But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. - Matthew 5:44
Jesus’ words always call us on to greater things, to be better people than we are today. Jesus’ words seem hyperbolic, but they are anything but hyperbolic. He was calling us to live the lives we were made to live, to reach the levels of true freedom that God had always intended for us.
Our collective conscience has been constantly focused on terrorism for over a decade. Although the modern terrorist threat to the United States began to form in the 1990s, September 11th solidified the impact on every day Americans, not just those abroad. The most recent attack save served to continue this cycle of fear and worry. As is typical of our society, we’ve taken on a team aspect to our fight against terrorism. It’s us versus them; our team versus theirs. While terrorist organizations are nimble and capable, America is still the baddest kid on the block. When we choose to use our military and intelligence might, there’s no safe place on Earth where our enemies can hide.
This is the case of Jhaddi John, a British rapper who joined ISIS to become the public face of their execution campaign against the West. In taunting us and our allies, he became a target. Now, according to reports, just over a year after he made his debut, he’s been tracked down, targeted, and eliminated.
If rapper/terrorist Jihadi John really is dead, then I guess you could say his last single was da bomb. -@NotKennyRogers | 11/13/15, 4:39 PM
When you read the news, I’d venture to guess you were a bit glad, as I was. I remember vividly the first execution of James Foley late last summer. Not only was it a call back to the Al Qaeda beheadings in the mid-2000s, but I also remember the events so well because of the stories of James’ incredible displays of faith
while in captivity.
Yet, after reading the headlines and feeling like justice was done, I realized that celebrating this military accomplishment is really not worth a celebration at all. In fact, it’s the conclusion of a very tragic story arc in a much more sobering narrative. This young man, like so many others, has been robbed of his freedom. This is not a robbery perpetrated by any government, but by hatred and ISIS itself. Terrorist organizations rely on radicalized young people to carry out its cruel and inhumane attacks. In that way, they rob those young people of the opportunity of a long and fruitful life.
The process of radicalization is a long one, and one that requires constant injecting of hatred. The beauty of the mind is tarnished and marginalized as creative capacity and efforts are steered instead to negative thoughts, negative thinking, and eventually, pure hatred. These radicalized young people become consumed with a worldview that is not only mentally unhealthy, but that is so disconnected from reality that they can no longer make basic rational decisions. It’s in this mindset that they see suicide attacks against innocent populations as not only justified, but necessary. It’s this supremacist mindset that says that there’s only one way to praise God, and any persons who differ in opinion deserve death.
Terrorism kills every individual that it touches. It kills the recruit’s free and rational intellect, it physically kills perpetrators of the attacks, and it kills its innocent victims. This is the true tragedy. So many lives that could be enjoying the family life, or sharing their gifts with the world are diverted to hate and so many lives are snuffed out by acts of hatred.
Jesus’ words to us in Matthew are quite clear. Although we are personally hurt by the actions of terrorism, we can’t forget that these acts are carried out by people. The perpetrators are in some small way victims themselves. Although they hurt us an others, they deserve our prayers because had they not been deceived into joining a world of hatred, they likely would have lived normal lives.
The Gospel is not an easy message. The Gospel demands justice. Yet, the Gospel also demands mercy. As Catholics, we’re called to advocate for justice, to protect the victim, and to pray for those who attack us. There are no winners in terrorism, only victims.