Occasionally preachers, prelates and even popes, like presidents, tell fibs, stretchers, little white lies and sometimes whoppers in the pursuit of peace. It goes with the territory.
Hours after 17 Christians died when an Islamic suicide bomber, intent on claiming his 72 virgins in paradise, blew up a church in Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI invited world religious leaders to a summit in Assisi, the Italian birthplace of the gentle St. Francis, to talk about how they can settle peace (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) on a weary globe.
The assembly of holy (and some not-so-holy) men will "solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith in the cause for peace," the pope said. Nice words, and just the kind of words you expect a pope to say, but nobody should hold his breath in the expectation that the evil-doers in the name of "their own religious faith" put down their beheading knives, their bombs and foreswear their inhumanity to man.
"Humanity," Pope Benedict told pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica on New Year's Day, "cannot become accustomed to discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance which today strikes Christians in a particular way. Once again, I make a pressing appeal [to Christians in Africa and the Middle East] not to give in to discouragement and resignation."
We should all applaud those who have nice things to say about peace, but this is the ultimate sermon to the faithful in the choir, who need no persuasion. Nobody should expect that barbarians on the rampage, blowing up churches and killing and maiming men, women and children in the name of Allah, to pay any attention to a holy man in Rome. Pope John Paul II convened a similar summit 25 years ago, and the usual suspects -– Jewish, Muslim and Christian notabilities ranging from rabbis, priests and preachers to the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury –- all agreed that men and women from every nation should put down their weapons and practice some version of the Golden Rule. This was followed soon enough by September 11, suicide bombers, beheading of innocents and other atrocities in the name of "the religion of peace."
This holy season's atrocities were delivered in the usual name of perverted religion -– 52 hostages and police officers slain when security forces burst into a Roman Catholic church in Baghdad in November to rescue more than a hundred parishioners held by al Qaeda gunmen; six Christians dead in two attacks on churches in Nigeria; six injured in an attack on a Roman Catholic church in a Muslim town in the Philippines; and finally the New Year's Eve bombing of the Coptic Christian Congregation in Alexandria. The Egyptian government says the Alexandria blast was probably the work of "foreigners."
Pope Benedict is a man fashioned of tougher stuff than most of the notabilities he can expect to join him in Assisi. The leaders, such as they are, of the West prefer a see-no-evil approach to dealing with the bad guys in the Islamic world. We've even invented a delicate euphemism, "Islamist," to call the Islamic radicals, and our last two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have repeatedly assured us that Islam is "a religion of peace." Many millions of the Muslims in the world are peaceful, friendly and no doubt heartbroken that their religion has been hijacked by rogues, but the see-no-evil approach has done no one, good Muslims included, any good.
The Obama administration is eager to sell $60 billion worth of advanced arms to Saudi Arabia, and the new Congress, with its Tea Party reinforcement, must confront Mr. Obama over whether it's a good idea to dispatch large numbers of sophisticated fighters, missile systems and bombs to Riyadh. We're trying to believe that the Saudis are our true friends, and many Saudis no doubt are. But these are friends without true grit. Who will these sophisticated weapons be used against, or under what circumstances?
Saudi Arabia is the source of evil and unforgiving Shariah law, and many of the 5,000 Saudi princes, who are living proof that romance can bloom in the desert, are serious about waging holy war against the "infidels," who are by definition the rest of us. These include some of the Saudi princes, who dream of getting control of the Saudi arsenal to pursue a Shariah vendetta against Israel and the United States.
These are the concerns the pope's convocation in Assisi should consider, but probably won't. The congregation that needs the preaching, backed up by clenched fists, has fed long enough on custard and Cream of Wheat. The holy men must send a message leavened with grits.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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