It's evil: name it and shame it
“The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless."
This wise insightful quote comes from ex-US President Jimmy Carter many years ago, but it might well have been said by Mother Teresa for the universal truth that it unveils.
Beneath all the political and religious posturing and rhetoric in recent months, Carter's phrase can perhaps give a focus to the underlying reality of the violence being unleashed in various trouble-spots in our poor bruised world.
In these last few days, brutal activities in northern Iraq have been the focus; last week it was the indiscriminate Israeli shelling of Gaza; the week before that it was rebels the downing the innocent aircraft in the eastern Ukraine; last month it was Syria... These aggressors trumpet their rights, their destiny, their land etc... but none claim their obligations to the weak and the voiceless. Indeed, in all three cases (Gaza, Iraq and Ukraine) the aggressor appears to target such groups as a demonstration of their arrogant and raw power.
When faced with the images of these brutal, callous and heavily-armed militias, natural outrage is the response for most human beings. But governments seem to find it difficult to name names and turn natural outrage into focused action; their reactions have been muted as they try to dance delicately and diplomatically to the complex politics and religious tunes whistled by these oppressing groups. Left baffled by the complexities, governments then tend to fall back on trite generalities and eventually don't name evil for what it really is.
It is important not to be confused around religious sensitivities. In this matter, religion is a distraction. In Iraq, Muslims are the oppressors of the helpless; in Gaza, it is Jews who fire the tank-shells indiscriminately into the suburbs; in Ukraine, it is so-called Christians who hoist the anti-aircraft rocket onto the shoulder to fire death into the sky.
Let us be clear: those who are targeting the weakest and the helpless for whatever religious or political reasons, should be roundly condemned. The heart recognises the clear evidence all around - the lifeless arm of an old woman in the rubble of Gaza; the lame old man from Mosul stumbling on the road to nowhere; a field of twisted wreckage where fragments of an aircraft's fuselage are mixed with the smouldering, petrol-drenched toys of a tiny child.
Dermot Preston SJ
Read the pleas of Pope Francis and Cardinal Nichols for peace in the Middle East.
Join the Pope in prayer for peace