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Islamic State claims Norwegian and Chinese hostages

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Undated photos taken from the Islamic State group’s online magazine Dabiq that purport to show Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, from Oslo, Norway, left, and a Chinese national, who the extremist group claims to be holding hostage. (Credit: Dabiq-ISIS online publication)

In the latest issue of their online magazine Dabiq, ISIS revealed that it holds two more foreign nationals captive. The terrorist organization included a page-long advertisement for each hostage, showing pictures of them from several angles to help their loved ones and governments identify them. In addition to their pictures, the magazine also gives information on the captives’ occupations, birthdays, and home addresses. The first prisoner is a Norwegian man from Oslo identified as Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, and the second is a freelance consultant from Beijing named Fan Jinghui.

While the Chinese government has not responded publically to the ads, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed that one of the hostages was Norwegian, though she did not elaborate beyond that with regards to his identity. Solberg said that she and her government have been contacted by the terrorists regarding the Norwegian captive and that they are exploring all avenues to secure his freedom. However, she stated that they would not pay the ransom because “We cannot give in and won’t give in to pressure from terrorists and criminals.”

The ads in Dabiq are headlined by the caption “prisoner for sale” and are addressed with the statement: “To whom it may concern of the crusaders, pagans and their allies as well as what are referred to as human ‘rights’ organisations. This…prisoner was abandoned by his government which did not do its utmost to purchase his freedom.” The messages conclude with a telegram number to contact in order to purchase their release as well as the warning that “this is a limited time offer.”

If their history is any indication, the warning at the end of the ad is unlikely to be a bluff. ISIS has shown little hesitation to publicly execute their hostages in the past and there is little reason to believe their approach would differ with these two individuals. In fact, such killings and similar atrocities have become so common place with the terrorist organization that they do not even generate all that many headlines anymore. It’s simply become part of the narrative.

That said, stories like this should also serve to remind us that the threat posed by the Islamic State is global in nature. With the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching on Friday, we may naturally focus on how the struggle against radical Islam affects us as Americans. However, it is crucial to remember that the impact of this struggle has and will continue to extend far beyond the borders of our nation. So as we look back on the events of 2001, let us do so with an eye to the future and a renewed conviction to join those around the globe in combating the evil of ISIS and its perversion of the Islamic faith.

As Dr. Denison frequently reminds us, while this war is taking place in the physical realm, it can only be won in the spiritual. We are fighting against an ideal and a twisted set of religious convictions even more than a nation or group of people. Victory in such a war necessitates a commitment to prayer, not only for the victims of ISIS but for its members as well.

Can you imagine what sort of difference it would make if the Islamic State’s leadership came to Christ? While that notion may seem outlandish and impossible, Paul’s Damascus road experience in Acts 9 would have seemed no more probable to the early believers. And even if the group’s leadership never comes to know the Lord, every militant who does is one less combatant with whom we must fight and one more brother or sister in Christ to help us in this battle.

So as you think back on the events of 9/11 and our ongoing struggle against radical Islam, guard against the anger and sadness that may accompany the memories of that fateful day, and instead fill your heart with a renewed sense of purpose and hope for what God can accomplish in the days ahead. Some of the people who have had the greatest impact for God’s kingdom would have been considered its most unlikely heroes. There is no reason why Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and others in ISIS can’t join their ranks.

Christ’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) is no less relevant or important today than when it was issued nearly 2,000 years ago. When was the last time you obeyed it?