A new religious affairs council has been established in recent months with input from Shiite, Sunni and Christian religious thinkers. They have just issued this statement:
We feel that an inability to recognize that there can be life without war, an inability to acknowledge the supreme sanctity of human life, an inability to recognize our shared humanity, is an anathema.
ISIS claims the world is divided between their extremist version of Dar al Islam (the World of Peace) and Dar al Harb (The World of War). They justify their actions by claims that we are approaching the apocalypse. Any claims to such knowledge of the end of times are indefensible claims to know the mind of God as our scriptures warn. Humanity may seem, at times, to be bent on its own destruction but Faith in a merciful God engenders hope not despair, love not hatred, compassion not indifference.
Under a merciful God, humanity must continually strive to overcome the historic polarizations that lead to bloody cycles of conflict and revenge. As believers in the one God, we are convinced that the polarizations between Sunni and Shia, between Islam and Judaism, and between Islam and Christianity are against the will of God and wars fought in the name of religion are an offence to God’s name.
ISIS must also be challenged theologically and spiritually. Bishop Angaelos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, states that the brutal killings in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, “Show the vulnerability of our humanity, not only in those who died so needlessly and tragically, but also in those who were able to murder so brutally, mercilessly and intentionally.”
When 28 Coptic Christians were executed by ISIS in Libya, Bishop Angaelos began a twitter feed which attracted thousands of followers: #father forgive. In this profound statement of forgiveness the potential cycle of anger and revenge was halted and the higher morality of righteousness affirmed. As the families of those murdered in Charleston church shooting asserted, compassion and forgiveness are far more potent and effective that hatred and revenge. Forgiveness has an unconditional quality which transcends our vulnerability to judge.
That said, Al Azhar in Cairo, and senior clergy (ulama) in Iran and Iraq share the view expressed to this council by Ayatollah Safavi in Britain, that ISIS’s behaviour is contrary to Islamic law and therefore morally indefensible.
Military action against extremists, like ISIS, is fraught with danger. Indiscriminate bombing has caused considerable collateral damage which sometimes serves to attract sympathy to their cause. ISIS must be isolated so it withers and destroys itself because its own deadly ethos will inevitably turn in on its self.
Action must be taken to prevent vulnerable young people being attracted to ISIS and travelling to ISIS controlled areas. Their financial backers must be brought to account and their theology exposed for what it is.
Human history is littered with the consequences of the actions of heavily armed fanatics. ISIS is the latest expression of such warlike fanaticism and is as in error as all others. We would conclude by reminding believers that they need not be anxious, instead they should act. Anxiety is a sin because it means you do not trust God. The Lord God expects us to deal with ISIS, not to fear them.
The Religious Affairs Advisory Council