Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Crusade Needed?

 Surely everyone is aware of the Crusades which were fought in the twelfth century into the sixteenth century. The Crusades often give Christians, particularly Catholics, a not-so-good reputation among non-believers and also fellow non-Catholic Christians. This important event in the life of the Church staved off basically the domination of Muslim conquest in Europe and for a time, the Middle East. 
Little is it taught that the Crusades were a defensive action after many centuries of Christians being persecuted on way to pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Towns and cities that were previously Catholic were conquered and destroyed by Muslim warriors in Jihad. The countries of Syria, Jordan, Palestine/Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. from the seventh century to the ninth century predominately Christian. Many old churches and monasteries exist there today as remnants of the rich historic life that is traced back to the Apostles. The "straw that broke the camels back" was when the Muslim Arab and Turks were set to invade the walls of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, Turkey. The Byzantine Emperor sent Pope Pius a letter requesting military support from Western Europe. It was then the Holy Father called at a council for any able bodied Christian to pick up their crosses, head to the Holy Land, and retrieve the sacred land back from the Muslims. 

Since then, many Christians have been forced to leave the lands they once considered home due to violent persecution from Muslims. It seems every day the news tells of some atrocity committed against the frail, yet devoted, Christian communities hanging on to their ancestral home in the Middle East. Innocent men, women, and children are attacked while coming out of churches after Mass or Divine Liturgy. Many have been forced to flee to Europe and America because the persecution is so intense, it seems like the only way out of the blood shed. And many faithful have died martyrs assured of God's eternal vision. 

So, is a new Holy Crusade in order? The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has said recently that no good can come from violence. His Holiness insists peace is the only way for mankind's survival and common unity. The situation today surrounding demographics seems to be different today than what they were during the time when there were Papal States and Catholic Monarchies. Europe is increasingly becoming more and more secular so it would seem dubious for the Pope to rely on the populace by declaring another Crusade. Of course I agree with the Pope that violence is a horrible thing and how does good come from someone dying? I have seen war first hand from my time in Iraq serving with the U.S. Army Guard. I'm also "a realist" and understand that force, particularly military force, is necessary if given the reasons for engaging in armed combat fulfills the Just War Doctrine of the Church. I believe one of the reasons no Crusade has been called to return the Holy Land back to Christians thus stopping the violent persecutions against them is because there no longer is a Holy Roman Empire or Papal States or absolute Catholic monarchies present in the world. The people's duties lie mainly now to the secular state rather than to the Church as it did during the time of the Crusades. So the path of peace and understanding is how we travel. We must pray for our persecuted brethren in the Middle East who face trials day and night that would make us tremble. The extreme minority who have stayed are brave saints, worthy of honor. We must support them in every way possible by encouraging and supporting them financially. Many have lost their businesses due to attacks. Many have been forced out of their homes. It's a horrible thing and the Church needs to stand with them. 

Here is a link to the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in Israel. They are a military order that goes back to the Crusades still working in the Holy Land today.