Signs of 'reverse jihad' as Christians join fight against IS
Grassroots resistance encouraged by some governments
- John Burger for Aleteia
- August 28, 2014
While Americans like Douglas McAuthur McCain might be joining forces with the Islamic State in its effort to establish a caliphate throughout Iraq and Syria, others from the West also apparently are taking up arms—to defend persecuted Christians in the region.
McCain is the first American reported to have died fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. FBI Director James Comey said in June that roughly 100 people had left the United States to join the conflict in Syria
But it's not just those who embrace the radical, fundamentalist version of Islam who are headed east. Apparently, a number of Christians from the West are signing up too.
A reporter from the Swiss newspaper "Sonntags Zeitung" visited a number of training centers of the Syriac Military Council, a group of armed self-defense units consisting of Syrian Christians, Chaldeans and Assyrians. They included several Swiss residents active in Iraq, one of whom said, "Someone has to take action to prevent the disappearance of Christians.”
Earlier this month, the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Massud Barzani, announced that his government was ready to open its doors to Christian volunteers among the Kurdish armed forces by providing them with the means to create self-defense forces in their villages and defend themselves from jihadi militias of the Islamic State, Fides Agency reported. Barzani said this during a meeting with the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Basil.
Barzini called on Christians "not to think about emigrating from their homelands, because the threat of terrorism is temporary and terrorists “will be defeated."
Apparently, such militants are getting military help from people in the West who don’t feel the Iraqi government and Western powers are doing enough. Some Europeans have been talking about an“armed pilgrimage” to Iraq, saying what is needed is a fifth Crusade or a new Lepanto, recalling the historic battle of Oct. 7, 1571, when the Holy League defeated the Muslim fleets of the Ottoman Empire.
There are also those like Catholic journalist Antonio Socci who have criticized Pope Francis as being “reticent” as “200,000 Christians (and other minorities) are fleeing, hunted down by Islamist militants who crucify, behead and stone their enemies.”
Pope Francis said on his flight back from Korea to Rome that it would be just to stop agression against innocent civilians in Iraq. But he tempered his words by adding: “I underscore the verb 'stop.' I don't say 'to bomb' or 'make war,' (but) 'stop it.'”
For several months, coalitions on the right in Italy have been organizing aid to help the resistance on the Iraq-Syria border, providing financial and military assistance for the “secular and military regimes of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Egyptian President Al Sisi, self-defense militias of Chaldeans, Assyrians, Mandaeans, Orthodox and Copts.
As the world became more and more aware of the attrocities ISIS was committing against religious minorities in Iraq, the Assyrian International News Agency editorialized that the United States and European Union should help arm Assyrian Christians and Yazidis to protect their ancient homelands.
“The United States and Europe, under the auspices of the United Nations, must establish an Assyrian Defense Force for the Nineveh Plain, Baghdede and other Assyrian areas, as well as a Yazidi defense force for the area of Sinjar and Zumar,” the agency wrote.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Iraq takes a slightly different view. Although innocent people have the right to defend themselves from agression, only "the forces of the State should take charge of this defense," said the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako.