The Fifth Crusade?

Things are bad when even Pope Francis, known as a holy and peaceable man, is pragmatically calling for the world to act against the atrocities happening in Iraq. Things are very bad indeed when Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican's nuncio to Iraq, recently told Vatican Radio concerning military action "This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped."

Meanwhile, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, who is also known as the Patriarch of Babylon, is saying the U.S. military strikes have been of little or no help, adding that "There is a need of international support and a professional, well-equipped army. The situation is going from bad to worse."

Broad hints and actual calls from pontiffs and archbishops promoting military action are very rare. 

In fact, such calls are virtually unprecedented in modern times. But it appears the carnage unleashed by Islamic militants has at long last revived the Christian concept of just warfare. It has taken shocking barbarity to awaken religious leaders from the penchant for pacifism that characterizes nearly all Christian churches, including the Catholic Church. At last some are realizing that rescuing the perishing might mean fighting for the actual physical lives of innocents as well as fighting for the salvation of their souls. The salvation and protection of innocents is once again being seen as just cause for armed conflict.

Inevitably, calls for armed conflict in order to save Christians from extermination will provoke comparisons to the Crusades, which are now vilified by Islamists and the Left, both of whom have revised history by a willful forgetting of the facts. 

Papal support for armed intervention in the Middle East began in 1065. At that time, there was a war between Christians and Muslims involving the city of Jerusalem. Long regarded as having a holy significance to Christians and Muslims alike, Jerusalem, particularly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre commemorating the place of Christ’s crucifixion, was a focal point for Christian pilgrims, who traveled to Jerusalem by the thousands. In 1065, the Holy City was taken over by the Turks. Over 3,000 Christians were massacred. Christians went to war to release the Holy Land from the Saracens; and in time, the war turned into a conflagration including Spain, Eastern Europe, and territory in the Mediterranean. 

Does anyone in secular circles, particularly the radical Left, who have long dismissed religious concerns as having absolutely no importance in evaluating and making foreign or domestic policy, see that the current wars in the Middle East are religious wars whose outlines resemble the Crusades of centuries past? The pope is broadly hinting for armed resistance against Islamists just as his predecessors did during the period of 1095-1291.

He is doing so for similar reasons. He believes the massacre of innocents demands action.

The general misunderstanding that the war is merely episodic Islamist terrorism and/or tribal conflict rather than the clash of two civilizations, one the largely Christianized West; the other wishing the return to a Muslim caliphate, has led to the West’s idiotic policies or complete lack thereof. 

The noxious tenets of extreme multiculturalism have contributed to paralysis of moral judgment and action. Only when photos and reports of unspeakable atrocities have surfaced has there been any outcry. Only when the Islamists began to act on the doctrines of extermination they have always held and loudly proclaimed are the Western peoples finally seeing the need for military action. 

The Left has long regarded radical Islamists as oppressed underdogs and victims of Western dominance, often empathizing and colluding with them. Now we see those “victims” in action once they attain military capacity and dominance. Now we see what has been wrought.

As for Christians, for too long the Church has been afflicted with the glorification of martyrdom and paralyzed by pacifism in the face of unmitigated evil. She must stop glorifying death in the way of some crazed Christians, who during the persecutions of the Roman Empire, offered themselves up willingly to become human sacrifices in the arenas.

It is time to shake off the amnesia that has caused an unholy forgetfulness of the just war theory. Just war theory acknowledges that the battle between good and evil is cosmic, and that the fight for what is right; namely, the rescue of innocents, sometimes comes down to hand-to-hand combat right here on earth. It is time to revive the idea that war can be honorable and that the rise of Christian military orders like the Knights Templar was not all due to greed for power and gold. It is time to recognize that fighting for the right can be honorable.

All over this world, millions of Christians are being persecuted and hundreds of thousands are dying for their faith.

In Nineveh, the priest Fr. Nawar is crying over the expulsion of some 100,000 Christians from the city, most of whom are fleeing with no food, money, or water.

Christians are fleeing Nineveh, once capital of the Assyrian Empire. Nineveh is the ancient city from which the prophet Jonah wanted to flee, knowing as he did the legendary cruelty of the Assyrians toward his people the Jews. Assyrians, connoisseurs of cruelties and atrocities, skinned their prisoners alive and cut off heads and other body parts to inspire terror in their enemies. Assyrian officials pulled out tongues and displayed mounds of human skulls, all to extract tribute from their victims. The record of their atrocities can be found chiseled on the friezes in the British Museum. King Jehu of Israel is depicted as giving tribute to his conquer, who wrote on the black obelisk erected as a memorial, “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

.Now neo-Assyrians are back in the form of ISIS. Once again, they are bent on exacting tribute, on the expulsion and extermination of a people, but this time their target is Christians, as surely as the einsatzgruppen targeted Jews.

Fr. Nawar, overcome with grief and despair, said, “Today the story of Christianity is finished in Iraq. People can’t stay in Iraq because there is death for whoever stays. [Families] are dying because of the temperatures, dying because they can’t eat, dying because of fear, and also because of war, of bombs. […] There are so many families who can’t eat, they can’t get bread. […]When ISIS arrives, the Christians must change religion or escape. There is no other option. Change religions, become Muslim, and those who don’t convert leave.”

Or they are killed.

Christians need to recall that the Sunday school concept of Jesus Christ dressed in sparkling blue and white and carrying lambs on his shoulders is also the Christ of Revelation, who is portrayed as having robes soaked in blood as He fights against evil and establishes justice; the Christ who is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Should Christians join in a fifth crusade? Title armed action in a different way if that will help; call intervention something other than a “crusade” if that word seems egregiously offensive and unnecessarily provocative.   

But clearly, Christians should think about issuing a call to arms, for Christian brethren are ordered by their Commander in Chief to rescue the perishing and help the dying. They are called to fight for the innocent and called to protect their brothers and sisters, not out of a spirit of vengeance, but out of a spirit of love and concern that none should perish; no, not one. 

The time for rescue is short. 

It is apocalypse now.

Fay Voshell holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her a prize for excellence in systematic theology. Her articles have appeared in American Thinker, PJMedia, RealClearReligion, and other online publications.  She may be reached at

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