Yes, this is war


We have always been advised, “Do not speak when angry”. To that I would add, “Much less take action”.

After the Paris bombing President Francois Hollande was angry when he said something to the effect, “This is war and France will be merciless.” He was even angrier when he sent the warplanes in revenge.

Really, President Hollande is rather late in recognising the obvious. There has been a “war” for many years and all the players have been “merciless”, though only the ISIS were obscenely proud of their cruelty and are flaunting it.

Anyway this kneejerk and emotional reaction of Monsieur President is wrong on so many levels. As a Christian I would think that he would be familiar with what is written in the Bible (Romans 12:21) “Do not be overcome by evil . . .”

We are overcome if we are driven by evil to respond to in kind. The killing of innocents is evil. The innocents might be like the Paris victims who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or they could be the unfortunate people who have combatants encamping in their vicinity. In either case the spilling of their blood is evil.

Just as we mourn for the 128 victims in the Paris massacre so too must we mourn for the thousands of the “collateral damage” in the “righteous” response to the Paris bombing that is surely to come.

Talking about collateral damage just about a month before the Paris incident United States Air Force gunships attacked the Kunduz Trauma Centre, a hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (English name: Doctors Without Borders) in the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. It has been reported that at least 30 people were killed, thirteen of which were hospital staff, and over 30 were injured.

The Americans offered the explanation that the American and Afghan forces were under attack by some Taliban fighters hiding in the hospital. The White House offered its deepest condolences and President Obama called the head of MSF and personally apologised for the “tragic incident.” Now, if they have no qualm in attacking a hospital to flush out the alleged terrorists what more of other places (that could very well be home of ordinary people) that might be used as hideouts of the ISIS.

Let me just digress a bit and talk about a movie called “Evolution”. This is a 2001 American science fiction comedy film about a meteor that harboured extraterrestrial life crashing onto earth. It quickly evolved into large, diverse and outlandish creatures that threatened to engulf the earth. The military responded in typical fashion – “napalm the heck out of them”. Napalm is flammable liquid used in warfare. A professor discovered in the nick of time that alien life form would multiple even more aggressively when come into contact with fire and stopped the operation.

The point of the story is that sending of death and suffering to the target country would only increase the pool of recruits to the enemies. This pool of recruits would be people who watch helplessly as bombs raining from the sky consuming their families, bombs that were purported to save them from the extremists in the first place. Their anguish would turn to anger and anger to hatred. They would be ripe for the picking by people who preach instant revenge and future salvation. Like the alien life form in the movie they will multiple in the fire and will augment the rank of the “extremists”.

President Hollande was right when he said, “It is war”. However, we do not need a Sun Tzu to tell us that in a war one has to know where is the battleground, who are the enemies, who can possibly be friends.

This is not a war against any specific people. This is a war against a concept, an ideology that hides under the cloak of a religion and proclaims that it is righteous to kill, nay, it is the bounden duty of its followers, to slaughter, and with much cruelty, its perceived enemies.

This war has no specific geographical battleground. It is in the realm of the heart and mind. The question is whose heart and mind? While at the moment many people are pointing their fingers at a specific religion saying that is where we should begin our battle. They say that the adherents of the religion that is being used by ISIS are in the front line of this battle of heart and mind.

I submit that the problem is not of any specific ideology. The problem is when people uncritically accept the words of some individuals who interpret revered text for their own ends. Making the news today might be ISIS because they distinguished themselves in their cruelty and their effective use of the cyber media to broadcast their nefarious deeds. In reality they are not the only ones. All over the world are opportunistic and evil people invoking the name of the Almighty to carry out their schemes, some merely fraudulent and others evil.

For quite a few years a smart and unscrupulous individual managed to persuade a sizeable number of Singaporeans to part with a big portion of their wealth to support his “church”. This pastor with the help of his accomplices was able to siphon off tens of millions of dollars for his own project. The Singapore court found them guilty of misappropriating the church funds and sentenced them to varying terms of imprisonment. Despite this damning verdict by the court many of his followers are so still enamoured with him that they are willing to suffer further financial hardship to support this “church”.

The only difference between the followers of the City Harvest Church and that of the ISIS is only in the degree of severity of their actions. The former are prepared to give up their wealth while the latter their lives. The impetus is same – blind uncritical belief.

Yes, this is war but this is a war that cannot be won with guns and bombs. The weapon we can use in this war is God given, namely, our mind, our intellect, and our faculty of reasoning. We have to use this gift of the mind so that we are not led sheepishly into acts of stupidity and in extreme cases into acts that destroy our very humanity.