Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
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By Garret Baird JD, ICC Fellow

In January 2024, the Islamic State, or ISIS, spokesman Abu Hadhayfah Al-Ansari catalyzed the global terror campaign under the slogan “kill them where you find them” to reignite the call for extremists to escalate their violence against non-Muslims.  

The statement “kill them where you find them” derives from a verse in the Quran (Surah 9:5), taken out of context and without historical reference, which says, “[f]ight and slay the pagans wherever you find them.” ISIS, along with various extremist groups, have used the phrase as a rallying cry and a unifying force for their evil endeavors. It reflects ISIS’ genocidal intentions to erase Christians from the earth and establish a pure Islamic state. 

The proclamation has emboldened ISIS militants and other radical groups to intensify their violence against Christian communities, sustaining their “ISIS frenzy” in Africa. 

In January, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) conducted eight attacks against Christian communities in several villages in Nigeria. During the attacks, 12 Christians were killed while other Christians were forced to flee from their homes that ISWAP militants burned down. 

Throughout January and February, ISIS fighters carried out a series of attacks over a couple of weeks in northeast Mozambique. The attacks resulted in 32 murders and more than 400 houses torched. Additionally, several hospitals, Christian schools, and other buildings were destroyed. 

In February, unidentified gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Burkina Faso during Sunday mass. The gunmen killed 15 worshippers and injured two others. They reportedly explicitly targeted and shot at the men in the church. Although the assailants were not identified, they were considered likely to be Islamist militants. Groups inspired by Islamic extremism, many with ties to ISIS, have contributed significantly to the worsening of Burkina Faso’s security situation. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced multiple brutal attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an extremist group affiliated with ISIS. The attacks resulted in many casualties, abductions, and overwhelming emotional trauma. The series of attacks, beginning in January and continuing through May, brought about at least 55 murders, including stabbings, machine-gunning, and beheadings. Militants also burned down Christian houses and churches. Unlike the attacks in Burkina Faso, the ADF indiscriminately targeted men, women, and children. 

Even before the January 2024 statement, “kill them where you find them,” ISIS had already joined a devastating and growing wave of extremists inflicting atrocities against Christians in the Middle East. Over the last 20 years, Iraq’s Christian population has been reduced from approximately 1.4 million people to around 120,000 today.  

The 2014 start and staggeringly fast rise in ISIS’ power and influence contributed significantly to the Christians’ decline. According to the United Nations, ISIS engaged in “forcibly transferring and persecuting Christians, seizing their property, engaging in sexual violence, enslavement and other ‘inhumane acts.’” Although several other extremist militias are active in Iraq and are involved in Christian persecution, the profound effect of ISIS’ activity and influence will scar the Christian landscape in Iraq for many years to come. 

Similarly, in Syria, ISIS’ oppressive stranglehold on the province of Raqqa, in which the city of Raqqa became the self-declared capital of the ISIS caliphate under its rule, and the province of Deir ez-Zor proved a nightmarish reality for Christians there.  

During ISIS’ reign, Christians suffered “all forms of persecution, oppression, and dispersion; they were discriminated against, suffocated, beheaded, killed in mass executions, kidnapped, and arrested.” Christian persecution was further worsened by forced conversions and draconian tax burdens, leading Christians to the dilemma of emigrating to an unknown fate or staying and enduring intense suffering indefinitely. 

At the height of ISIS’ presence in the Middle East, it held about 33% of Syria and 40% of Iraq. Even though they were eventually defeated militarily, ISIS continues to thrive with a potent zeal to conquer again. Drawing upon its past successes and current fervor, ISIS’ battle cry, “Kill them where you find them,” instills its followers and confederates alike with a hatred of all people who do not adhere to their strict interpretation of Islamic law.  

“Kill them where you find them” will not be the final clarion call for ISIS, but it is the one Christians must face now. Considering ISIS’ enduring threat, the global community must be vigilant against an immediate threat that must be confronted and countered.