Its efforts to create a ‘pure’ Islamic nation are causing a growing number of Muslims to examine their faith more closely and more critically. “There are a lot of people turning from Islam”, said Ibrahim Al-Jamil, a pastor in northern Iraq. “Jesus has a big net and ISIS is pushing people toward this net. What we are seeing now is like the tip of the iceberg”.
Removing the veil
Ibrahim said he also sees evidence on social media and elsewhere on the Internet that Muslims are leaving Islam. He said they are repulsed by what ISIS is doing and increasingly disagree with Islam’s teachings.
“ISIS is making people, especially Muslims, think about their faith and question the faith they were born in and don’t understand”, he said. “They were reading the Koran, but there is a veil. So now when they are reading the Koran they have better understanding and they are questioning if this is the true faith and if Allah is ordering people to kill each other”.
When they first leave Islam, Ibrahim said, many people initially claim no religion. They have been taught that Christianity is a false religion, and Judaism isn’t an option because Jews have long been viewed as the enemy.
“That is why if they didn’t see a dream or vision, they don’t come to Christianity”, Ibrahim added. “When they see a dream or vision, the first thing after Islam is Christianity because the vision and dream is about Jesus saving them or telling them something”.
He took me out from the river
Ibrahim estimates that about 80% of the Christian converts he has met came to Christ after having a dream
“Muslims strongly believe in dreams and visions”, he said. “And when we pray for the Muslims, the Lord is going to use the way that they are believing strongly, which is dreams and visions. Because a lot of people and a lot of churches are praying for Muslims specifically, that is why they see dreams and visions.
Ibrahim regularly hears former Muslims share their conversion story when they first visit his church.
“One guy came to me and said, ‘I want to become a Christian.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because I was in the river and no one could help me, but I saw a face full of light come to me and I was reaching my hand to Him and He took me out from the river.’ I asked him, ‘Who was this man?’ He said, ‘Jesus.’ I said, ‘How did you know Him?’ He said, ‘I just know Him.’
Another man who responded to a dream is now leading Muslims to Christ and helping believers grow in their faith.
“This guy saw all the prophets coming in his dream”, Ibrahim said. “All the prophets, one after one, starting from Moses. At the end he saw Jesus coming, the last one, and he said, ‘I waited for Muhammad to come,’ because for them he is the last one, ‘and nobody showed up.’ When I asked, ‘Where is the last one?’ they said, ‘Jesus is the last one.’ He became a Christian and now he is a pastor”.
Forever committed to Christ
During a recent four-month period, Ibrahim’s church baptised 15 new believers, eight of whom were former Muslims.
When former Muslims are baptised, he said, they are forever committed to Christ — even in the face of intense persecution.
Ibrahim said that being baptised means “they became a Christian, and they left their life, and now they are ready to die for Jesus”.
While ISIS continues to push Muslims toward Christ, it also continues to drive them out of their homes. ISIS has displaced over 3.3 million people in Iraq alone, with millions more fleeing Syria in search of safety. Though Christians are part of this exodus, Ibrahim’s church is continually replenished with new believers.
The churches are full
“It is constantly difficult [to keep people]”, he said, “but new people are coming, so the church is full every Sunday because a lot of people are coming to know Jesus”.
Many Christians in Iraq still fear ISIS attacks. While Ibrahim does not advise people whether to stay or leave, he does share his thoughts on what could happen if Christianity ceased to exist in Iraq.
“I usually say if you take the salt and the light out of Iraq, we are going to be more dark and without any taste”, he said. “So, the most challenging thing is to encourage people to stay in this area and minister”.
VOM Australia has been working with ministry partners in the Middle East to provide support for persecuted Christians. In the past few years, we have provided life packs for many displaced and persecuted Christians fleeing ISIS. Today, we are funding projects which provide support for Christians affected by targeted terrorist bombings.