In what is arguably the most righteous act any Christian can ever bestow upon another person, one organization has decided to help survivors of the Syrian Civil war and ISIS devastation – including confirmed militants.
Christian Today reported the nonprofit group Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC) has been offering people food and water, regardless of their extremist affiliations.
The PLC has been around over a decade and asks the world to “Choose hope, bravery, and peace with us, one step at a time.”
The organization explained: “At the core of violence and conflict, is fear. We fear loss. We fear shame. We fear ideologies and religions. We fear vulnerability. So we fight, first with attitudes and words, then with fists and bombs.”
The group’s mission statement is to change the way the world engages in the “most polarizing conflicts by confronting fear with acts of love.”
But how is such a thing possible?
“Every day, you make choices that either sustain conflict or transform it,” the site reads. “In the face of terror, you can confront fear with preemptive love and remake the world.”
The group asks we do three things to fight terror:
- Love anyway
- Show up
- Get out of the way
“Yes, we all have our own politics. Yes, we have our own religion. Love anyway. Step out across enemy lines and embrace conflict rather than run. Your love has the ability to transcend guilt, shame, and indifference. Wrap your arms around those you fear, and invite others to do the same.
“Presence matters. Whether it’s in the middle of a conversation, conflict zone, or operating room, love shows up. Healing happens when we choose to bring our whole self into the conflict including our own fears, doubts, and biases (yes, we all have them). Ask questions, risk failure, be heard. Just don’t hide.
“Peace, healing, and sustainable change only happen when we allow others to own their future. Getting out of the way means taking a step back after we show up so that others can stand on their own. Look past yourself. Step back and consider the bigger picture, and pass on the baton.”
If you think the group is naďve, you’re not alone.
The immediate response to violence is violence. A suicide bomber will not stop because a group of people decide to hug him. An aggressor will not lay down their weapons because someone they view as the enemy is being kind.
A culture of hate has risen in response to terrorists – and for good reason. Fear has the power to bring people together to focus on the worst offenders – but is it what God intended for us?
The PLC insists love and kindness are “essential to being human, too important to avoid.”
They claim to be “a global community of peacemakers remaking the world by providing lifesaving heart surgeries for children, food and shelter for those persecuted by extremists, education for at-risk children, and small-business empowerment grants so people can put their own lives back together.”
But can their actions of love truly make a difference?
Matthew Willingham, PLC’s senior field editor, witnessed a man in Iraq offering people food and water. In a video, Willingham said he saw Sadiq offering men in yellow jumpsuits food and water.
“You killed my friend,” Sadiq said, as he poured water into an ISIS member’s mouth. “But I’ve come here to feed you.”
People raged against the group’s charitable actions, though all confirmed terrorists are kept separate from the suspected members in a detainment compound not far from Fallujah.
Still, they come to serve, love and offer a chance to change.
The PLC was warned by Iraqi leaders not to enter such dangerous areas, but Willingham wrote a blog post reading: “But we believe only light can drive out darkness. Love is the only real answer to hate. So we went anyway.”
He stated: “We always want to be careful. We don’t want to come across as cowboys; we don’t want to be kidnapped, we don’t want to be blown up or tortured. But we also don’t want to live exclusively by the principles of risk management. We don’t want to be controlled by fear.”
In fact, Willingham’s wife and two small children live with him in the war-torn country.
“Ultimately, this is how we meet people who otherwise wouldn’t be cared for,” he explained. “This is how people get seen, this is how they are going to be helped – when people are willing to step in and risk something, when they’ve got skin in the game.
“As long as we live behind these fortified borders, it’s going to be harder to see reconciliation happen. We’ve got to go to them, let them be heard, and acknowledge their pain. it’s beautiful to see how humanising people changes the conversation.”
Sadiq and other Muslim workers with the PLC, which is not affiliated with any one religion, reported Jihads weeping with guilt when they were met with love.
He asked them, “Brothers, we are all Iraqi! Why did you give up on Iraq? We live in one country – we shouldn’t give up on this place. We are brothers. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can change what will happen – and rebuild as brothers again.”
Willingham said: “One of the most striking things to me about that delivery in particular was seeing the intense emotion in the faces of those men. They were just overwhelmed, many of them with guilt.”
He reported convicted ISIS members and Jihadi leaders “Kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ Love has the power to convict. I see this as the love of God reaching down into the world. That’s a Christ-like love, extended to his enemies. Not people he disagrees with, but his enemies. People who murdered his friends. That is the love of God in Christ.”
The PLC has literally walked streets that were being bombed, they traveled through air strikes and they witnessed firsthand the suffering of a war-torn country.
Jeremy Courtney, one of the PLC’s founders, explained: “More than a million people were displaced and in need of food, water, shelter, medicine and every single other thing people need to survive. And we had a very important conversation in the office: are we going to sit by and say we don’t have a mandate to serve in this time, or are we going to respond to this moment and take responsibility for this stewardship we’ve been given?
“It was a very short conversation.”
The PLC itself is “a faith-oriented community” where Christians, Muslims and people without faith work together in an attempt to understand “what it would mean to take Jesus seriously when he says ‘follow me’ and ‘bless those who persecute you,'” Courtney stated.
He added: “You may have seen …[ISIS] described as monsters, animals, and an apocalyptic death cult. Those words just obscure the fact that these are largely men and boys, and in some cases women, who want to belong, a place to feel safe, and to have meaning. Who are looking for a way to put food on the table for their kids…[We have to] look at those in ISIS and in similar terror [groups] around the world and see them as individuals.
“ISIS is comprised of people we know – or people who come from groups and places we know … [they’ve been] affected by violence, economic policies that have put them in a place of being dis-empowered and disenfranchised…And so in some ways, ISIS are not just guys in black masks waving swords in the desert – they’re our friends, our people, who have found themselves in a situation that is probably not going to be resolved by bombs and bullets alone. We want to combat the darkness with light, and drive out hate and fear with love.”
Courtney said there was a discussion over what to do with tens of thousands of ISIS fighters being held in captivity. How would they treat them? “In a way that radicalizes them, and drives them away from mainland society,” Courtney asked, “Or will you use this moment to love you[r] enemies, and incorporate them back into society?
“It was a fascinating discussion. We knew it was the right thing to do.”
Much like the believers in 2 Chronicles 20:22, the PLC believes in the power of love and God’s grace.
God’s people praised him and the moment they chose the Lord instead of fighting the enemy, God set an ambush for the Ammonites, Moabites and the people of Mount Seir, all of whom dared to invade Judah.
The Lord protects those who praise him – but what of those who spread his love? Let us know what you think about loving the enemy when the enemy is ISIS. Is the PLC correct or should all Jihads share the same dark fate they have bestowed upon others? What does God want? Share your opinion in the comments below.
By Kenya Sinclair