The religious extremist shouted, “We must take up arms to drive out the infidels from the land! They are the enemies of our faith! To die in the holy war is to be rewarded in heaven and your assurance of salvation! Your highest calling is to go to war and to kill the enemies of God! God has willed it!”
Reading these words in light of current events, we might assume they were spoken by Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden, or perhaps some leader from ISIS. But in this particular case to which I am referring, they were not. These words were not spoken by any Islamic leader against the west or against Christians.
They instead were spoken by the leader of the Christian church in order to raise up a great crusade to drive the Muslims out of the Holy Land. His call came at the end of the eleventh century.
Nine Hundred Years
Today we stand at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is almost incredulous how the rhetoric has been reversed. Nine hundred years ago, it was the Christians who waged a holy war against Islam. Today, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Palestine and in increasingly more places in the Middle East and even in the west, the Jihad has been raised against all that the Islamists see as the enemies of Islam.
The intervening years may have brought about many changes, but there is one thing that has remained constant. In all times, and on all sides of a conflict, in what are described as “holy wars,” everyone claims to be fighting in the Name of God. Combatants are quick to proclaim that God is on their side.
I watched the image of a twelve year old Afghani boy on the television news a couple of years ago. His young mind had been solidly indoctrinated to believe that the Taliban, despite the fact that they had so brutally ruled his country, were building a government in Afghanistan as Allah would have it done.
“The Taliban will never fall,” the young boy said, “because God is on our side!”
“You will succeed,” the Pope told the crusaders of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, “because God is on your side!”
Today in the West, we do not agree with the twelve year old Afghani boy. We look on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and also as the ISIS movement as being regimes of extreme evil. Each one in succession seems to only have increased in their cruelty. The brutality of their actions against all who do not agree with them, and the violence that they have wrought in their own countries and around the world have demonstrated clearly their wickedness. We believe that in fighting them we are fighting evil.
But nine hundred years ago the same might have been said of the crusaders who marched under the Christian banner to combat what they saw as the infidels of that day. The massacre that took place by the crusaders after the taking of Jerusalem was almost beyond belief.
Whose side is God on?