ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) have long dreamt of re-establishing the mighty Islamic caliphate that ruled the region currently being fought over from 750 until the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258.
For them, Syria was always a step on the way to acquiring wider control over a borderless region (also known as Greater Syria). The speed of their advance had taken everyone by surprise.
Implacably opposed to Shias, ISIS appears to be well funded as the result of selling oil from oil fields under their control to President Assad to build up their capital, and represents a formidable challenge in an already war torn region. Equally as ruthless as Al Qaeda, the number of atrocities it has carried out in the past twelve months is huge.
The way the West responds is obviously a vital part of the whole picture. Do keep Cameron, the EU and the American President, his Advisers and the Congress firmly in your prayers.
As when facing any wider challenge, it is important to move beyond daunting statistics. In other words if a topic feels too much take in en masse, it often helps to start with something you have seen or known (perhaps a picture of the young British men fighting for ISIS, or the bedraggled response of the Iraqi leadership?) and move on from the individual to the wider in prayer.