The Islamic State’s Other War
In a video released on August 22, the Islamic State threatened to attack Rome and kill Pope Francis. The video calls for Muslims throughout Southeast Asia to wage jihad in Marawi, a Philippine city that has been embroiled in war between Islamic State supporters and the Philippine military since May.
But the message is intended for a much wider audience than the Philippines. It features Islamic State militants destroying a Christian church, breaking statues of Mary and Jesus, and ripping up pictures of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict xvi. One fighter holds up a picture of Pope Francis and says, “Remember this … we will be in Rome, we will be in Rome, inshallah [God willing].” He then points his gun at the picture. At the end of the video, the fighters set the church on fire.
The local terrorist group responsible for the film, Abu Sayyaf, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014. On May 23, Philippine forces tried unsuccessfully to capture its leader, Isnilon Hapilon. Abu Sayyaf and other Islamist organizations allied with the Islamic State fought back, taking Marawi. The Philippine military believed it would be able to quickly retake the city, but at least part of it remains under Islamist control. Most of the city’s approximately 200,000 residents have fled to safer parts of the island.
Marawi has long been fiercely independent. Situated on the island of Mindanao, the city offered fierce resistance to the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. Today, it is the only Islamic city in a country that is more than 90 percent Christian.
But Islamic State militants in Southeast Asia do not just see themselves as lone fighters struggling against the Philippine government for a single city. They are a small part of a global war on Christianity, as the August 22 video makes clear.
While showing footage of militants destroying statues of Jesus and Mary, the narrator says, “The crusaders’ enmity toward the Muslims only served to embolden a generation of youth.” Later, the narrator declares that “the religion of the cross [will] be broken” (emphasis added).
Radical Islam holds and proclaims a deep hatred for Christianity. It is openly fighting one of Southeast Asia’s most Catholic countries, and it is challenging predominantly Christian nations around the globe. Western politicians and journalists downplay the idea of a war between radical Islam and Christian civilization, because if such a war erupts, it will be global.
Radical Islam’s main enemy is not a particular nation or territory, but a religion—a religion who’s heart is in Europe.
When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first declared an Islamic State caliphate in 2014, he told Muslims that if they followed him “you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”
The cover article of the first issue of the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq (now called Rumiyah), stated, “According to the hadith [tradition], the area [Dabiq] will play a historical role in the battles leading up to the conquests of Constantinople, then Rome.”
Last December, the Islamic State attacked a building next to the Coptic Church’s headquarters, which is the largest cathedral in the Middle East and Africa. In April, on Palm Sunday, it attacked a church the Copts claim is built on the site of a church founded by the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark. The attack targeted the Coptic pope but failed to kill him. The Islamic State has specifically and repeatedly targeted this church and has packed as much symbolism as possible into its attacks. It wants war. This is exactly the same war it is fighting in the Philippines.
The Bible forecast that this exact clash would occur. Daniel 11:40 describes a “king of the south” attacking the “king of the north.” The scripture specifies that this would not be fulfilled in ancient history but at “the time of the end.” This is what the Trumpet wrote when the Islamic State emerged as a powerful force in 2014:
The Bible forecasts a final clash between a Vatican-led Europe and radical Islam led by Iran. Now we see a radical Islamic group declaring its will to fight Europe—“the Romans” and “crusaders.” Radical Muslims see this clash as a major part in their version of the end of the world and the triumph of Islam, so they’re training fighters to attack these crusading states.
Such an attack could revolutionize Europe’s view of Islam and the Middle East, the same way the 9/11 attack transformed America. This could bring the battle radical Islamists hope for.
isis’s latest propaganda displays a radical Islam that has picked Europe as its enemy No. 1. Even if there is no immediate attack, it is a shift that is bound to have an impact.
The Islamic State may be on the brink of defeat in Syria. But as the decline of al Qaeda shows, the fall of a particular terrorist group does not mean the end of radical Islam.
What will be the result of radical Islam’s fanatical desire to attack Europe? The Bible reveals the answer. Read our free booklet The King of the South to find out.