On recent events in Paris and Beirut

The death toll from Friday’s action by eight ISIS killers in Paris has now risen to 132 with some 99 very seriously injured. That most of those killed were young men and women adds to the poignancy of the night’s gruesome events.

There are no words that can sufficiently convey our sadness at this inhumanity. We are also deeply saddened by the ISIS suicide attack in Beirut on Thursday which left 43 dead and 200 seriously wounded.

What is all the more saddening is that these attacks are predicated on a misguided millenialist ideology that avows we are living in the last days. We attach our recent NCF report on the ideology of ISIS in case you have not seen it.

In retribution for the French attacks, understandably, the ISIS capital city and stronghold, Rakka in Syria, is tonight being bombed by the French.

Was there any link to the killing by drone of the Briton Mohamed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John on Thursday? Unlikely. Our sources in French Intelligence suggest that a sleeper cell of fifty persons was activated over a period of weeks to set this attack up.

Was there any link to the liberation of the Yezidi town of Sinjar by the Kurdish forces on Friday? Possibly. This was a major blow for ISIS. More than 17,000 Kurdish Peshmerga walked into the town Friday, almost all of the five hundred ISIS defenders having melted away overnight. In fact just one ISIS soldier remained behind in the town centre and shot dead a single Kurdish soldier before himself being shot dead. Those two men represented the only fatalities. Retreating when faced with a major attack is standard ISIS practice.

But Sinjar was vital because it sits astride the only highway between the ISIS stronghold of Mosul in Iraq and the key strategic town of Deir al Zour in Syria. It cuts the ISIS supply lines. There are of course minor roads ISIS can use and they are inumerable. But with winter coming on the minor roads will be far harder to negotiate.

IN CONCLUSION: Our NCF Board Member, Reverend Larry Wright, issued a statement in his capacity of Convenor for the independent Religious Affairs Advisory Council and we reprint it below as we echo his sentiments.

Regarding events in Paris and Beirut

Thursday’s terrorist operation in Beirut and Friday’s in Paris are an affront to humanity and run counter to fundamental Islamic values. We are deeply saddened by these terrorists operations. God be with the people of both Lebanon and France . We stand united against terrorism and support peace:

In the aftermath of such carnage and bloodshed emotions are understandably roused. Feelings of outrage and demands for action are inevitable.
At such times many will empathise with the innocent while being utterly perplexed at the motives of the perpetrators. Such irrational hatred is hard for most sane people to comprehend.

No ideology, no deeply felt grievance, no religious belief or political cause can justify the shedding of so much innocent blood.

Such acts will be judged by God and reckoned in the light of history as yet another example of our violent capacities when moral constraint and fellow human feeling are suppressed or, through some twisted mental process, denied.

History also shows us that vengeful over-reaction to such events plays into the hands of the perpetrators. Terrorism met with a ‘vigilante’ mentality for retribution is likely to increase the levels of hatred and provide nothing other than a fleeting feeling of gratification when one, or more, of “them” are violently punished, maybe by a drone strike; the cycle of violence grinds on.

Is there a better way?

The major world religions, at their best, sustain an intrinsically hopeful view of humanity while recognising our immoral capacities. World scriptures, when read in the light of a merciful God, entreat every human heart to be merciful and as Abraham Lincoln said “listen to the better angels of our conscience”.

While the best of human legal processes must be brought to bear on those behind the Paris outrage we must also be mindful of God’s law which calls to higher feelings and prayerful responses:

  • To break the cycle of violence,
  • To decrease the levels of hatred,
  • To master our capacities for vengeance
    And,
  • Kindle the embers of forgiveness.
          

Father Larry Wright, Convenor, The Religious Affairs Advisory Council

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