The situation in Iraq and Syria is not getting better. The "Islamic State" (also variously known as IS, ISIS, ISIL) has declared itself as a caliphate with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph on 29 June 2014. Afzal Ashraf explains:
Caliph or Khalifa in Arabic, is used in Islamic tradition to connote theological successors to prophets. According to Sunni Muslims, the prophet of Islam had four "Rightly Guided" caliphs; subsequent caliphs were principally political leaders. A myth developed with the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, which advocated that to restore Islamic power it was necessary to unite all Muslims under a single caliphate.
IS issued an ultimatum to all Christians in Iraq and Syria on 19 July 2014, either they convert to Islam or pay a heavy tax, or be slaughtered by the sword. Ten of thousands became refugees overnight. Videos of massacres, severed heads, and victims being beheaded are posted and circulated through the internet. Besides committing genocide in the region, IS militants raped, kidnapped and sold their victims as sex slaves. The militant group also threatens and persecutes other Muslims such as the Shiites.
IS expresses plan to expand to Southeast Asia. There are locals who aspired to follow IS to set up a Southeast Asia caliphate spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. It is reported that there are self-radicalised Indonesians, Malaysians and Singaporeans who have traveled to Syria to join IS. Hence, this issue is also a huge concern for Southeast Asia.
Islamic countries, organizations, and individual Muslims around the world condemn IS: The Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh (Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia), Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Mehmet Gormez (President of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey), and Indonesia government.
On 15 August 2014, the United Nations security council blacklists those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to IS.
I'm curious what do Christian pacifists have to say about IS. The leading pacifist theologian Stanley Hauerwas was interviewed for his view on the situation in the Middle East. Here is his response:
I'm really attracted to the work that Christian Peacemaker Teams do, who go to Hebron and get between Palestinians and Israelis and say, "can we fix you guys a meal?" I mean, that's at least starting to help people discover one another's humanity, and if you don't do that, I think that any kind of long-term solution is quite hopeless.
Another pacifist wrote,
[W]e are all made in the image of God. Killing is not only iconoclasm, it’s a re-crucifixion of the Incarnate Christ. It’s participation in the same sacred violence and mimetic impulses that killed God.The pacifists' position is not only unrealistic but counter-theological. Take for example the latter one. The scriptural verse that says humans are valuable because they are made in God's image in relation to killing is Gen. 9:6. And when we read that verse, God himself sets it out that: "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."
The pacifists like to think that the infliction of violence on violent humans is destroying God's image bearers. Gen. 9:6 says otherwise. If IS militants are misusing the Islamic scripture and tradition to pursue extremist ideology, the Christian pacifists are doing the same with their own scripture and tradition.
As for Hauerwas, he should gather all his pacifist friends and fly into Iraq to have a meal with the IS militants. Besides eating, they would most probably end up as contributors to IS' series of gruesome videos.
Realistic and theological response would be much more helpful than ideological mumbo-jumbo. Take for instance, Pope Francis' statement:
In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor... I underscore the verb 'to stop'. I am not saying 'bomb' or 'make war', but stop him (the aggressor). The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate... One single nation cannot judge how he is to be stopped, how an unjust aggressor is to be stopped.
World Council of Churches' appeals to the United Nations:
The international community recognizes that nations have a responsibility to protect their most vulnerable citizens. When a national government lacks the control necessary to ensure citizens’ rights and wellbeing, the responsibility is taken up by international bodies and their member states. We urge you to marshal all available resources to protect the people of Iraq in this hour.
World Communion of Reformed Churches' statement:
Some American academics' and religious leaders' petition:We call for those who can to lobby their governments and the United Nations to act to protect those under threat.
Therefore we call upon the United States and the international community to do everything necessary to empower local forces fighting ISIS/ISILin Iraq to protect their people. No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table... Nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.