This afternoon I taped a segment via Skype for Michael Voris’ The Church Militant, about the jihad threat to Christians in West Africa. On with me was Bishop Anthony Borwah of the Roman Catholic diocese of Gbarnga in Liberia.
It was a perfectly fine segment except for one thing: because of time constraints I didn’t get a chance to respond to numerous important statements that Bishop Borwah made. And since the question of what the Catholic Church’s response to the jihad threat should be is one that has been discussed many times at Jihad Watch, I thought I would set out here how I would have responded to Bishop Borwah had I had the chance.
The segment went like this: first Michael Voris sketched out the plight of Christians in West Africa, particularly with the jihad terror group Boko Haram destroying churches and murdering Christians, and asked the Bishop what the Church’s response should be. The Bishop then explained that what was needed was more dialogue with Muslims. Voris then came to me and asked me what I thought of the Bishop’s answer. I said that it was all very well to conduct dialogue with peaceful Muslims, but that they would not stop Boko Haram. I also explained that the President of Nigeria had boasted that he would destroy Boko Haram by December 2015, but didn’t: the group is more powerful than people realize. I also pointed out that Boko Haram was now part of the Islamic State and had renamed itself the Islamic State’s West African Province, and that the Islamic State also had a presence in Libya, making the situation of Christians in West Africa quite precarious. Then I told them that dialogue was usually a front for dawah, Islamic proselytizing, as evidenced by the very title of the Common Word document that Muslim scholars sent to the Pope and other Christian leaders a few years ago. The Qur’an passage from which the epigraph, “Say, O People of the Book, let us come to a common word between us and you,” is taken actually goes on to say “that we will associate no partners with Allah,” i.e., not worship Jesus as the Son of God. What appears to be a call for mutual understanding is actually just an exercise in proselytizing. What’s more, I added, Boko Haram and other jihad groups will not engage in dialogue; they are acting upon Qur’anic imperatives which they consider to be divinely inspired and do not think are negotiable.
Bishop Borwah then replied that what I had said left no hope, and asked rhetorically, “What are we going to do? Take up arms and fight Boko Haram?” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, but he said something like that). He dismissed fighting as out of the question, asking also, as if the idea were patently absurd, whether we should have a new Crusade. He went on to say that this was not just a military struggle, but a spiritual battle. Catholics needed above all to pray, and to understand that this was indeed a spiritual battle, and not one that could be fought with armies.
That was it. I didn’t get a chance to reply to the Bishop, as he and Voris then went on to another discussion in which I was not included. So here is the response to the Bishop’s question, “What can we do?”
1. The Catholic Church cannot, but nations with military power can and should fight Boko Haram and other jihad groups, much more energetically than they are doing now, and the Catholic Church should endorse this. Is the Just War Theory now something the Church no longer endorses? Does the Church now hold that warfare and fighting are unjustified under any circumstances, even the defense of one’s family and homeland? If that is indeed the position of today’s Catholic Church, the Bishops should be clear about it, declare the idea of Just War a heresy, and make it clear that they now endorse a full and universal pacifism under all circumstances. Unless I misunderstood him, that did seem to be Bishop Borwah’s position.
2. The position I hold is not one in which there is no hope. It is just one that rejects false hope. Wishful thinking never becomes reality no matter how hard one wishes; it is always preferable to assess the situation realistically. The idea that Muslim-Christian dialogue is going to end jihad is sheer wishful thinking. Peaceful Muslims haven’t been able to dissuade their violent coreligionists from mounting even one jihad attack; how are non-Muslims going to succeed where they have failed? The dialogue, moreover, has been going on for years. How many jihad attacks has it stopped? How many Christians has it prevented from being persecuted? How many churches has it prevented from being destroyed? The answer to all these questions is none. How long must the Church (and the world) keep trying remedies that have failed again and again?
3. The Bishop spoke at length about how Catholics should see the conflict with groups such as Boko Haram as a spiritual battle, emphasizing that it cannot be fought with armies. Indeed so. One facet of that spiritual battle is that Muslims are aggressively proselytizing among young Catholics and other Christians. Yet the Catholic Church, perhaps out of respect for the dialogue, has absolutely no response. None. There is no literature available from the U.S. Catholic Bishops or any others giving parents ways to help their children resist and respond to Islamic dawah. At a time when some of the most prominent jihadis have been converts from Christianity to Islam, that is an omission so grave as to be criminal.
Boko Haram and other groups like it can and should be fought with armies, as well as confronted on the theological and ideological fronts. But all that the Catholic Church is recommending instead is prayer and dialogue. The seventh-century Christians of Egypt and Syria and North Africa who were conquered and Islamized had never heard of dialogue, but I am sure they prayed a great deal, and yet were nonetheless conquered, subjugated, oppressed and Islamized. Such has been the fate of the non-Muslims in every place to which Muslims have come, throughout the history of Islam, with this process only ever being rolled back in Spain, Israel, and parts of India.
But maybe it will happen differently this time.