Posted By Bp Gregory Cameron – ACNS
19 November 2015 11:17AM
For the second time this year, a stricken Paris draws our compassion. No-one can remain un-shocked by the second terrorist outrage that this city has had to endure. It is all the worse because this was quite simply an indiscriminate attack; expressing the hatred of the so-called Caliphate of ISIS (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”) towards those whom they would like to portray as the crusader states of the West. It is doubly disturbing because this could be the forerunner of similar attacks elsewhere, and any city, any large gathering of people, becomes a potential target.
At a time like this, as well as remembering in our prayers the families of those brutally murdered, we must guard our reactions. We are shocked about Paris; but this meant that we almost entirely ignored Beirut, where there was a similar attack the same weekend. What seems to be happening is that ISIS, which has been suffering some reverses in Iraq and Syria, has launched attacks on soft targets in the Middle East and the West. They’ve used the obvious route into Europe via the mass refugee migration to smuggle fanatics into our midst.
So what should our reaction be? First of all, let’s not victimise the victims. The refugees are fleeing ISIS, not supporting them; so if jihadis are being smuggled in their midst, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush. It all goes to show that a lot more work, and a lot more co-operation, is needed to manage the refugee crisis. It would play into the hands of ISIS if they could point to an uncaring and rejecting Europe.
Second, let’s reflect on what’s really going on. ISIS are managing to recruit angry and frightened young men, and some women, from across the Islamic world, and even from British communities, for an extreme creed because suicidal violence is presented as a solution to them. A solution to what? We need to answer that question if ever we’re going to understand the root causes of this terrorism.
Violence appeals to ISIS recruits because this particular brand of Islam is telling them that they can be martyrs and saints if they bring specific anti-Islamic forces to the ground. The West (and that includes us; even you and I are potential targets) is being blamed for Middle East dictatorships, for Israeli oppression and Palestinian suffering, for tempting Muslims with consumer culture and lax morality. All this is presented as a justification for getting high on bloodshed.
In the face of all this, we need to hold our nerve. We need to encourage international co-operation to tackle the root causes of war in the Middle East, and that includes a renewed focus on solving long-standing problems like Palestine, and Arab dictatorships. We need to renew our commitment to the values which actually feed us – compassion, fairness, tolerance – so that violence can be transcended. We need to pull people together, including our Muslim neighbours, the vast majority of whom share our revulsion at the violence. We need, we can say as Christians, the transforming power of God to be focussed on the situation by prayer, and Christian advocacy.
All this can feel utterly overwhelming in the front rooms of our homes. But let us do what we can – a letter to a politician or a newspaper here, a carefully chosen donation there, a wise word in a conversation with our neighbours, a gesture of friendship to the stranger, to the Muslim neighbour or the incoming refugee, and above all, prayer. By God’s grace and favour, we may yet change the world.
A most timely word from Bishop Gregory Cameron of the Church of Wales Dicoese of St. Asaph (former Communications director of the ACC) on the vexed subject of how to deal with the current unease as the activities of the ISIS Caliphate terrorists in Paris and other places in today’s world.
One of the great dangers is that those of us who are not of the Muslim Faith may tend to label our Muslim compatriots as co-conspirators in the wave of terrorist attacks – whereas, in fact, they may be just as horrified as the rest of us at what is being done in the name of their religion.
Even today, in little old New Zealand, a young turbanned Sikh student was mistaken for a Mulsim terrorist – simply because he was wearing his traditional Sikh headdress. His satchell, containing university study papers, was automatically suspected to contain a bomb! No matter that the member of the public who called the police did not know the difference beteren a Sikh and the Muslim, in terms of what they wear; this was a silly mis-identification that caused a degree of embarrassment – not only for the young man concerned, but also for the police who felt is necessary to question him in public on his identity.
The student, who had lived in New Zealand for some years, fortunately, was not too surprised by this incident. It was seen by him as an ideal opportunity to point to the danger of mis-identifiaction by reason of what one wore in public. He admitted that, sadly, this was not an isolated instance of being labelled as some sort of alien presence, in a country that he had come to accept as his homeland.
Father ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand