This dear little boy went to church on Palm Sunday to worship God alongside his family and community. He never made it to the dismissal at the end of Mass because his life was cruelly taken by wicked men. He is one of 44 martyrs of the Coptic Church in Egypt killed by Muslim fanatics in this latest terrorist attack. We must pray for them and those they leave behind.
The photographs are truly devastating and bring home the full horror of terrorism. Blood pools around pews, and a place of holiness is turned into a battle scene. People who gathered to praise God were left dead and/or traumatised. There are more pictures showing the dead, but I felt them too graphic to share. Too upsetting. but they tell the fuller story and point to the awful reality.
This week Cardinal Nichols travelled to Rome with Muslim clerics urging us to listen to the voice of Islam. That is to be applauded given the need for a working towards the building of friendships that will enable people of all faiths and none to live alongside one another with respect and love. But these photographs remind us of the greater need at present to hear the voice of the persecuted Church in the Middle East.
But we do not seem to hear them well. Perhaps it is because, in contrast to their oppressors, they are peaceful? Had this attack happened in Paris I imagine our Facebook feeds would be full of flags and badges of support. Had the victims come from the ever trendy LGBT group the press would have done wall to wall coverage and encouraged appeals. But because these were unfashionable Christians at Mass the news only briefly registered. That is the norm, lamentably, for Christians in the Middle East who, despite having been almost driven to extinction in certain areas, cry out in need as the world looks on and does nothing.
We also need to talk far more honestly about the problems stemming from Islam. And it is Islam that is the problem not what apologists argue is ‘extremism’. For if I am ‘extreme’ in following a creed calling me to love neighbour as self and God above all things- well I will only shower blessings on the world. If, however, I am extreme in seeking the destruction of those I oppose, because there is no room for them in my creed, I become a dangerous despot. Perhaps this explains why so many terror attacks come from one particular source.
Fortunately the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, sensible seekers of God. As Cardinal Nichols helpfully reminded us. We need them to come to the fore. We must support them and vocally. But we also need call out the vile sub-section who take a literalist reading of the Koran and are a menace. As well as those who look the other way, stay silent, tacitly support etc. Which is to say you cannot keep claiming to be “the religion of peace” whilst watching your adherents carry out 90% of global terrorism. It will not do. Time to get your house in order.
Come on then Muslim leaders the world over- silence the hate preachers, stand up for peace and make cleaning up this grot your first priority! And come on leaders in the West- stop being scared to name this a Muslim issue. Stand wth the sensible Muslims and work together for peace. Enough of the bloodshed.
UPDATE: There is now some suggestion that the little boy in the first photograph was not in fact one of the martyrs. This does not change any of the facts in this post but I share that news in the interest of truth. Misinformation is always a problem in areas of war.