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It’s been reported that the mother of Isa Dare, the four year old child who shocked the world when portrayed as a fighter in a recent ISIS video, was once a devout Christian. Somehow, she was persuaded that ISIS have it right, and she rejected Christianity. This, plus my interesting encounters with Islamists, convinces me of how important it is for us to seek a deeper understanding of our faith.
Grace 'Khadijah' Dare used to go to church three times a week and read her Bible avidly. 'She was religious,' her father told The Sun. 'She would read her Bible and pray all the time. We called her Grace, after Amazing Grace the hymn.'
In 2010, she converted to a radical form of Islam, then later married a Jihadi fighter and fled to join ISIS with her children. Her son, Isa, was recognised this week in the video, as he declared: 'we will kill the kuffar.' His grandfather has pleaded for them to come back to the UK, in what is clearly a heartbreaking case.
Of course, all the Bible reading and church attending in the world would not have stopped Grace from taking the wrong path. What saves is repentance and belief in Christ, and an ongoing and vital relationship with Him. But our faith is at risk if we are not really clear about why we are a Christian. It might be our own personal encounter with Christ, or the certainty of the truth of the resurrection. Whatever, we need to be ready to explain and 'give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,' as 1 Peter 3:15 says.
What’s it like to be confronted with a jihadist trying to convert you to Islamism? I found out at London’s Speaker’s Corner a few years ago, where there is plenty of intense debate to be had with people of all faiths and none. Christians can become particular targets for the Islamists there, who have often been steeped in a great deal of anti-Christian teaching.
As I debated with a Muslim about the Bible and Jesus, I was soon surrounded by a large group firing probing questions at me, coming quicker than I could answer them. I’d read a fair bit about apologetics at the time, but nothing quite prepared me for that kind of pressure.
Their intensity didn’t persuade me of their arguments. But on another occasion in Hyde Park, I met a Christian who’d faced similar treatment, walking round in a daze – she had never really encountered such detailed challenges to her faith before.
There are many common objections to Christianity brought up by Islamists: that the Trinity isn’t Biblical, the Bible is altered, God can’t have a Son. She hadn’t been taught that there are good answers to such objections, from a wide range of excellent Christian apologists, who clearly articulate the rational reasons to believe Christianity. Without this knowledge, she was vulnerable.
Would a better understanding of Christianity have helped Grace Dare to find a genuine and sustaining faith, and prevent her taking a path towards violence? We don't know. It’s not clear why she converted to Islamism. But whatever her situation, one day we might be faced with someone who is trying to convert us. When that happens, will we be able to clearly explain what we believe and show why it is true? Being able to do this might be as important for us as it is for the person in front of us.
Unbelievable? presenter Justin Brierley blogs on all things theology, apologetics and ethics.