Mali is a country in West Africa. A former French colony, it has been battling Islamic militants for years.
Now numerous reports indicate that gunmen have attacked the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, taking 170 hostages and killing at least three. Malian special forces are responding at this hour; state television is reporting that eighty hostages have been freed.
No group has yet claimed responsibility. However, supporters of the Islamic State have posted celebrations of the attacks on Twitter. And an Islamic State militant recently told reporters that France’s previous interventions in Mali were one reason for the Paris massacre.
To put recent jihadist attacks in context, think in four concentric circles:
One: ISIS secured a home base of operations in Syria and Iraq when it seized land in June 2014 and declared a “caliphate.”
Two: ISIS has expanded operations with military affiliates in eleven countries, so it cannot be defeated by attacks on its home base. Even if we destroyed ISIS in Syria and Iraq, we would not stop the movement.
Three: ISIS is now attacking the West. What happened in Paris could happen in any city with a handful of ISIS loyalists. The group released videos this week warning that it will attack Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Four: ISIS attacks are inspiring other jihadists to become more aggressive as well. The U.S. State Department lists 27 different radical Muslim terrorist organizations operating in the world. If we eradicated ISIS completely, other jihadists would step into the void.
Does the proliferation of radical Islam mean the terrorists cannot be defeated? Not at all.
A drone strike recently killed “Jihadi John,” one of the most notorious ISIS murderers. Such strikes have killed numerous “high value” targets in recent weeks. A U.S. air strike killed the leader of the ISIS affiliate in Libya. ISIS has lost Sinjar and Beiji in Iraq. A Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has regained wide swaths of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria.
We must continue to defeat terrorists through military means. But as British Prime Minister David Cameron declared recently, “the root cause of this threat is the poisonous ideology of extremism itself.” He has called for a “battle of ideas” to counter “this diseased view of the world” which “has become an epidemic.”
Mr. Cameron is right. Radical Islam will continue to threaten the world so long as there are terrorists to attack us. That’s why the most important strategy in defeating ISIS and other militants is spiritual. Human words cannot change human hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, save souls, and change lives.
You and I are on the front lines of this global war: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan has deceived jihadists in Mali, Paris, and around the world. Christians must respond with a global army of intercessors who pray daily for Muslims to see visions of Jesus, come to faith in him, and take the gospel to those in darkness.
Every time you see a news report about terrorism, pray. Starting right now.