When we read something like John Allen’s grim reminder of what is going on in the Middle East – going on as you read this – we wonder in shame how some of the things which preoccupy us in our media are allowed the time and space given to them. It seems that it is not a matter of not knowing what to do about this and more a matter of just not caring about this appalling human suffering and the barbarity in our midst which is causing it.
What will it take to awaken the consciences of those who exercise power on our behalf to come to the defence of the innocent victims of this atrocity?
Yesterday we saw images of Malala Yousafzai on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, etc, celebrating her stellar British high school grades. There she was, witnessing her Islamic faith wearing her headscarf. How do we balance the sincere commitment of a girl like this to her beliefs with the barbarities committed by her coreligionists in Nigeria, Syria, Yemen and other places on the globe? A barbarism of which she herself was a victim when the Taliban brutally left her within an inch of losing her life. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were ashamed of the atrocities committed by fellow Catholics and Protestants in the late 20th century in Northern Ireland. But those atrocities were not committed in the name of God, they were ultimately tribal atrocities. ISIS, Boko Haram and the Taliban do what they do very explicitly in the name of Allah, the same God worshiped by Malala.
Charles Moore made an important distinction recently in his Daily Telegraph column.
Islamism, he said, though not the same thing as Islam itself, will have a strong pull on discontented Muslims. It allows grievance to brandish the scimitar of righteousness. It is really a political doctrine about power, but its pseudo-holiness drags in believers. This means that the extremists are, to use another (Tony) Blair phrase, part of “a spectrum not a fringe”.
Moore went on to point out that the distinction between violent and non-violent extremism is merely operational: Islamists feel morally free to achieve their aims peacefully or violently, publicly or secretly, whichever suits. They follow a revolutionary doctrine, so there are no moderates. Islamism is declaredly determined to overthrow our way of life. Recent years prove its determination is matched by actions almost every day, almost everywhere. Like the Bolsheviks between 1905 and 1917, Islamists have moved fast from ranting to ruling, and they preach their creed globally. The phrase “existential threat” fits.
This was the phrase used by David Cameron in his statement of intent with regard to the threat Islamic extremists posed on the Island of Britain. But no man is an island, and no island can consider itself immune from the wider contagion which Islamism now poses for the civilized world.
But John Allen’s implicit appeal is not to our self-interest. It is made on behalf of the suffering victims of Islamism wherever they are to to be found. What callous laziness is afflicting our public representatives and our media organizations from focusing their intelligence and their policy-making apparatus on this problem and finding a solution?
On the Catholic liturgical calendar, Aug. 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, recalling a Biblical scene when Christ became radiant with glorious light on a mountaintop alongside the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah.
For Iraqi Christians, however, Aug. 6 this year brings to mind anything but radiance or glory.
Instead, Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of one of the greatest calamities to fall upon Christians anywhere on the planet in the early 21st century — an ISIS offensive in the Plains of Nineveh in northern Iraq that broke out on Aug. 6-7, 2014, and left thousands of Christians and Yazidis dead.
It also drove an estimated 120,000 Christians into exile either inside the country, in places such as Kirkuk and Erbil, or outside in refugee camps in nations such as Turkey and Jordan.
Read his full commentary in Crux here.