My spirit has been grieved in a way I haven’t experienced before as the situation in Iraq and Syria has turned for the worse as of late, and is now straight up out of control. The ISIS has made amazing strides in gaining power throughout the region, taking over whole areas, and has now begun exterminating all of the “others” who are not like them.
There’s been the ultimatum given to Christians (and other religious minorities often overlooked): leave town, convert to Islam and pay a special tax, or face the sword. The ISIS has shown they’re not kidding with the ultimatum (and that they aren’t going to honor living in peace in exchange for paying the tax). As a result, a situation that is nothing short of genocide is being presented to the world.
The atrocities facing the religious minorities in these areas are almost unspeakable.
There’s been the mass executions by firing squad.
The hanging of men.
Rape and enslavement of the women.
There’s also been a revival of crucifixions in the public square, something ISIS members have been tweeting photos of and gloating about on twitter.
I am beyond grieved over the situation and have found it to be impacting me in ways I never expected. To be honest, I’ve spent the last few days wrestling with a great deal of inner tension as this situation has radically challenged my nonviolent ethic. How can one maintain a nonviolent ethic when faced with a situation like this? The truth is, there’s not an easy answer to that– I am finding myself swimming in a sea of tension with no easy resolution.
However, as I survey the situation, I think it is important to remember this: violence is how we got here, so the idea that violence will lead us out of here is as foolish as doing nothing.
I remember being glued to CNN as a freshman in high school watching the opening days of Operation Desert Storm– Saddam Hussein didn’t comply with the deadline to leave Kuwait, so we went to war. After we succeeded in pushing him back within his own borders, we ended the conflict– something that the elder President Bush took some heat over. The pundits claimed that we needed to march all the way to Baghdad and remove Hussein from power, but the administration had some wisdom as to why that was a really bad idea: removing Saddam from power would likely create a power vacuum. The people who would potentially fill that vacuum might actually be worse than what we were removing, they claimed.
As an adult, I watched a new President Bush go back to war with Iraq, this time with the goal of using force/violence to remove Saddam from power. We successfully removed him from power, but have since experienced what the first Bush knew all along: using violence to remove him from power might backfire.
Today we have a power vacuum throughout the region, and it’s being filled by some straight up evil people– people who ironically, Saddam would not have tolerated. We can rightly look at the violence being used by these evil men with total disgust, but let us be honest about the situation: it was OUR use of violence that set the stage for this to all play out.
If the use of violence is how we got here, why would we think MORE violence would actually make things better? If history is a reliable witness, more violence will just lead to… you guessed it, more violence.
We need to reach a point where we throw up our hands and simply admit that this cycle DOES NOT WORK. We need to think more creatively, and give other solutions a fair hearing.
One reason why we don’t seek alternatives to violence is because violence comes at a huge price to them but nonviolent solutions come at a huge price to us. Too often, we’re simply unwilling to pay such a price, whatever that is.
A potential solution for this rapidly escalating genocide comes by way of saving the innocent instead of killing the guilty. Why not stage the largest airlift since the Berlin Airlift, and bring all of these religious and ethnic minorities out of their situation, and grant them asylum here in the United States? This solution would involve a minimal amount of violence (a point I concede with great tension) as we put “boots on the ground” to help safely escort them out of the their situation. We could use our troop transport planes to safely fly them out, bring them here, and help them begin a new life in peace and freedom.
If we’re going to spend billions of dollars anyway, why not invest in actually saving people and helping them escape to freedom?
I fear we’d rather shell out the money to kill and destroy our enemies a world away instead of the far more costly and personally messy work of welcoming thousands of new immigrants/asylum seekers into our own neighborhoods.
The use of violence in the middle east got us here. The use of violence in the middle east has kept us here. Thinking that “more violence” is the solution to get us out of here is short sighted– it’s time to invest in something different.
* This blog is part of a synchro-blog effort with MennoNerds to help bring an Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective on the ISIS situation in the middle east. For more voices in the discussion, search the hashtag