- How should we respond to the evil that ISIS represents?
- What is our personal response?
- What should be the response from our nation?
- Should we respond to violence with violence?
- Who is setting the agenda: ISIS or the West?
- Is there a case for a ‘holy war’?
The agenda of ISIS
When we hear of Christians and Muslims being beheaded it can create fear. When we hear of a Jordanian pilot being burnt alive it creates anger. When we hear of rape and gender-based violence against women it creates a demand for justice, action and war.
This is what ISIS wants. They are setting the agenda. They want a reaction from ‘Christian’ nations and from Shi’ite Muslims. By attacking religion, and attacking women and children they strike fear in our hearts. By abusing minorities they hope to cause our natural propensity for justice to be directed into a violent reaction.
The more we react to ISIS, the easier it is for them to radicalise young Muslims and get them to join their cause.
There is no doubt that ISIS is evil, but is it the only evil in the world? I think not!
- What about the human traffickers who exploit the down-trodden and the vulnerable?
- What about the owners who hold 27 million throughout the world in conditions of slavery?
- What about the drug barons who build vast fortunes at the expense of the addicts and the weak?
- What about our attitude to those living in absolute poverty who see their children die of preventable diseases?
- What about the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia that killed millions?
- What about Mao’s ‘Great leap forward’ in which 20 Million Chinese people died of starvation.?
- What about Stalin’s purges in Russia when millions of people were executed or sent to labour camps in Siberia?
- What about Idi Amin’s reign of Terror in Uganda where the number of killings range fro 100,000 to 500,000?
Western nations did not intervene to save lives in these situations, but there is no doubt that these were evil.
A ‘holy war’
Some may describe a war as being ‘just’, but can it ever be described as holy. Jim Wallis, the president of the American organisation, Sojourners, says in his excellent article on ISIS:
There are no “holy wars.” War is always the result of a failure to resolve human conflicts without violence. War is a consequence of our sins. Even when theology is used to justify the use of force, or “just war,” it is still a failed and sinful response to other sins.
There is no glory or righteousness in war. And those who argue for the use of force should be repentant and humble when they do so. All faith traditions and leaders, whether they accept the concept of “just war” or not, must never call war “holy.” The beginning of our response to ISIS must be for all of our faith traditions, leaders, and members to completely reject the concept and language of holy war.
Since Bill O’Reilly claims to be reaching out to faith congregations — asking us to press our American government to fight against a “holy war” — we should reach back to O’Reilly to help him understand why this rhetoric is so wrong and dangerous.
What should my personal response be?
Firstly, I should not give way to fear or anger. If I am fearful or angry then they have won at least in my heart.
Secondly, I should not treat them as an enemy. If they have made themselves my enemy then the only response compatible with the teachings of Jesus is to love my enemies.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.… (Matthew 5: 43-45)
Thirdly, I should pray for those who persecute me, or others who believe the same as I do.
This is where things get difficult. If the majority are crying out for revenge and violence to ‘right’ the situation, I can express my view but I cannot impose my views on other people.
It is the actions of the United States and its allies (including my home country) which have made things worse and resulted in even more evil. Saddam of Iraq was evil and al-Assad of Syria is evil but wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on revenge for 9-11 have removed a dictator but solved absolutely nothing.
If we declared war on ISIS, the consequences are impossible to forecast. It is likely that we would be fighting on many fronts, as what would be seen as a war on Islam, would stir up revolution in many Arab and other Muslim countries. A well-intentioned bombing war in Libya has made the country ungovernable and a hot-bed for ISIS,
War is indiscriminate and would result in civilian deaths and large numbers of refugees. War is in itself evil, and we cannot fight evil with evil. The potential for escalation is enormous and the prospect of a third global war is very present.
The world of Islam is facing a dilemma, much like Christianity faced at the time of the reformation. There is a conflict of ideologies between those fundamentalists who would like to take the world back to the middle ages and the more progressive majority. (There are also Christian fundamentalists who would like to take the world back to 1000 B.C.!)
ISIS would like ‘Christians’ to take sides against them! They would like to see peace-loving Muslims feel that they are under attack. They would like young men and women to feel alienated where they live and be recruited to the side of extremism.
If war is not the answer, then what should we do? The only answer is to show restraint, patience and tolerance. We can treat terrorists as criminals but not as enemies. We can defend our own borders, but need to stop short of offensive action. Communism has run it’s course and now exercises no threat to mankind – it was certainly not worth a nuclear war. Patience may well see the world of Islam rejecting the extremists – but not if we ‘stick our oar in’.
What do you think?
I realise that what I have said is controversial, so please add your comments below.