desensitized as well?
Of all the injustices inflicted upon Iraq and Syria in recent years, we must not lose sight of the injustice most grievous: Gospel poverty. It is a terrible thing to come under the oppression of something so demonically inspired as Daesh; it is even worse to live under criminal mistreatment by the oppressive hands of wicked men and live as a sinner under the wrathful judgment of our holy Maker. It is therefore imperative for the people of Jesus around the earth to become and remain informed of the Middle East's fluid evolution, particularly since the Arab Spring ignited the region in late 2011. Like Hudson Taylor's medicine, relief is the means of a missional end. We must understand the needs in order to best address them, and find opportunities to tangibly bear witness of the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.
Now with a few years of foreign policy scuttles and an unwelcome new normal, we must look at the Middle East afresh. The Islamic State, all but snuffed out of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, has responded to its losses with consolidation in eastern Syria. Here the quasi-Caliphate has continued control and exploitation of the Syrian Civil War like some kind of unholy parasite. Three years after the fall of Raqqa, Mosul, Fallujah, and Sinjar, the regional map is more colorful. No longer are geopolitical reports as simple as "under ISIS" or "not under ISIS." Fallujah has been recovered. Mosul is all but purged of Daesh militants, who caged themselves into the center of the city and held civilians captive. Sinjar is rebuilding itself, while still finding mass graves after Daesh's nearly successful Yazidi genocide. The military campaign to retake Raqqa is actively underway. Political commentators and students will spend the next several decades digging through what just happened just to try to paint for the history books what it was we all just saw. The communities, however, will spend the next several decades trying to rebuild and keep living.
The Middle East is nothing if not resilient; life does and will go on for successive generations of conflict and displacement. Many of us in the West literally cannot relate. Though Hitler razed much of Europe in his rage, the solidarity of the international community rebuilt ancient cities within short years. Rebuilding will be no small task for the cradle of civilization. The developing areas where much blood has been shed across the Arab world in recent years already had impaired infrastructure before the Islamic State arose to power. Certainly, al-Baghdadi is not the first tyrant to stand on her soil. But does the region have the international support Europe saw after the Second World War?
Those of us who confess the Name of Jesus must think through how to serve most effectively and proclaim our King's crown most faithfully. No disciple will want to stand before our Master and give an account of deliberate inaction, and the good news is we are not without opportunity to engage the crisis before, during, and after war and conflict. Sinjar is starting from scratch. Smoke is still rising from Mosul. Syria, the "heart of the Arab world," is still bleeding. Yemen is suffering in isolated silence. These crises are horrible injustices and the LORD will avenge them. They are also gloriously "wide and effectual door[s]" for Gospel messengers to gain access to closed and hostile regions. We would be foolish at best to not walk through them while they're open, and grossly dishonoring to the King who commanded us to go at worst.
Our Iraqi and Syrian Divisions of FAI RELIEF have teams throughout the region, serving communities with initiatives specific to the most urgent needs on the ground. During the Mosul offensive, that meant both critical care in combat and basic food and medical distribution while and after areas were liberated and civilians were able to escape; we're continuing clinics and distributions as the coalition operations temper off and neighbors begin moving back into their houses. In Sinjar, we have developed a community care program meeting immediate healthcare needs and establishing long-term educational initiatives. In Syria, we're committing ourselves to an isolated area of several villages with the launch of a pediatric and family clinic, aid distribution, and community healthcare and educational initiatives.
We must begin to ask ourselves how we'll channel our outrage when bloody headlines roll, when political policy gets bottlenecked in bureaucracy while humans continue to slaughter each other. We have to decide what to do with the grief we feel when we see Aylans drown and Omars barely make it out alive. We need to make decisions today that will utilize the emotions worth these three years of yesterdays to do something about tomorrow. How will we get in the way? What will we help build? It has been a long and costly conflict, and it will be a long and costly recovery.
May the people of King Jesus be willing to get our hands outrageously dirty.
Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. She is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and can be found on on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Personal interviews, 2014-2016
 Mackay, R. The New York Times. Brutal images of Syrian boy drowned off Turkey must be seen, activists say. 2 September 2015. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/world/middleeast/brutal-images-of-syrian-boy-drowned-off-turkey-must-be-seen-activists-say.html
 Romans 3:23-24; 6:23
 Taylor trained as a doctor in order to serve the unreached of China and bring them the Gospel. See “Kept from Callousness.”
 John 1:1-5; 14
 Domonoske, C. NPR. Associated Press reports more than 70 mass graves left by ISIS. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/30/491941909/associated-press-report-documents-more-than-70-mass-graves-left-by-isis
 Romans 14:12; I Corinthians 3:12-15
 MEMRI. Syria Arab league reinstatement. Retrieved from https://www.memri.org/reports/advance-arab-league-summit-jordan-calls-arab-countries-reinstate-syrias-league-membership#_edn24
 Asrar, S. Al Jazeera. Yemen: ‘World’s worst cholera outbreak’ mapped. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/06/yemen-world-worst-cholera-outbreak-mapped-170627110239483.html
 Romans 12:19
 I Corinthians 16:9; II Thessalonians 3:1
 Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8
 The Guardian. Boy in the ambulance: shocking image emerges of Syrian boy pulled from Aleppo rubble. August 2016. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/18/boy-in-the-ambulance-image-emerges-syrian-child-aleppo-rubble