I N T E N T I O N S
The existence of Christian communities in the Middle East and elsewhere has become more and more precarious and now in many places in Iraq there are no longer any Christian communities. This is a stunning development as these communities were able to survive the ups and downs of history for over 1600 years. What does that say about our age?
The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Archbishop Amel Nona (the Chaldean Catholics are one of the branches of the Catholic family and one of the most ancient) said this recently:
Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.
The irony here is that under Sadaam Hussein the Chaldean Catholic Church and other religious minorities were protected and flourished. Now these communities are systematically being driven from their ancestral homeland.
When we study history we often look at the Middle Ages and refer to them as the "Dark Ages". Rather arrogant of us since the 20th century was the bloodiest in history. And despite the aggression of the Ottoman Turks into Western Europe by the 16th century the people of the West had had enough and finally pushed back. All during that time the Christian communities in the Middle East survived and remained intact. Today the same scenario is playing out again but this time the Christian communities are being annihilated. Whose age is the real Dark Ages? Who is really willfully blinding themselves?
While we don't think of the "war on terror" as a Holy War the other side does. While we in the US don't see ourselves as a Christian nation the other side does. That is why both the Bush and Obama administrations have been so careful not to say anything that would suggest we are defending Christians. Yet it is precisely the Christians in Iraq and elsewhere that are the object of the Jihad. The fact is the terrorists see us as the defenders of Christian civilization and despise everything about the way we have built our society.
We should pay attention to the words of Archbishop Nona as they serve as a warning to us and for our future. We are at the turning point whether we like it or not. We know now that we are faced with an irrationality that cannot engage rationality at any level. When young children are being crucified for being of a Christian family, when Christians are being told to convert or be killed, when even moderate Muslims are being executed for protecting their neighbors, we should know that all attempts at diplomacy, appeals to reason and basic humanitarian principles are and will continue to be fruitless.
Pope Francis has said that this "unjust aggressor" must be stopped. We need to pray as never before that we will have the wisdom and will to restore peace and deal definitively with this threat. Otherwise we might find ourselves in the gravest of dangers.
Love, Fr. John B.
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