“To the nation of the cross, we’re back again,” says a masked Islamic State (IS) fighter on a video posted on social media sites on Sunday (19 April), just before 30 Ethiopian Christians are brutally executed on screen. Their killings justified by their refusal to accept Islam or pay the humiliating jizya tax, 15 Ethiopian Christians are gruesomely beheaded on a Libyan beach and another 15 are shot in the back of the head in the Libyan desert.
The title of this latest video is “Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence”, a quote from the Quran (98:1) that says: “Those who reject (Truth) among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence”. The message of IS is clear: the killing of Christians who deny the “Clear Evidence” and refuse to accept Islam is upon their own head and therefore justified.
Denouncing Christianity as having deviated from true monotheism after the time of Christ, the 29-minute-long IS production begins with a history of the early church. Muslims believe that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity renders Christians “polytheists”. For Islamic State fighters, the penalty for the so-called deviation from the truth is subjugation (dhimma) or death.
The recorded voice of cleric Abu Malik Anas Al-Nashwan presents Christians with two options if they do they do not accept Islam. “Those who embrace Islam or jizya will be safe,” he says. An Islamic provision that subjugates Christians living in areas under Islamic rule, the payment of a jizya head tax allows them to live in the land and practice their religion, but always in the knowledge that they owe their very lives to those who rule over them.
If, however, Christians refuse to accept the dhimmi status offered to them through the jizya, they “will have nothing from us but the edge of the sword,” says Al-Nashwan. “The men will be killed, the women and children enslaved, and the money seized. That is Allah and the prophet’s judgment.”
The rest of the video is devoted to presenting the two possibilities offered to the world’s Christians. First, Christians living in Raqqa, Syria, are shown testifying to living in peace and holding onto their property after having paid the jizya. They claim that the Islamic courts set up by IS are able to deal with any matters that arise, and do not discriminate against them. They are heard urging fellow Christians to return to Raqqa and follow suit.
The scene then changes to Mosul, Iraq, where Christians refused to accept Islam or the dhimmi status. Images of fighters destroying churches and crosses flash across the screen. Al-Nashwan is heard saying that Caliph Ibrahim, as the leader of IS is known among his followers, decided to send Mosul’s Christians into exile rather than kill them, in a display of mercy. Their homes, however, are now in the possession of IS.
Finally, the video records the beheadings of 15 Christians, dressed in orange uniforms and lined up on a beach in Libya’s Barqa province, followed by the shooting of another 15, dressed in dark-coloured uniforms, in a desert in Libya’s southern Fezzan region. Rolling subtitles name the victims as “worshippers of the cross belonging to the hostile Ethiopian church”.
Reminiscent of a video posted in February this year in which 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded on the Libyan coastline, the latest video threatens Christians all over the world. “We tell Christians everywhere that the Islamic State will spread, God willing,” says Al-Nashwan. “It will reach you even if you are in fortresses.” A masked militant warns believers everywhere, “We swear to Allah… you will not have safety even in your dreams until you embrace Islam”.
In response to the video, Ethiopia has said, “We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians or not.” Following the killings of Egyptian Christians earlier this year, Egypt has called on all migrant workers living in Libya to return home. Like Egypt, many Ethiopians live and work in Libya, their Christians extremely vulnerable to the spread of IS violence.