Peter Kassig, beheaded by ISIS, pursued call to help others: Leonard Pitts

I came across a beautifully written article today about Peter Kassig, an American aid worker who was recently executed by ISIS. Reproduced it here, with full accreditation. May it be a blessing to you.

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

What, in the name of God?

It is a question that demands asking, that haunts this most recent atrocity.

Ordinarily, it is only rhetorical, something you might say if you came home to find police cars parked in front of your house. But it takes on a painful literalness following the latest video from the Islamic State, or ISIS, the barbarian army of extremists that has swept through Syria and Iraq.

What, in the name of God?

The answer is bitterly simple. They killed Peter Kassig, that’s what. They lopped off his head and displayed the results on a new video. This, supposedly, on God’s behalf.

No, neither the decapitation nor the video is a first. We still grieve Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Pakistan 12 years ago. More recently, ISIS has made this sort of murder porn ubiquitous.

Other known victims include James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both American journalists, David Haines and Alan Henning, both British aid workers, Herve Gourdel, a French hiker, and many others, including soldiers from Syria and Lebanon. Each was someone’s child and each, presumably, left a hole in someone’s life.

But the story of Peter Kassig, the sad courage with which his parents spoke to the world this week upon the death of their only child, suggests something that seems to need saying in the face of all this grisly cruelty, something about the things we do in God’s name.

Kassig, who was 26, first went to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. He returned as a volunteer after his discharge to use his skills as a medical technician to treat victims of Syria’s civil war. Why would he do this? Because he felt a call. Because it needed doing.

As he told CNN in 2012, “We each get one life, and that’s it. You get one shot at this. You don’t get any do-overs. For me, it was time to put up or shut up. The way I saw it, I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and I’m an idealist, and I believe in hopeless causes.” Or, just a man who believed in something larger than his own life.

Monday, in the wake of his death, his parents, Paula and Ed, met the media at their longtime church in Indianapolis and you could see where he got it from.

They called him Abdul-Rahman, the name he took upon his conversion to Islam. His father quoted Jesus’ admonition from the book of John: “Greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for another.” His mother said with an assurance that lifted you as tides lift boats, “Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end and good will prevail as the one God of many names will prevail.” His father asked for prayer. He said the family would “mourn, cry, and yes, forgive.”

“Forgive,” he said. It is arguably the most difficult dictate of faith. No one would blame them if they didn’t even try. But they say they will.

What, in the name of God?

In 1862, mired in America’s most ruinous war, Abraham Lincoln mused on God’s role in the tragedy. “In great contests,” he wrote, “each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”

The observation feels freshly relevant as you juxtapose the bloody charnel house of the Middle East with the quiet faith of one family from the Upper Midwest.

What in the name of God?

Well, ISIS commits murder.

But the Kassig family is driven to serve strangers halfway around the world, to whisper hope in the midst of nightmare, forgiveness in the unendurable moment. And to seek prayer.

“Both may be and one must be wrong,” said Lincoln. He was right. And one is.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Please help me pray for Peter Kassig

Peter Kassig is currently being held as a hostage by ISIS (Islamic state).

He converted to Islam during his imprisonment yet he was recently shown in the execution video of aid worker Alan Henning. From all reports ISIS are planning to murder Peter some time in the near future.

Peter is a gentle soul, a self described “hopeless romantic and idealist” who desperately needs to find Jesus before his life is taken. Peter has found comfort in Islam, so he is a man of faith, but he has faith in the wrong God. Please help me pray for him to be shown God’s true character, love and mercy in the person of Jesus Christ.

In 2012 Peter founded a humanitarian aid group called SERA (Special Emergency Response and Assistance), so he is also a person with a strong social conscience. The non-governmental organisation, based in Gaziantep, Turkey, but not currently functional, provided food and medical supplies for refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Please help me pray for Peter’s life to be spared and for his salvation. His soul is hanging in the balance.

Please also help me pray for Peter’s captors, that they would receive repentance unto life as well and be saved.

