Tuesday, August 26, 2014

hoaxing with death

I received a text/sms message last night, from more than one person, which was clearly being forwarded on from person to person, a chain-text so to speak. The message was:

"Urgent text message from Open Doors - Christians in Northern Iraq are calling for urgent prayer backing as they are in great danger - serious threat of beheading of all Christians in a few hours."

Open Doors are a well known international advocacy group supporting persecuted Christians, so my first response was to take the message very seriously indeed. So seriously that instead of automatically forwarding it on, I went straight to my computer and pulled up their website. My thinking was that something of this magnitude would warrant some kind of press release on their site. I wanted to know more (and anyway I've always had an innate distrust of chain letters and their ilk). But ...


I tried calling their Belfast and London offices, but they were closed at that time. So then I started googling - surely if some fresh horror were about to be visited on the suffering Christians of Iraq, there would be something about it on the web. I know that the mainstream media tries to downplay persecution stories, but there are enough other outlets, especially those who focus on human rights, religious freedom, and the persecution of Christians that there was bound to be something.


I was left feeling deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing. So I said a prayer anyway - there is so much suffering and persecution going on in Iraq that they need all the prayers that they can get - but didn't forward the message on. The answering machine for the Belfast office of Open Doors said they opened at nine. At 9.01 I had them on the line. And it was a hoax. The message was nothing to do with Open Doors. They had heard nothing of any new threat to Christians in Iraq. Their Australian Office, which is 'ahead' time-wise, already had a message to that effect on their site. Which meant, of course, that this hoax was a global thing, not just a local one in Ireland.

Who does that kind of thing? Did the person doing so think it was funny? Did they think they were doing a good deed in some way, by high-lighting persecution, even if it was with a lie? Was it intended to discredit Open Doors in particular and reports of persecution in general? 

One thing it was not, is an honest mistake - falsely putting the name of a specific organisation to the message makes such a suggestion incredible. And I wonder did they think for a moment the real distress their message would cause to those who read it and believed it, thinking that hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were about to be savagely murdered, martyred, for their faith? I know one of the people who forwarded the message on to me was horrified to think someone would engage in a hoax about such a thing and had been very upset when they received the original message. Such a hoax would be in poor taste at any time; coming so close to the brutal murder of James Foley displays an alarming lack of any kind of sensitivity. 

So even as you breathe a sigh of relief that things have not gotten worse in Iraq, remember to keep them in your prayers for the terrible conditions they already endure. And pray for the person or persons who foolishly sent round this text message, that they may learn that to do such a thing, what ever their motivations, was wrong and not to be repeated. People are already suffering dreadfully in Iraq. Telling lies about what's happening is an insult to them. 


  1. Christian hysteria is still hysteria, a work of the flesh which stokes up fear without glorifying God. A good end (prayer for the persecuted) is not justified by deception and hysteria.

  2. John!
    Glad to see you're still visiting the blog. I hope all well with you and yours in the real capital.
    Thanks for the comment. I remain bewildered by this incident. There's is enough genuine horror without making stuff up.