Belfast Telegraph

Only Muslim leaders can reach those who kill in name of Allah

By Alf McCreary

It has been a bad week for humanity and for Christianity at home and abroad. The butchering of the French priest Fr Jacques Hamel was horrible beyond words, and the graphic description of that poor man's last words and actions were chilling and deeply disturbing.

Mourners at his funeral on Tuesday were told that while the teenage assailants were setting about cutting his throat, Fr Jacques fell to the ground and tried to kick them away with his feet, as he cried "Go away Satan, Go Away Satan".

In the best Christian tradition, the priest's family requested that there would a reading of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, with the exhortation to "Love your enemies".

The Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun asked: "Must there be further slaughter. Too many violent deaths. It's enough."

The trouble is, there will be more killings in this war where people like the elderly priest will be killed precisely because they are Christians.

Then the Archbishop added a sentence that strikes me as distinctly odd. He said "Evil is a mystery."

I suggest that to most people evil is anything but a mystery. It is the result of people with hatred in their hearts resorting to violence to destroy their supposed enemies.

The comments of Pope Francis were also open to question. He said that the world is at war, but that it is not about religion.

He made the point, rightly, that much of the trouble is due to the huge gap between the privileged and the underprivileged of the world, but he was wrong to dismiss so lightly the role of religion in the many recent acts of violence from militant Islamists.

It is true that most people in today's world are not murdering others because of the finer points of theology - but the militant Islamists are very clear that unless the "infidels" like you and me recant our Christianity we will be killed.

It is important to stress the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, but a small minority have turned themselves into vicious killers in the name of a warped version of their faith.

The harsh truth is that until the Muslim world and especially its teachers and other leaders win over the minds of those who resort to violence in the name of Allah, their religious war against Christians will continue. The peaceful Muslims need to condemn such actions loudly and clearly, and again and again.

There is no point in trying to ignore the Islamist elephant in the room. The Pope is a very sincere Christian, but his remarks about religion not playing a part in this war perpetrated by militant Islam are at best naive, and at worst misleading.

It has also been a bad week for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, with Archbishop Diarmud Martin refusing to send young priests to Maynooth because of its alleged atmosphere of " strange goings on there". There are other allegations of bullying, of a "poisonous atmosphere" and a "gay sub-culture".

Archbishop Martin is one of the most courageous and credible bishops, and his words and actions should be taken seriously. He said that there was a "quarrelsome attitude that was not the healthiest place for my students." Instead he is sending them to the Irish College in Rome, which has had its own problems.

Is it not extremely sad that during little over a week an elderly French priest is killed for being a Christian, while in Ireland there is further evidence of the deep divisions in the Catholic Church.

Is it any wonder that the serious and possibly terminal disconnect between the clergy and a large number of ordinary Catholics is widening all the time?

Belfast Telegraph


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