This article is part of a Synchro-Blog by the MennoNerds to express responses to the violence in Iraq, specifically answering the question: How do non-violent, peace-making Christians respond to the violence in Iraq both by ISIS and by the nations attacking ISIS. Go here to read all the articles.
The conflict in Iraq is escalating and the United Nations is now warning that the Islamic State, more commonly known as ISIS, may perform a genocide against minorities like Christians and Yazidis. To prevent this, US forces are bombing ISIS militants, France is supporting Kurdish militias and voices are being heard that a new Western invasion in Iraq is necessary. I have also noticed a rise of islamophobia among Christians here in Sweden, since friends of mine have said that this shows the true face of Islam and that Muslims must be restricted to come to Europe.
ISIS is totally mad, their violent fundamentalism is very dangerous and their behaviour is as far from Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and enemy love that you can go. When I read about them I see many parallells to militias like M23 and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa that I have studied in my peace and development studies. They behead civilians, rape women and want to create their own fundamentalist state.
And just like the conflicts in Congo or Uganda, it’s hard to point out the good guys. There are many reasons people think that this applies to the American forces – they’re trying to save lives while ISIS want to kill entire minorities, they are democratic while ISIS are fundamentalists, they are somewhat Christians while ISIS are militant islamists. But remember that American forces have killed over 120 000 civilian Iraqis since 2003.
That’s more civilians than ISIS has ever managed to kill. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq has failed misarebly, and it is clear that it was more about securing oil money than genuine concern for the Iraqi population. There has not been serious efforts to build a functioning, peaceful democracy. The present Iraqi government may be much better than Saddam, but it is still very corrupt, doesn’t care much about minorities and is very authoritarian.
US veteran Ross Caputi who used to serve in Iraq has written an article that really turns perspectives upside down. It tells the story about the Iraqi spring, a nonviolent protest movement that demanded change in Iraqi policy. They demanded an end to the marginalization of Sunnis in Iraqi policy, a stop of the “anti-terrorism” law that was used to hunt down political dissent, and an end to the death penalty, among other things.
The protesters were often shot down by the military, their leaders were executed. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki isn’t your typical Mr Nice Guy. After a while, the Iraqi spring picked up arms, thinking that non-violence didn’t work, and started a civil war against the government. And voilá, ISIS turned up to “help” them.
Again, ISIS is plainly mad and their destructive rule is extremely disturbing, but the Iraqi government is also quite brutal. In fact, when New York Times interviewed refugees from Mosul, they discovered that many did not flee due to the brutality of ISIS (which would have maked sense as well) but because they feared that the government would counter-attack the city and indiscriminately kill civilians.
There are no victors in war. What would have happened if we had supported the non-violent Sunni protesters instead of ignoring them and condemned the violence of the Iraqi regime? What would have happened if the US had invested even half of what they invest in weapons that mostly kill civilians anyway in promoting social and economic development, reconciliation and education? What would happen if we stopped funding weapons to these groups? These are some of the very good questions that Erin Niemela at PeaceVoice asks.
Well, it’s too late now you may say. People are dying and there may be a genocide very soon. But all solutions are long term solutions. When the US wants to send drones and bombing planes to confront ISIS, that is technology that has demanded years and billions of dollars to produce, and the reason they are even in Iraq is because of a very costly long-term invasion and occupation. We need to support and invest in non-violent ways to solve conflicts before they happen, and pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and courage to confront hate with love. That’s the only sustainable way to build peace.
And please, support UNHCR that is doing an amazing job in helping Iraqi refugees.