Thank you for listening and helping with this need.

Together we can petition the Lord for mercy for all concerned.

Update from 06/10/2014:
I was heartened to see several prayer sites for Peter and other ISIS captives have sprung up on Facebook. Many caring Christians are praying for his salvation and release, along with that of other captives.

Peter’s parents have released a letter he has written in captivity. In the letter, Peter wrote: “I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all….I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through…If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need…In terms of my faith, I pray every day and I am not angry about my situation in that sense.” The letter – which the parents received on 2 June – ends with the words: “I love you.”

Please keep Peter in prayer, that he would be given the gospel message by caring believers and that he would believe in Christ due to God’s grace. God can work miracles and hears our prayers, He is good and merciful and desires that all men should be saved. Please also keep Peter’s captors in prayer, the members of ISIS. They are desperately lost and in need of salvation too. They are our enemies now for the sake of the gospel and humanity but Christ instructed us to pray for our enemies, to bless them, and to do the very best we can for them for their highest good (which is spiritual). Matthew 5:43-48 says it all.

I have received much support and encouragement from fellow disciples of Christ at National Prayer Bank and the Acts 12 Movement blog, and I would like to thank them now for their faith and compassion. Here are their sites:
http://nationalprayerbank.com/
http://acts12movement.com/2014/10/05/new-prayer-request-5/

I pray that soon we will have good news concerning Peter (or Abdul-Rahman, as he prefers to be known as since his conversion to Islam) and his captors.

Update from 10/10/2014:
I’ve recently been reading an inspiring book on the work Christ is doing in the Middle East currently, to draw people to faith in Him. It’s called “Breakthrough” by Tom Doyle. In the book, Tom mentions that church congregations in the Middle East are particularly strong now because they are experiencing intense persecution. Acts of God and miracles are witnessed frequently by believers in response to prayer in the Middle East. So tonight the Lord moved me to contact several Messianic Jewish congregations (Hasdey Yeshua, Tents of Mercy, Harvest of Asher, Beit Hayeshua and Rachel Netanel) to enlist their compassion and spiritual strength in petitioning the Lord for mercy for Abdul-Rahman, other captives, and the members of ISIS.

I tried also to contact Palestinian believers but could not find any listed online (though I know they exist and are just as fervent in their faith and prayer as Messianic congregations). Perhaps I don’t know the key words to search for. If anyone can enlighten me here please feel free to comment below.

Please keep Abdul-Rahman (Peter Kassig), the other captives, and their captors in your thoughts and prayers. It saddened me recently to see that the most fervent prayer response for them seems to be from the Muslim community who, although well-intentioned, worship a God who is false and cannot save souls.

Update from 29/10/2014:
It has been 26 days since Alan Henning’s execution video became public, and Abdul-Rahman was threatened to be the next victim. However, new videos put out by ISIS (see http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/isis-shifts-their-social-media-patterns/381988/) give no information on his status. The other beheading videos were all released about two weeks apart. A number of calls have been made to spare Abdul’s life — he is an aid worker and devout Muslim. Even Abu Omar Aqidi, a high ranking official in the al-Qaeda sect Jabhat al-Nusra, has called for his release. ISIS is known for its well-organized social media activity, yet it seems to be slowly changing patterns, which to the eyes of faith is evidence of God’s great mercy.

Please continue for the Lord Jesus’ spirit to continue working in the hearts and minds of ISIS, their captives and the people ISIS are warring against, so that as many people as possible come to Christ and are saved.

Update from 17/11/2014:
Last night I checked my phone and saw updates from a Facebook prayer site for Peter Kassig. They stated some very sad news, he has apparently been executed by ISIS. A friend said the lack of a propaganda statement in Peter’s death video suggested he had defied his captors. Michael Downey, a close friend from Beirut said: “I think he refused. He was a man of principle and wouldn’t give into intimidation from thugs. He never took the easy route.”

Kindly keep Peter Kassig’s family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you to everyone who prayed for this request.