Whether one approves of the publishing philosophy of Charile Hedbo, a French satirical magazine or not, no person of sound mind could ever justify the act of brazen terrorism that took place in Paris, France on Wednesday, January 7. The magazine has in the past mocked the person of Jesus and the Christian faith too, just as much and maybe more. Had someone attacked the lives of its editors and cartoonists under the pretext of avenging the name of Jesus, this would have been as disgusting and presumptuous crime as the one committed in a broad daylight three days ago.
It is utterly demonic and sick when a group of ideologically driven fanatics, obsessed by the idea that they are martyrs advancing the cause of God, take the lives of unsuspected people. What kind of god would enlist the cold blooded killers and indoctrinated haters as his executioners? Certainly not the God who, as the Quran states, is “the most gracious and merciful”.
But, I am hesitant to accept that it was the Islamic faith that turned the young men who murdered over a dozen people in Paris into the killing machines. I know many Muslims, who are just as appalled by crimes witnessed in Paris last week, or by those committed on a daily basis against Christians and Muslims alike on the territories of Syria and Iraq. None of my Muslim friends have been radicalized by Islam. Some of them are medical doctors, musicians, journalists, politicians, while others are artists and humanitarian activists – all of them are very much like us, Christians. I am not hesitant to call them my friends, brothers and sisters.
I am equally careful not to assume, as many nowadays do, that the murderous acts committed in Paris this week are consistent with the teachings of Islam, because the same uncritical reasoning could be applied to profile various psychopaths and right-wing crusaders desperate to use their guns to “defend the cause of Christ” in what they see as the apocalyptic struggle against the Antichrist. There is enough in the Old Testament that various misguided fanatics could use to their own peril to justify their wicked schemes too. Should we blame the Bible or the Christian faith for their radicalization?
It was not without a reason that Jesus warned that the “time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” John 16:2. The history bears a painful and embarrassing witness that throughout the past centuries many have used both, Islam and Christianity, to kill “in the name of God”. That’s why I feel sick every time I hear some Christian leaders using the word “crusade” when they speak about evangelism. It immediately creates a mental picture in my mind of someone turning the cross of Jesus into a blood-soaked sword.
The other day I was watching “Revelation: The End of Days”, a colorful movie interpretation of the last days featured on the History Channel. Although the mini-series of two movies is a fiction, it features a version of a widely embraced view of “the last days” believed by many Christians today. The movie portrays the raising of a Christian resistance movement led by a prophetic figure that fights the Beast of Revelation with the Bible in the one and a machinegun in the other hand, thus somehow assisting the cause of the return of Jesus. Tragically such and similar belief concepts go hand in hand with the apocalyptic concepts that guide many terrorist activities across Syria and Iraq, and very likely the terrorists who murdered over 12 people in Paris this week. The notion that the “God’s faithful” represent some kind of God’s special force, destined to help the ushering in the Kingdom of God, are cherished by many fanatics that illegitimately claim their loyalties to both – Islam and Christianity.
Likewise I am hesitant to label the current terrorist madness as “Islamic terrorism”, just as much as I would never call various Christian militias, or the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army active in the heart of the African continent, Christian. They both dishonor the religions they claim, while their actions demonstrate that they are savages and criminals. They are certainly not martyrs or saints.
This is what I am trying to say. Christians are not terrorists only because some terrorist groups like to call themselves Christians. Equally, Muslims should not be profiled, stereotyped and treated with suspicion as potential terrorists only because some criminals pride themselves in being Muslims. I would not want my Muslim friends, who are all good citizens, kind and hospitable people, to be mistaken for any bloodthirsty group that is hijacking the name of their religion.
As I am finishing this reflection the terrorist drama in France has practically turned into a nightmare for the people of Paris; with more people reported as killed and wounded today (Friday, January 9), with more terrorist apparently involved, and new situations developing. It is my feeling that much more is involved in the planning and execution of the current terrorist events in Paris than a simple plot to attack the freedom of speech, or punish the cartoonists.
There is no question in my mind that this situation will be used by some to radicalize the mutual distrust between faiths and peoples to a new level. The people of good will, and especially the followers of Jesus, should become even more intentional ambassadors of peace and good will between the peoples of different religious, racial and ethnic identities. For, it seems, we have not seen the last of whatever happened in Paris to date. Tragically those who are scheming wars and conflicts in the world work from more than one headquarter, and more often than not we, ordinary people see only a tiny fragment of the whole picture.
Let’s start by praying for those who have lost their family members in Paris in the past three days.
This article is also published in the Serbian language by the “Ustani” portal.