The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

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Why Go to War? Because We are All Human and All Humans are Sacred

25th September 2014

On 3rd September at Westminster Abbey’s memorial to the Innocent Victims of War, representatives of the three faiths of the Book, Christians, Jews and Muslims (Sunni and Shiah) gathered beneath a banner stating “We are all Human”. They met to hold a vigil for those who are victims of the inhuman outrages committed by Islamic State in the name of religion.

The message of this vigil was clear – theistic faith gives a special dignity to human life, holding as it does that men and women are made in God’s image and likeness. It is this sacred truth, which theistic religion reveals to the world, that Islamic State rejects by its brutal programme of persecution and mass-murder.

The RAF looks likely to join the coalition between the United States, France and Muslim Middle-Eastern States to attack Islamic State, although the UK will only support the intervention in Iraq and will not strike Islamic State in its base in Syria.

The National Interest

Islamic State, which traces its roots back to the brutal Al-Qaeda in Iraq (disowned even by the terrorists of Al Qaeda for their homicidal acts of cruelty), emerged in the chaos of the Arab Spring, as it spread to Syria. It hijacked the more moderate rebel-movement in the prolonged and tragic civil-war in Syria. It cannot be in the interests of the West for a movement committed to extremism and terrorism to gain control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Not only is the democratic government of Iraq threatened, but the future risk of destabilisation of friendly Sunni regimes is also a concern if the disease of IS ideology spreads unimpeded.

The Humanitarian Case

Islamic State is a callous and mass-murdering organisation. We are not falling into a Manicheean outlook to call them evil – even Osama Bin Ladin, a man who glorified mass-murder and terrorism, found the brutality of the IS predecessor, Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq to be unacceptable. It is worth remembering that Al Qaeda-in-Iraq was defeated by a combination of the Sunni Awakening, where those Muslims who might have been expected to see Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq as their protectors from Shiah militia, rose up against them in combination with the Bush-Government’s surge of American ground troops (a strategy Obama is nervous of adopting). The reason that the Sunni Awakening occurred was as a reaction against the sheer viciousness of Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq’s brutality.

IS or Daesh as it is known in Iraq and Syria has cleansed parts of Iraq of older faith groups that predate Islam – particularly Christians and Yazidis. They have terrorised populations so that they have fled, leaving the old and weak who cannot flee. The terrorists have crucified victims, buried them alive and resurrected the slave market, selling the wives of their victims as sex slaves (some are young children). The ideology of this organisation, claiming to be Islamic, is all about degrading the sanctity of human life.

As a matter of humanity, we must defend the weak against what is in effect a genocide of the older faiths of Christian and Yazidi. Looking back to that protest of religious groups hosted by Westminster Abbey, it was organised by three charities, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and World Jewish Relief. The message sent by this coordination was clear – the three religions of the Book were coming together to condemn the evil in Iraq. This was emphasised by a representative of Islamic Relief who made it clear that this Islamic charity was on the frontline giving vital aid to Christians, Yazidi and Shiah alike. As human beings we have a responsibility to act.

The Cultural Duty

There is another element, which is that we are of Christian heritage and the victims of IS are in large part Christians. We have a special responsibility because of this.

The West should look to its heritage of believing in the divine origin and potential of human life, whether or not leaders themselves hold the faith at the root of this idea. That belief in the sanctity of human life is not uniquely Western, but is an inheritance the West owes to the Middle East, from whence the Abrahamic faiths sprang. Faith must not be an excuse for a passive appeasement of evil, but a call to defend the innocent from violence. And surely when those innocents are being murdered in the region of the world from whence monotheism spread, the onus is especially poignant?

With its Christian heritage the West, as the heirs to Christendom, surely have a special responsibility to the Christian community as well as a duty to other persecuted minorities. It is Europe’s cultural heritage that is being destroyed as a pre-Schism Christian people are subject to genocide.

Force is the Action Needed

The Archbishop of Canterbury was also at the demonstration and spoke about the dangers of labelling for persecution – pointing to Europe’s own experience at the hands of the atheist Nazis and comparing it with the religious extremists of Iraq. The analogy is accurate. IS denies the sanctity of human life as the Nazis did and is likewise carrying out systematic murder. As the Nazis murdered the theological cousins of Christianity – the Jewish people, thereby attacking our shared Judaeo-Christian heritage, so Islamic State is attacking that Judeao-Christian culture and (by its attack on and rejection of moderate Islam), our Abrahamic culture and values (particularly the sanctity of human life). Such evil must be confronted with conviction and in such a bleak situation we must fight to stop the killing of innocents.

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