Fill in the blanks:
“I left the Azov because it was full of pagans. Committed ___________ in the Azov were not allowed to stop to pray throughout the day – I needed a unit of _________, a closely knit unit of committed _________ warriors. When two of three __________ gather around, they have God with them, and victory is guaranteed to be with us.” (source: www.aljazeera.com)
We are so accustomed to seeing these types of statements from Muslim radicals that, likely, if you’ve been reading or paying attention to news from America over the last 15 years, you automatically inserted ‘Muslim’ and ‘Muslims’ into the blanks. I wouldn’t blame you.
The reality is perhaps surprising to you. In Ukraine, a small-but-growing militia has formed that is determined to fight Russia forever, until “European traditions and the…mindset of the 13th century” are finally set in place. Again, this sounds a lot like the good ol’ Taliban that we associate with everything from oppression of women and Sharia Law to terrorism and bin Laden. And, you’re right. It does sound like the Taliban.
You’re also wrong… these guys are Christians.
“The enemy – the forces of darkness – they have all the weapons, they have greater numbers, they have money. But our soldiers are the bringers of European traditions and the Christian mindset of the 13th century. We represent the side of light against the dark side. Putin supporters are representatives of the devil.” ~ Vitaly Chomly
Or are they?
That’s our typical response to these types of stories. Whether we are Muslims, Christians, Jews, or otherwise, we typically put distance between ourselves and “those guys over there”. We do this by questioning the faith of those we disagree with or who represent us in a bad light. “They aren’t really Christians”, or “They are really Muslims”, or “They aren’t really Jews”. I’ve often heard Muslims say that when they see an act of terrorism, they say to themselves, “Please don’t let it be a Muslim”. That’s our natural response.
That is, we respond in this way if we even respond at all. More typically, we just ignore these types of stories. We don’t want to dignify the story even with a response. So we say nothing.
But, I’m not sure how helpful that is, especially for those who are choosing to take a radical posture that is cloaked with religion. How do we love the radical into a new way of being in the world? We definitely don’t do it by ignoring that they exist.
Whether or not this is true, silence is seen as agreement.
So, read this article (“Christian Taliban’s Crusade on Ukraine’s Front Lines”), posted on Al Jazeera today. Al Jazeera, if you don’t know, is the premier news source for the entire Eastern hemisphere. The majority of the world’s Muslims live in the East, and many look to Al Jazeera for their news.
How do you want people to read and interpret this story?
Speaking on behalf of only myself, I do not condone the choices to organize a militia that is so closely tied to a religion, especially Christianity. Militias and Christianity don’t have anything to do with one another. No matter how many Christians tell you that Jesus was violent or condoned violence, he didn’t and he doesn’t. These guys, who through their admiration for the Taliban have decided to conduct a new Crusade (against Russia), are Christians, but their decision has nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus pursued peace (shalom), and encouraged us to be peacemakers, not warlords or crusaders.
Forming a militia is understandable, given the Ukrainian situation.
Forming a Christian militia is an oxy-moron, a logical impossibility.
I, for one, do not want people, my Muslim friends, cousins, and neighbors, to read the headline and conclude that Christians are starting the Crusades again. I also want my Christian brothers and sisters to know that we are not immune to radicalism related to our religion. It serves no one for us to deny that these guys in the Ukraine are Christians because they like the way the Taliban went about practicing their faith in God.
We all have baggage. There are crazy people in our religion, as well as in every other religion. Those crazy people don’t speak for us, so long as we speak up and speak out against what is wrong in what they are doing. Let’s all raise up our collective voices against violence in the name of religion, no matter the context, and place our feet firmly on the pathway of peace.