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‘...and the Christian kingdoms against the Muslim Ummah’. Turkey's challenges seen by Carlos Madrigal, pastor of the Istanbul Protestant Church.
While in the West we have separated (or so it seems) state and religion in all areas of public life, in this part of the world the political and military decisions that the West takes are not seen precisely this way.
At the same time, the West is trying to maintain a balance between the denunciation and rejection of fanaticism, while trying to contain any outbreak of "Islamophobia". And it continues to believe that the remedy is secularism.
But it is striking to see the tagline that initially appeared after the horrific attacks in France: "Pray for Paris". It seemed at first that this was the best resource, but this soon switched to the literal implementation of a popular saying that states: "Strike with thy rod while thou beg to thy God."
In fact, the number of armed clashes that both powers (Russia and the Ottomans) have staged in the past are far from few. It is interesting to see from this part of the world how the heir to the communist empire is rising up in defense of the values of Christianity (as when it claimed that the US had turned its back on God, following the ratification of the Supreme Court on the right to gay marriage).
In turn, the heir to the Ottoman Empire stands in defense of freedom, secularism and advanced democracy (as it is called here). They defend the freedom of the Syrians to reclaim and even overthrow the existing regime, but send to jail those journalists in their own country who highlight the supposed supply of arms by the Turkish state to rebel areas in the neighbouring country.
European countries in turn are engaging in an armed struggle "against Islamic terrorism" and hence consider bombing an Islamic State that, directly or indirectly, they had armed. But all they get is to rekindle the fire, as if they were trying to put it out with gasoline. It is clear that no one can stand idly by against the barbarism of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
But since September 11 how has the so-called war contributed to the fight against jihadist terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.? Is not the world worse now than it was before? The way that Western powers try to address these problems is through that "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" so hated by them, and which on other occasions they themselves accuse as being mere religious fanaticism.
And part of the problem is that the alternative offered by the West to fundamentalism is the emptiness of secularism. It does not realise that three quarters of the world continue to shape their worldview based on their beliefs. Or put another way, their religious beliefs shape their reactions to the rest of the world. And the way to find peace and reconciliation between different countries cannot be through fighting violence with violence. Thus, the only thing that this approach provides is the confirmation that the West continues to promote crusades (especially if oil is part of the equation).
What is the alternative? I heard some time ago that after World War II, when General McArthur was "viceroy" of Japan, he financed the importation of eight million Bibles in Japanese to counter the hate that was causing multiple suicide attacks in Japan. I do not know if the story is true or not. Nor do I think that we have to distribute millions of Bibles in the Middle East without rhyme or reason. This might even cause greater offense, who knows?
But what it does mean is that the way to counter religious radicalism is through exporting values of reconciliation and brotherhood, which exist in Western culture precisely because it has received them as an inheritance from Christianity. How to do it? Well, let's not stop praying...
Carlos Madrigal, Founding Pastor of the Istanbul Protestant Church.