If the average parish priest might occasionally feel that he has an awkward congregation or PCC, then he can at least derive some consolation from the fact that his problems are slight compared with those of Canon Andrew White, colloquially known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’.
His Church of St George has remained open throughout the chaos of the recent past, and over the years he has seen 1,200 of his parishioners murdered in various acts of terrorism.
Most recently, he has had Isis to contend with and, in an attempt to find some means of reaching them in Christian love, he invited their leaders to join him for dinner. Their response was: “You can invite us to dinner, but we’ll chop your head off.” Needless to say, the invitation was not pursued. On the instruction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Canon White has now left Baghdad.
The assumption on which Andrew White operated was that these individuals were open to reason, and that some commonground could be found. The atrocities in Paris have surely demonstrated conclusively that such an assumption is false.
The Islamists do not share his mindset: they are indifferent to Western values, have no interest in any form of seted government or civilisation as we might understand it, and have a complete contempt for human life, including their own.
Acts of terrorism have become ends in themselves, almost a form of exaltation. They feel themselves to be justified in their violence, proving to themselves in their willingness to die for their faith they that are truly persons of ‘submission’ to the will of Allah, which of course is the meaning of the word ‘Islam’.
That they have a distorted understanding of Mohammed’s teaching is generally accepted, particularly among fellow Muslims. The fact is, however, that they see themselves as acting in obedience to the will of God, and they have no desire for any kind of compromise. They pose an existential threat to all those who do not share their religious understanding.
Paris, pace the ‘Stop the War’ campaign, has not reaped the whirlwind of France’s interference in the Middle East. It has suffered the effects of a fundamentally evil organisation.
Painful as it certainly is for Canon White and for all Christians, the only appropriate response to Isis is for the west to aim for its destruction.