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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pope's call for Orthodox - Roman Christian and Jewish unity could help defeat Islamic extremism

Middle East genocidal wars have their origins in deep rooted religious and ancient tribal differences. Therefore, it seems to make strategic sense to counter radical Islamic extremism with a united counter effort. This movement, conceivably, could be led by Christians, united with moderate Muslims and Jewish leaders, for the purpose of suppressing terrorism.

Middle Eastern Christians need protection from annihilation as much as any group of persecuted refugees the world has ever seen. In addition to loosing everything as a result of the religious persecution of Christians by Islamic extremists, including their persecution by Syrian President Assad,  the assaults include desecration of ancient shrines. Between the previous loss of ancient relics during the American invasion of Iraq, and now the desecration of Middle Eastern Christian shrines, there doesn't seem much argument about the seriousness of the War in the Middle East.  In fact, Pope Francis calls the Middle East chaos a piecmeal World War Three.   

Pope Francis said the current global conflicts were effectively a "piecemeal" Third World War. He said this while condemning the arms trade and "plotters of terrorism" sowing death and destruction.

"Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep," Francis said in the homily of a Mass during a visit to Italy's largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried.

ISTANBUL — Pope Francis and clerical counterparts in the Orthodox Church vowed (on Sunday) to work together to prevent an exodus of Christians from the Middle East, and they called for “constructive dialogue” with Muslims to resolve conflicts in the embattled region and around the world.

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years,” the pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church said in a common declaration issued here on the last leg of a three-day papal visit to Turkey.

The pope made frequent mention on his trip of the plight of Christians and other minorities in areas of Syria and Iraq who have been the focus of persecution by the Islamic State.
His attention to the issue was highlighted in a meeting with a group of young Christian and Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq and Africa at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Istanbul. 

Pope Francis listened as an Iraqi Christian girl described the refugees’ sufferings and expressed gratitude for his visit, reports The New York Times.

“The degrading conditions in which so many (Syrian and Christian) refugees are forced to live are intolerable,” he added, and called for greater international cooperation “to counter the other causes which are driving people to leave their home countries, and to improve conditions so that people may remain or return home.”

Francis repeated his gratitude to the Turkish government, which is currently sheltering over 1.6 million refugees from Syria, and has relocated nearly 50,000 ethnic Yazidis from Iraq who escaped persecution by the Islamic State since late summer to camps in both Turkey and Iraq.

In their common declaration, the pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who represents 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, asked for dialogue and respect for international law in helping to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, “a country of ancient Christian tradition,” and encouraged “constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship.”

“Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments,” the statement said, “Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war.”

Earlier in the day, the sounds of chimes and the smell of incense filled the small 17th-century Church of St. George in the Fener neighborhood of Istanbul as the leaders of the two churches embraced each other against a background of elaborate gold decorations and centuries-old mosaics.

Both expressed a strong will to promote the full unity of Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which were divided 960 years ago.

Before his departure for Rome late Sunday, the pope met Isak Haleva, the chief rabbi of Turkey, and visited Armenian Patriarch Mesrop II, who represents the largest Christian community of Turkish Armenians, around 50,000 people, and who has been in poor health for several years.
 
Turkey has everything to loose if the Islamic extremists continue to gain momentum in the Middle East. Turkey's culture, government and economy will implode if Islamic extremism takes hold in Syria. Therefore, the Pope could be the leader to bring moderate Turkish Muslims together with Orthodox, and Catholic Christians, plus include the Jewish populations (who are dangerously at risk of violent death by Islamic extremism) for the purpose of defeating terrorism in the Middle East. Oh, by the way, and destroy President Assad in Syria in the collective efforts. Indeed, the time for a united religious front to defeat ISIS has come.....and Bless Pope Francis for seizing the moment during his highly risky visit to Turkey. This Third World War needs united leadership, like the strategic abilities in the Second World War managed and eventually won the global war, in favor of the Allies against Nazism and Japan.  
 
Unfortunately and tragically, the United States wasted clout in the Middle East when our nation illegally invaded Iraq under the pretense of destroying Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which never existed. 
 
Therefore, like World War II needed Winston Churchill when President Roosevelt couldn't mobilize American intervention in Europe, perhaps the Pope can lead what other leaders are somehow powerless to do. In other words, maybe Pope Francis can call for religious unity to save the Middle East from complete annihilation by Islamic extremism and protect the region's Christian culture from violent extinction.

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