Saturday, 24 December 2016

Why the tragedies of 2016?

Many innocent people, including babies and young children, have violently died during 2016 as a result of Islamist violence.

Why were they targeted?  What ideology would make a lorry drive into a Christmas market and plough innocent people down?  Why attack Germany which has taken in one million migrants and employs 60,000 people to integrate them? Why attack a family festival in Nice or people drinking after a hard day's work in a Paris bar? Why were 25 harmless worshippers at a service in St Peter's by St Marks Cathedral, Cairo blown up, in the soft target of their own church?  What have they done to deserve this?

St Peters by St Mark's Cathedral, Cairo
By Roland Unger, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The Attack on the West 
First, we need to understand that Islamist activity is not aimed at individuals, or countries: it is aimed at The West which includes Australasia.  The West represents freedom, rights for women and democracy. At the root of these values are two thousand years of Christian respect for the dignity of man and social justice, combined with a recent push from secular lobbyists. We are all seen as collaborators with the West if we live at peace with it, or pursue Western values.

Second, there is a self-accusatory Western liberal notion that the failure of oppressed countries is the fault of the West.   Anyone believing this, will see these acts as 'revenge'.

Third, those at the Berlin Christmas market were 'double offending' : they were Westerners and enjoying Christmas.  As in snowbound Narnia, the Islamist would like to end Christmas forever. Islamism is trying to stamp out Christmas and Western influence, across the Middle East. To us, it seems odd that the first thing to happen in peaceful Aleppo was a party round a huge Christmas tree, but those rejoicing knew what they were doing.

Where does the violence come from?
Early Islam preserved Roman and Greek texts enabling our Renaissance, in its great libraries. It invented early medicine. It built magnificent palaces and gardens, like the Alhambra. In its early days, it overcame the eastern Roman Empire by force. Islam once held Greece, southern Spain and even got to the gates of Vienna. But the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, as the last Caliphate, gave rise to clerics who sought to reverse the long decline of the Islamic Empire. Modernising influences within Islam, as well as the West, were blamed for the loss of all these territories. Some Islamic clerics started to teach that Islam should to return to an austere 7th century 'all conquering' Islam which uses the sword and interprets certain Koranic texts so that the cruel slaughter of other Moslems and Kufirs (non-Moslems) is believed to be meritorious.

What has happened to the West?
As this was happening, the West became a money-making machine, pursuing globalisation, rather than duty and 'community' with vibrant Christianity at its heart. It strongly interpreted freedom as sexual freedom and the Church was too weak to reverse it. Families and marriages broke down. The West is now widely seen as very irreligious and decadent, as least as reflected in the media. Politicians have mistakenly run the West entirely on economics. The West is, in some senses, sick at heart with self-indulgence and secularism while at the same time being open to mass migration to people from very different cultures and views. There is now acute alienation in the West - which we all feel - but which minorities feel more. There is also a shocking contrast between the materially rich West and the poverty levels in Islamic countries such as Tunisia, to which alienated migrants send back survival money.

The outcome
A tiny number are willing to carry out gross acts of mass murder. They may already have criminal backgrounds, which further alienates them. Overcrowded Western prisons become recruiting grounds. The internet and mobiles are cheap and technically useful.

How can we respond?
There are a range of approaches:
  • we practically need to help stop attacks (a job for the intelligence service and police)
  • we need to manage mechanisms used for radicalising people e.g. Western prisons (a job for the government)
  • we need to support democracy and education without causing wars (a job for politicians with true vision)
  • we need to make our own country less about 'cold economics' causing mass alienation, and more about people and renewed values bringing people with hope into community. 
  • we need to demonstrate more spiritual life across the West  (a job for the Church and third sector)
  • we need to value and support our own freedom and democracy, the result of  internal civil war led by Christian radicals like Oliver Cromwell (a job for the people and Parliament)
True Reform
The Reformation was a return to a purer form of Christianity but it led to education and political freedom. Some equate the growth of Islamism to the Reformation but, we should not be deceived: they have nothing in common.

As Gamaliel said of the early church - if a spiritual movement is truly of God, nothing will stop it. Even today, nothing stops the Gospel.

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