I remember growing up under the threat of nuclear war as a grammar school student in the 1950s.
I watched the evening news which peppered its foreign reports with stories of the United States locked in a global struggle with the USSR. The depiction of tensions that could lead to a sudden, all out nuclear conflagration was always an underlying theme.
Even when it came to the weekly air raid drills with the sirens blaring, I wondered if the Soviets would ever be devious enough to attack when everyone thought it was just a drill and no one would be prepared. How does one prepare for a nuclear blast?
Living in an industrial area near the steel mills of Chicago, we were always told we would be a prime target for an attack. In school we practiced crouching down under our desks, and during the Cuban Missile Crisis we collected canned goods to stock the bomb shelter located in the school basement.
These actions gave us some control over our circumstance and made us responsible. In some sense, it took our minds away from the horrors of the possibility of an attack. However, as I came to realize later, because we lived so close to Lake Michigan an atomic bomb dropped into the lake would destroy everything in a radius of tens of miles. So, crouch all you want; survival was not an option.
There was a futility in those days about nuclear war. It was going to be sudden with the unexpectedness of the action. The two super powers were so heavily armed with nuclear weapons that a strategy developed: Mutual Assured Destruction known as MAD.
Death would come as a thief in the night with a sense of loneliness and isolation from the human family. In an instant, those few human beings who might survive would be blasted into the Stone Age.
How senseless this would be for the entire human race. We lived under a cloud of fear.
I paint this picture of “fear” because, in a sense, we are entering into a new period of global fear based on radical Islamic terrorism.
We have been subjected on the nightly news to an almost endless stream of violent, brutal attacks on innocent individuals. Young Christian girls who are students at a mission school have been taken hostage and sold into bondage. Journalists were beheaded and their beheading was featured on the Internet.
There was a mass beheading of 21 professed Egyptians of the Coptic faith – a belief system in union with Rome – simply because they were believers in Jesus. Individuals have been burned alive. Gunmen arbitrarily killed shoppers at a mall.
We have viewed young boys being indoctrinated into the ISIS mentality who will eventually be used as suicide bombers. Why do they do these acts of violent brutality? It’s solely to instill fear in the minds and spirit of innocent people.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2297) states: “Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats, they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity.”
It is obvious to me that the indiscriminate attacks on Christians, Muslims and Jews to instill terror and further political gains must be condemned, and the civilized world must stand up against this threat.
The insidiousness of the type of terrorism displayed by ISIS is that it is based on false religion. There are those who claim they commit these acts in the name of God. We cannot — and we must not — allow any terrorist, Islamic, Christian or Jewish, to hide their actions behind religious curtains.
Terrorists sell their brand of violence to their followers in the name of God claiming that they are fulfilling his will. They attempt to make their cause holy. But as we can plainly see in the pictures of violence and hear in the threats of destruction, we must call it what it is: EVIL and the work of Satan.
Remember, God cannot be the Lord of love and life and be honored through the promotion of death and hatred.
When countries find themselves engaged in warfare, they are still bound by ethical conduct. The world understands human dignity must be honored even in the extreme circumstances of war.
Those who violate those standards will be held accountable by the world community. The actions of brutality that we have viewed violate every tenant of the civilized world when engaging in warfare.
Religious leaders of the Muslim community should voice their opposition to these actions of violence and denounce the actions for the evil that they are. Only they can define what is or what is not a true expression of their religion. The social media should give a platform for those Muslim leaders who desire to denounce the false representation of their faith by terrorist groups such as ISIS.
Pope Francis calls upon all of us to pray for the persecuted Christians who are tortured and killed simply because they love Jesus. It should be a reminder to all of us just how precious a gift is our religious freedom.
As we enter into a new era of global fear due to terrorism, let us prepare to combat our anxiety with a confidence in our God, who is the Lord of life and love, as well as with a deeper understanding of our Catholic faith, which promotes the dignity of the person.