In his Easter message delivered Sunday at Vatican City, Pope Francis rightly reminded us about the forgotten people of the world.
He talked about persecuted Christian minorities in such places as Kenya where 148 students were summarily executed by the Shabab, an extremist Somali group retaliating for intervention by Kenyan government soldiers in Somalia.
Also on his agenda was the ever-escalating conflict in the Middle East where the only people profiting from their dealings there are the merchants of death.
“We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries,” he said.
But the pontiff also went on to list the disastrous strife in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, the Palestinian territories and Israel – all of which have contributed to the horrific displacement of refugees from their homelands.
He chose to take heart from the potential Iranian nuclear deal tentatively struck by negotiators in Switzerland.
All good words, indeed, but despite the popularity of the Argentinian cleric among his flock and beyond, the global community has done little, beyond isolated bombings, drone attacks and, with some exceptions, out-gunned and outmaneuvered boots on the ground, to try to stop the relentless killings, kidnappings and desecrations of historic sites by the Islamic State thugs and its affiliates.
Back in the Middle Ages, of course, the Vatican gave the world a taste of its own punitive might when it organized the Crusades, flexing its political muscles by expanding its authority through Europe and elsewhere.
So what to do?
Mahatma Gandhi famously turned fasting into a weapon of persuasion to accomplish his non-violent goals.
Between 1913 and 1948, Gandhi undertook 17 fasts of varying lengths – from one to 21 days – to protest oppressive British policies in India and internal fighting by segments of the native population as well.
Sad to say, even if the pope, President Obama and other world leaders committed to abstinence from food for any length of time, it would likely carry little weight with those forces who say they’re equally committed to establishing a world-wide caliphate.
There seems to be little appetite among the U.S. and its allies – still struggling with recessionary pressures – to mount a steady stream of attacks on an enemy that has proved to be elusive as it is brutal.
What’s more, ISIL continues to draw support from fringe elements world-wide, with media reports estimating that some 20,000 recruits, many from western bloc countries, have volunteered to join the jihadists.
While the root causes for the rise of ISIL may have been oppressive and intolerant measures imposed by governments, those callous practices will have to be left for later to reverse, no doubt leading to more future upheavals.
For now, though, as the pope says, the priority must be to halt the wanton acts of bloodshed which, if left unchecked, will continue to be a plague in our midst.
– Ron Leir