The Australian – 28th July 2016
When the history of the early 21st century is written, Father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit at the altar where he was offering the sacrifice of the mass in the parish church of the small French town of Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray on Tuesday, will feature prominently.
Unlike English Reformation saints such as John Fisher and Edmund Campion or Catholic archbishop Oscar Romero who was gunned down while offering mass in San Salvador in 1980 — all of whom in different ways fought long and public battles for the Christian faith — Father Hamel, 86, had gone about his work quietly since his ordination in 1958. Like Father Maximilian Kolbe, murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz — a comparison Islamic State would relish — Father Hamel stands as a modern European Christian martyr. That concept is about as far removed from jihad terrorists who self-destruct to commit mass murder as it is possible to find. The Catholic church even gave the land on which the local mosque was built.
In a civilised world it is hard to comprehend the depravity that drove two Islamic State “soldiers” to force the elderly priest to kneel before the altar to die. But comprehend it we must, because, like fast food shops, trains and streets, churches in sleepy villages are vulnerable to attack from madmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” — now on almost a daily basis — across Europe. The recent string of similar lone-wolf attacks are a new turn in the terror war being waged primarily in France and Germany, but elsewhere also, especially of late in Florida.
Two months ago the propaganda machine of the so-called caliphate — which is on the run in Iraq and Syria but emerging in Afghanistan — issued a video showing a triumphant, black-clad “soldier” with an Islamic State flag atop a Christian church in Europe. It was captioned: “Truly we will fight you even in your churches until we raise there that the name of Allah is the only God.” Father Hamel, “slaughtered like a sheep”, as one parishioner observed, was a victim of that call.
Extremist political Islam is about conquest; it has been for centuries. But burning intolerance of other religions — including the Catholic belief in the divinity of Christ and the Trinity — is one of its drivers. That truth, long submerged, surfaced on Tuesday.
Other recent actions perpetrated in recent weeks are no less monstrous: the mowing down of scores on holiday-makers on Bastille Day in Nice; the stabbing of a woman and her three daughters in the Swiss Haute-Alpes by a Moroccan man, who left an eight-year-old fighting for life; a local police commander and his wife who were stabbed to death in Paris in front of their three-year-old son. In Germany, across seven days, civilians have been targeted in four lone-wolf terrorist attacks. In the latest attack, in the Bavarian city of Ansbach, a Syrian migrant detonated a suicide bomb (Germany’s first), killing himself and 15 bystanders.
Yet when Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann tried to argue such attacks cast doubt on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy that saw a million migrants arrive in Germany last year, he was shot down by her Immigration Minister, Thomas de Maiziere. The policy was not relevant to the attacks, Mr de Maiziere claimed in a flight of fancy. His view flies in the face of repeated warnings from European intelligence officials that Islamic State has used the influx of migrants across the Mediterranean to establish terror cells in Europe. It also ignores the grim warning earlier this month by France’s top intelligence chief, Patrick Calvar, that his country is on the brink of “civil war.”
Father Hamel’s killers were radicalised locals, among France’s five million Muslims. But the involvement of Adel Kermiche, 19, who went to school locally, shows the inadequacies of French security. He had been in custody after trying to travel to Syria to join Islamic State. After his release four months ago he was wearing an electronic tag. It did not deter him.
Lone-wolf attacks are the result, in part, of Islamic State being squeezed militarily. But they are also the result of the dismal failure of Europe’s leaders, most notably Ms Merkel, to foresee the results of opening their borders. There are no easy answers, although a heavy responsibility lies within Islamic communities themselves — the vast majority of whom are peaceful, decent people — to work with authorities to root out the violent extremism breeding within them.
Letters to the Editor: “Our victimhood culture fuels terrorist threat”
The Australian – July 29, 2016
Janet Albrechtsen accurately identifies a flourishing victimhood culture that fuels the terrorist threat in Western society (“Stop blaming the West for terror”, 27/7). The victimhood mindset is entrenched in our education system where the teaching of Christian principles, the celebration of Christmas and the display of symbols such as the cross are considered to be discriminatory, whereas minority traditions such as Ramadan are celebrated and encouraged.
This mindset of the Left, led by the Human Rights Commission and left-wing education authorities, is gaining increasing traction in the parliament and in our law courts. It is providing fertile ground for radicalisation in our Muslim community, where budding young terrorists see Western society as anti-Christian and weak.
John Bell, Heidelberg Heights, Vic
Your editorial (“Europe enters a new age of Christian martyrs”, 28/7) says that “in a civilised world it is hard to comprehend the depravity that drove two Islamic ‘soldiers’ to force the elderly priest to kneel before the altar to die.” The priest was killed at what Catholics call a mass, but which is also a celebration of the word and the sacrifice of the altar.
Islamists similarly think that their caliphate is spread through word and sacrifice, or what we would call propaganda and indiscriminate killing. This may seem to be religious rituals banging up against each other until one stands on a certain spot on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.
That spot is midway on the axis between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. At one end a place of secular words and at the other end, the place of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier — the place of supreme secular sacrifice.
The call is for unity of purpose between religion and the secular; between the sacred and the political. That unity will come only with words and sacrifice, with unity between reason and ritual.
Vincent Hodge, Paddington, Qld
Some time in the future, I expect to be in a public place, perhaps a theatre or a shopping centre, and a man will burst in, shouting “Allahu akbar”. He will have a machinegun and lots of ammo. Not a soul will be able to defend themselves because John Howard decreed that the police are more than enough to ensure our safety.
Perhaps 100 will die. Police will arrive some minutes after the shooting has stopped, and the terrorist will be taken out. The PM will go on TV expressing bafflement as to the motive.
There will be a day of mourning, then things will settle down until the next outrage. It is our job to get used to it. In this country, the only people with guns are criminals and terrorists. But it’s OK. We can take it. Especially the widows and the children.
Richard Stokes, Burpengary, Qld
Europe and the world is becoming littered with malicious, murderous and cowardly attacks on innocent people regardless of age, sex or belief by those with extreme religious views loyal to Islamic State.
For centuries, Europe repelled attacks that sought to overthrow Christianity. Then and now, integration proved impossible due to the extreme divergence of belief systems, and even within their own ranks as expressed by hatred between Shia and Sunni.
Countries such as the US respect Saudi Arabia and it’s one-faith policy. The time is upon us, for the protection of its citizens, where the reverse respect should be afforded to those countries that adopt the same type of policy that the Saudi’s impose.
Otherwise, being in a crowd, at a restaurant, aboard a train, on a hike, at church, while shopping, at a club, at work, at an airport or at school will never be the same or safe again. It is time the silence of the moderate Muslim community condemn what are essentially large-scale coward punches, or descend into chaos.
Paul Swan, Nundah, Qld
Soofi Aziz (Letters, 28/7) says the Koran protects all places of worship. This is correct, but he neglected to say this only applies to Muslim places of worship. The Koran declares that non-believers (infidels) are to be beheaded wherever they may be. This remains a theme of Islam. It is also a principle of Muslim philosophy to encourage lies, spread misinformation and engage in propaganda in furtherance of its cause — anything goes.
To criticise Muslims brings the response of racism. Muslims are definitely not a race but consist of people from many races and nationalities.
John Giersch, Isaacs, ACT