This week, we as a world community witnessed an act of pure, unadulterated evil in the beheading of journalist James Foley by militants of the Islamic State (IS). Foley, a Roman Catholic, was a graduate of the Jesuit-run Marquette University and we are told, was a peaceful, religious man, sustained by his prayer life, particularly in his devotion to the Blessed Mother in the Rosary. As men, who use religion as a weapon, stretched out Foley’s arms to butcher this modern-day martyr, we have the example of a man who used his religion to animate his very existence. By all accounts, Foley saw his profession as an opportunity to make the world become more aware of the suffering and plight of the Syrian people. He wanted the world to be a better place, and he had the faith to believe that it could get better – if only people knew the facts.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, showed his spiritual fatherhood this week when he telephoned Foley’s parents to offer them comfort and to assure them of his prayers and the prayers of the Church universal.
Foley’s life was all about making people aware of what is going on in the world. How aware are we of what’s really happening in the world? Do we recognize that the coiled snake of the IS is growing more powerful with more and more Syrian fighters crossing the border into Iraq in this mad attempt to establish a dictatorial caliphate in this area and across the Middle East?
We applaud the world community for addressing the issue. We urge U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron to continue their vigilance and to commit to do what it takes to root out these extremists by the building of an international coalition, and if necessary, to use greater force to stop this threat. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are beginning to acknowledge the danger that the IS poses to the entire region and indeed the world.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, has said the militant groups of the IS and al Qaeda are “enemy number one of Islam” and not in any way part of the faith. For this brave statement, we applaud him.
No one wants a war. No one wants U.S. ground troops to be committed once again into a conflict that appears to be endless. No one wants a war that appears to be East versus West or Christianity against Islam. But we need to do something.
Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul wrote:
“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
“Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East … you are in danger.
James Foley’s life was all about making people aware. We can honor him by knowing the facts. Don’t let evil occur and sit idly by unaware. This is true for us as individuals and for our leaders. May we have the courage to do what we must.
Promoters of Peace
Do we stop to think about the message that the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., sends around the world? It has been reported in countries like Russia and China that this tragedy is a typical example of American policing and that civil unrest as we have witnessed is a daily occurrence in many parts of our nation.
Nothing, of course, can be further from the truth. By and large, our police officers attempt to do their jobs with courtesy and respect, which is why it is all the more tragic when events like those in Ferguson and Staten Island occur.
We cannot paint all police officers with the same brush anymore than we can paint all politicians as corrupt or all clergy as deviants. This week, offer up a prayer for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, for their families and communities who still suffer and for police officers everywhere that they will always act in truth and integrity.
St. Michael the Archangel, pray for them. St. Francis of Assisi, pray for peace. St. Martin de Porres, patron saint of racial unity, pray for all of us.