London – For the past two months since I arrived in England, my thoughts have been filled with a few things: school, friends, family, home, music, stories, films, and theatre just to name a few. But after Friday’s attacks in Paris, all of that is gone. Our world changed overnight. It was as if the screams of terror, the tears of sorrow had washed away the joy and normality from life. And now we are at war once again.
What is to follow over the coming months, and possibly years, will be terrifying, brutal, and horrific on all counts as our countries focus their military might upon one common enemy. Yet for all the talk of war, for all the similarities to 9/11 that Friday’s attacks possessed, there is little bravado, little pomp. Our leaders, and most of us know all to well that this is not going to be easy. We know that the fight that is to follow could well be worse than any other since the millennium.
I have prayed fervently since Friday night for peace. I have begged God to intervene and ensure that our fellow countrymen and women do not have to go to war. I even went by my parish church on Sunday evening to light a candle to offer my prayers ever more fervently. I have prayed for the intercessions of the saints, particularly those French saints, Jeanne d’Arc, Thérèse de Lisieux, Jean Vianney, and Notre-Dame de Paris, begging that we might avert the coming crisis. After all, we were given two great gifts at Creation: free will and a limited intellect. We cannot know everything, which makes life an adventure. And yet, I recognise, regrettably, and with the greatest sorrow my heart can muster, that the only observable option remaining is war.
This weekend, Pope Francis expressed the same emotions well in an interview with Italian television’s Tv2000 network when he said, “I am shaken and pained. I do not understand but these things are difficult to understand.” It brings me so much grief to come to this conclusion, as for years I have argued against Just War Theory, but to be honest, there does not seem to be any other option at present. Sure, we could try to root out ISIS using only nonviolent methods, but that would take far too long, leaving our own peoples open to attacks similar to those wrought on Friday in Paris.
If we are to fight this war, then let it be fought in a manner that will achieve lasting peace. The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that Western powers cannot on their own root out Islamic extremism. We must leave the essential work to our Muslim counterparts. The likes of Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia must play essential roles in defeating ISIS. There should not be any European, American, or Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
I firmly believe that radical groups such as ISIS, which claim their authority from their faith, can only be destroyed by people of the same sect of Islam. Therefore, we should leave that fight up to our Sunni Muslim counterparts. We in the West can provide air support, running raids on key military sites and command centres in coordination with the Saudi, Jordanian, and Turkish forces on the ground.
Foremost though, we must not allow ourselves to give into our fear. Our hearts must remain open to the fact that we humans are inherently good, inherently beautiful beings. I have no doubt that in the end we will prevail. In the grand scheme of history extremist organisations like ISIS will merely appear as a bad nightmare.
But for the moment that beauty seems distant. It appears to be the dream, the nightmare our reality. At this moment we are at war. At this moment, talk of peace appears to me to be sad in nature. So, I ask, “Where have all the flowers gone?”