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In Kurdistan, Hearing Stories of Loss

Image via /Shutterstock.com

How to respond to such pain? With action. Seated with others, in an unfinished building we visited in Dahook, was a young Yazidi man who is studying in the university. He plans to reach out to about 5,000 children on the mountain with hopes of educating them. I shared the story of my friends, the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and the fruits they are reaping from their literacy program with street children.

3 False Assumptions About Muslims in the Age of ISIS

Syrian refugees who came from Aleppo waiting at the refugee camp in Essalame border gate on Turkey - Syria border in Essalame, Syria in February. gungorkarakus / Shutterstock.com

The Christian tradition calls its followers not to bear false witness. So how do we live out this calling? What does it mean not to bear false witness against Muslims in the age of ISIS? Here are three false assumptions, if not outright lies, often repeated about Muslims and terrorism, along with some facts that can help us have more honest conversations about our Muslim neighbors and about the violence we encounter in western nations.

Deny the Terrorists Their Victory

Metro station Bourse is closed after the Brussels terrorist attacks that took place on March 22
Metro station Bourse is closed after the Brussels terrorist attacks that took place on March 22. CRM / Shutterstock.com

Terrorists want to “terrorize” us. They want to make us angry and hostile. They want us to react and overreact to them. They want us to suspect, to racially and religiously profile, discriminate against, and attack all Muslims. Because that will help the terrorists recruit more young Muslims to their cause — and make it harder for other Muslims to work against them. They want to politicize everything and turn people’s attention away from the massive losses for human life that these evil terrorists represent.

We must deny them their victory. Here’s how.

In Remembrance of Me

Stained glass window depicting Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper in the cathedral of Brussels. by jorisvo / Shutterstock.com

I am this broken and bleeding world.
I am Brussels, blown apart, the strewn limbs, the piercing wail of a mother for her baby.
I am Yemen, at the marketplace, charred bodies of children face-down in the dust.
I am Syria, families cramming into boats as guns and missiles chase them from the shore.
I am Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, pockmarked by bomb blasts, orphaned children hiding away from clear blue skies.
I am the growling of empty bellies drowned by the sound of gold pouring into the bottomless coffers of the war machines as they devour their sustenance and spit out death in return.
I am generation upon generation of silenced and vanished victim buried in the ground and trampled.
I am slain from the foundation of the world.

What to Do When Words Fail

Image via Valentina Calà / flickr.com

I arrange my Mondays around a certain ritual, a yoga class taught by my gifted teacher, Mireille (Mimi) Mears. She’s from Belgium. From Charleroi, to be exact. It's about 30 miles away from Brussels. Her nephew lives a few minutes away from the attack site with his wife and three children under the age of 6. Mimi always closes our class with a ritual, this prayer/meditation/homily (with her beautiful Belgian accent) and yesterday was no exception.

Brussels Attacks: How Radicalization Happens

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The actions of the shooters like those in San BernardinoParis, and very probably Brussels are difficult for most people to understand. But the work of scholars specializing in extremism can help us begin to unravel how people become radicalized to embrace political violence.

Security experts Alex Wilner and Claire-Jehanne Dubouloz define radicalization as a process during which an individual or group adopts increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations. The process involves rejecting or undermining the status quo or contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.

Newly radicalized people don’t just agree with the mission and the message of the group they are joining — they embrace the idea of using violence to induce change.

French Woman Who Escaped ISIS Lives to Tell About Its Horrors

Sophie Kasiki holds her book. Image via Tom Heneghan / RNS

Sophie Kasiki, one of the few Western women to have seen the Islamic State group’s harsh “caliphate” in Syria and escaped, recounts her life in the jihadists’ stronghold Raqqa with detached calm and inner rage. Born to a Catholic family in Cameroon and living in Paris since the age of 9, she converted to Islam as an adult. She traveled with her 4-year-old son to Syria in February 2015, to join three friends who had left for jihad a few months before.

Weekly Wrap 3.18.16: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. How Kasich’s Religion Is Hurting Him with Conservatives

“The governor’s faith appears to drive his politically moderate stances on immigration, climate change and gay marriage—positions that alienate him from mainstream conservatives whose support Kasich needs to have a chance at the nomination.”

2. Hacker Group Anonymous Declares War on the Trump Campaign

Be on the lookout for said “total war” on April 1.

The Day We Witnessed a Chemical Attack

Sinjar, Iraq
Sinjar, Iraq. Photo by Matthew Willingham, Preemptive Love Coalition

Chlorine gas has been used in Syria's civil war for years, but reports of chemical weapons used inside Iraq have been growing in recent weeks. Chlorine gas, mustard gas, and yellow phosphorous have all been discharged—sometimes against military targets, sometimes against civilians. In each case, the attacks leave telltale patterns of burns and physical damage.

What Naming ISIS' Actions 'Genocide' Would Mean to Christians

Image via Reuters/Denis Balibouse/RNS

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky famously said that President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “Evil Empire” speech was a turning point for him and other prisoners in the Soviet gulag.

“For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us,” recalled Sharansky in a 2004 interview.

He and fellow prisoners communicated the news between cells with taps on walls and toilets. They understood immediately that the truth about the Soviet Union would resound around the world: Reagan’s moral condemnation made indifference toward Soviet oppression unthinkable.

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