Islam & Terrorism

January 07 2016 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: I am increasingly worried by Islamic terror. I am also deeply saddened that so many Christians are being persecuted, not only in the Middle East, but in North Korea, Somalia and in many other places as well.

How can we help all these displaced and persecuted people? Of course we should be more welcoming and charitable to them, and find places for them within our communities.

I don’t understand why all the Christian nations of the world like Europe, the Unites States, Canada, Russia, etc., do not form a coalition and bring some order back into those countries? It does not appear to me that what Russia and the US are doing is bearing much fruit. If we send planes to bomb the terrorists we will make things even worse by killing a lot of innocent people in the process.

In my opinion our only option is ‘boots on the ground’, followed by civilians who will then rebuild schools, hospitals and reconstruct their infrastructure. We should remain in their nations until terrorism has been rooted out and their economies are back on track. Where is the United Nations in all this? In the US freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected right, as I believe in all Western societies.


Oh dear, do I dare get into this minefield of a topic?!? In a spirit of transparency let me first say that although my family is Italian in origin, both my parents were born in Turkey. Their families were part of the Italian Christian community of Istanbul for some 100 years from the dusk of the Ottoman Empire through the Turkish Republic under Kemal Atatürk until the emergence of xenophobic Turkish nationalism which led them to leave. The last time I was in Turkey I had the opportunity to meet one of my mother’s cousins, who is Muslim. I had quite the evening with his son (I guess a distant cousin to me) sifting through my feelings of having Muslim cousins and his of having a Franciscan friar-priest in the family!

I think one of the biggest challenges we face as humans is that when we don’t understand one another;  we try and find an easy formula for explaining the difference; be it one’s sex, race, religion, nationality or economic standing. In this case I believe we often associate with Islam a variety of beliefs, values and actions that are really more the by-product of Middle-Eastern tribal culture, an experience of hopelessness, greed, disdain for European colonialism, poverty, etc. We must avoid attributing to Islam itself characteristics and behaviours of certain Muslims as I would not want Christianity characterized by the hatred and violence of the KKK in the USA, by the homophobia of certain so-called Christian African governments or the actions of soldiers in the Bosnian War. Those people and those actions do not define Christianity. Nor should we let people who are motivated by greed, anger, fear or political agenda to define Islam for us.

So if the problem is not truly religious in origin, what is it? I believe it is political, economic and social. While bombing Daesh (aka ISIL) in Syria might be necessary, the thought of boots on the ground to force peace is not likely and probably not effective. There is certainly a time and a place for intervention by the international community. But it is best done by local nations of similar cultures so that the change is organic to the people and sustainable. We are talking about ancient cultures and differences which will not be resolved in 10, 50 or even 100 years. In 1972 Pope Paul VI in his message for the Day of Peace warned about the temptation “…to impose by use of force such normal relations as bear the appearance of peace.” Pope Paul VI reminds us: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

More recently Pope Francis in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ wrote, “We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.” In this same encyclical the Holy Father proposes a very Franciscan vision forward for us as a human community. This vision is based on a “care for our common home” that includes also all of our brothers and sisters, especially the poor. The ecology of Pope Francis is not just about ‘green’ initiatives, but about restoring a right balance in the world. This is a slow and demanding process, but it is the only way to build lasting peace.


Updated on October 04 2016