July 18, 2006
Violence in the Middle East is nothing new. Missiles, homicide bombers, border-crossing barricades — we are almost numb to the terms. It usually comes and goes, and after all, it seems so far away.
This time, things are different. We feel it at home.
Last week Hamas and Hezbollah militants crossed into Israel and kidnapped and killed soldiers in what were unprovoked acts of aggression. Israel has responded, decidedly as always, against the militants, their infrastructure, and their support system in Lebanon.
In contrast to previous conflicts, terrorists didn't bunker down and regroup for another day. From their holdouts in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to launch missiles into the center of Haifa, the third largest city in Israel, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to take cover. Tel Aviv itself, previously considered “out of reach,” is bracing for attacks.
There's a war in the Middle East. If only the fight were “just” about missing soldiers and territory incursions!
A War of Religion?
At the heart of the issue is supposedly religion. Religion, however, is man's humble response to God who calls, and God calls nobody to kill the innocent. Hezbollah, on its own admission, thrives on radical Islamic ideology. They claim to be doing the will of Allah by ridding the region of Zionist infidels.
Where do these militants learn their religion? Who tells them what God wants them to do, why he wants them to die for such a cause?
They listen to those who support them and who teach them the Koran. Hezbollah depends on the Islamic regimes of Iran and Syria for both material and ideological sustenance. Just as their weapons are not their own, nor are their ideas.
For confirmation, we need only listen to their spokesmen. Syria warned Israel yesterday that any aggression against it “will be met with a firm and direct response whose timing and methods are unlimited.” Does that sound like a religious country seeking peace? Iranian authorities refused to be outdone by their brethren in religion. From Tehran, officials threatened “unimaginable damage” to Israel if Syria were attacked. Iran's supreme leader (a religious cleric) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei boasted that Hezbollah was winning its fight against Israel and assured the world the militants would never disarm.
Who are these political leaders speaking to? They know Israeli Prime Minister Olmert doesn't tune in for their advice. They are talking to their foot soldiers, the young men in the trenches who find in their words grandiose promises of eternal reward.
We wish Hezbollah militants were a rare breed, dropped from the sky. They are not. Reporters say hundreds of cars drove through Damascus on Sunday night waving Syrian and Hezbollah flags and honking horns. The Hezbollah foot soldiers on the front lines in Lebanon are part of a bigger religious army of believers. They are the heroes of a subculture that grooms men and women to reject their own humanity and die for an essentially “religious” cause.
They call this martyrdom. Is it?
Not everything we do in the name of God honors him. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are the three major, monotheistic religions. According to their sacred texts, they believe in one God, the creator of all things. Is the loving God of Genesis the same God who sends militants to kill the innocent in Iraq, Jordan, Indonesia, Israel, London, Madrid, and NYC? The question is a bad one because no god does that. Belief doesn't determine being; it's the other way around. Real faith depends on a truth that exists outside of us. It is adherence to a God who perfects us. The rest is a figment of someone's imagination.
At this juncture, knowing the irrational, pseudoreligious nature of terrorists and their state sponsors, Israel is the only side, in my opinion, capable of circumventing international mayhem. To do so it will need to look beyond tit for tat justice. It may need to tolerate short-term setbacks for long-term peace.
The global consequences of escalating violence, no matter who is to blame, must be at the forefront of their decision-making.
At the same time, the free world cannot leave Israel alone. If the international community is to ask Israel to hold back its fire, it must also promise its absolute support for the war on terror, including the eventual dismantlement of Hezbollah's control of Lebanon's southern border and the reigning in of Syria, Iran, and any other state interested in supporting foot soldiers of hate.
It must show with actions, not words, radical Islam and the regimes that support it, are not a threat to America or Israel alone, but to the world as we know it.
When we scratch the surface of this present violence we find opportunists looking to advance worldwide jihad, a crusade against Christianity and Judaism, and anything non-Muslim.
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. I'm sorry for the delay of this blog. On Friday I'll post some of your responses.
Write to Father Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.