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Why would someone take their life and the lives of people they have never met, including an 8-year old girl, in the most despicable way? What were they hoping to achieve?
With Islamic State (IS) now claiming responsibility for the attack in Manchester, leaving 22 dead and 59 injured, the usual questions will be asked.
Who was the attacker? Why did they do it? How can we stop people from being radicalised? Good fundamental questions.
As we have seen from the regularity of IS attacks, the first question is of little consequence. These guerrilla style attacks, designed for maximum destruction of human life, could be executed by anyone who signs up to the IS ideology. Thus, it is on the second question we must thoughtfully dwell. Why would someone do this? Why would someone take their life and the lives of people they have never met, including an 8-year old girl, in the most despicable way? What were they hoping to achieve?
Those who acknowledge nothing beyond the material world are hard pressed to find any meaningful contribution to this discussion. For how can one who does not understand the hope of existence after death, comprehend an ideology that points towards it?
But hope for a glorious afterlife is what IS promises, along with the notion that the physical fighting of unbelievers is Gods’ will.
These may be sincerely held beliefs, however most would acknowledge they are sincerely wrong. We as Christians can love the jihadi as being a person made in the image of God, and yet completely condemn the beliefs that lead to such evil.
Further, we know that the deep longing to be right with God and to have assurance of life beyond the grave is wholly met in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what we have to offer. It is the power of God for salvation, not only for the Jew, the Greek, but also for the jihadi.
Therefore, to make a start on question three, we must not be afraid to scrutinise and thoroughly debunk IS ideology. Let us not forget Richard Weaver’s wise words ‘ideas have consequences’. If we have seen time and time again the utter destruction and depravity of those belonging to IS, is it not our reasonable service to expose darkness and show God’s light?
For the sake of the 22, the 59, and the many others who were caught up before, including the jihadis.
Sarah Foster is a researcher, teacher, and speaker for the Pfander Centre for Apologetics, a ministry focused on bringing the gospel to the Muslim mind.