The ISIS Effect: “Flattened; Everything is Gone” – UPDATED

“Elizabeth, if I think too much about it I just break down. So many shrines I have visited destroyed. So many brethren I have know. battered, beaten or dead. Absolutely devastating.”

That’s a quick note from my friend, Michael LaCivita. Having worked for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for decades, he knows and loves these places, knows and loves the people who are looking into the face of evil — true evil, the all-too-familiar kind of evil that keeps resurfacing throughout world history. It is the evil that comes forward when some human beings cease to see other human beings, as creatures as equally beloved of God as they are themselves; they see them instead as something less-than-human; sub-creatures meant to be either subjugated or swept from the face of the earth. For them, there is no other, more reasonable and less extreme choice.

We had been discussing the awful news and images out of Mosul and elsewhere, and I had confessed my heartbreak, the difficulty I was having with the reality that our ancient Christian roots — our ancestral places, so to speak, many founded well before the advent of Islam — have been so quickly overtaken, so thoughtlessly and eagerly eaten up by such a conflagration of hate.

That is when I heard his own pain, and worse. Our encounter occurred just as he’d finished communicating with sources on the ground, people who are seeing much more than we’re being told. Michael dared not say much, but he related this from the Syrian Maronite Bishop Sleiman, a sense of things as they are: “Flattened. Everything is just flattened. Destroyed.” People’s spirits are crushed; they have nothing, and are wholly dependent on aid; they are displaced, and in shock, and without the will to engage in the difficult work of surviving.

Orwell said “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” Another way is to simply obliterate their history entirely, give them no connection to their past, no standing reflection of who they are; in this way they become nobodies: people with no past to point to, no footpath to refer back to, so as to gauge a way forward. What a despicable robbery.

“Flattened. Destroyed.” It is unthinkable, and in a post-Christian West — where “tolerance” and “co-existence” are popular concepts of enlightenment, and an expedient political dynamic — this devastation is going almost unmentioned. A bloody, oppressive and culturally catastrophic War on Christians? Not half as interesting, to the West, as Snoop getting high at the White House.

Word on Fire’s Father Robert Barron observes:

Though you would never guess it from the paucity of coverage in the major news media, there is a fierce persecution of Christians going on in the Middle East. In Egypt, convents and churches are being burned to the ground and Copts, members of one of the most ancient Christian communities, are being routinely harassed, tortured, and arrested. In Iraq, the ISIS group, hoping to re-establish a “caliphate” across the northern sector of the Middle East, is brutally persecuting Christians. . . And the sheer shock of these extreme instances can allow us to overlook the fact that in Saudi Arabia Christians are not permitted to build churches or to practice their faith publicly in any way.

He goes on to note Pope John Paul II’s observation that religious freedom is fundamental to the right-orientation of society, itself, and that Pope Benedict XVI, in his controversial Regensberg remarks of 2006, pointed out that conversion coercion “through bodily persecution cannot even in principle awaken authentic faith.” Which means that at its root, a forced conversion is both irrational and dishonest; it does not, cannot, give glory or witness to anything but brute force, dehumanization and wickedness. It is a lie, and therefore a sin, against the very God it purports to serve.

Barron asks a troubled question:

. . . Christians over the centuries have done terrible things in the name of God and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful and non-violent. But I think it is clear that when Christians act in such a way, they are unequivocally at odds with their own conception of God. Is the same true of Muslims?

One faithful Muslim, suggests that it is. Dilshad Ali, managing editor of the Muslim channel, writes this:

That ISIS even refers to itself as the “Islamic State” in Iraq is loathsome to millions of Muslims around the world who know what they are doing is unIslamic and against the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad. To force Christians to flee, to destroy churches – this isn’t the Islam that was taught to us and carried in so many of our hearts for hundreds of years. . .Ya Allah, forgive those among us who are hurting so many, who are twisting the words of faith and engaging in inhumanity. Give us the strength to push for justice, for good, for love and light, for peace and harmony.

I urge you to read both pieces in their entirety, and to continue to do the things we can do for the sake of these ancient Christians, and their Muslim neighbors, too — those with whom they have lived peaceably and who now must watch this inhumane persecution, or lose their own lives in resistance to it.

Reading Ali’s piece, and then Barron’s, I could not help thinking of Saint Francis and the Sultan of Egypt, Malik al-Kamil. They managed respect for each other, while still keeping to their respective faiths. It shouldn’t be so difficult to replicate that, should it, in this day and age? After all, our era is reportedly much more humanely advanced than the Middle Ages.

But this led me to think of a 6th Thing We Can Do, in addition to these five: let us call on the great Cloud of Witnesses who have preceded us in our 2,000 year history, and ask them for their prayers before the Throne: Saint Francis, himself, friend of the Sultan. The Maronite monk, Saint Sharbel Maklouf. Saint Macarius the Great, of Egypt. Blessed Mary of Christ Crucified the Syrian Carmelite known in Palestine as “Al Qiddisa” (The holy one). Amma Syncletica of Alexandria, the Desert Mother. Blessed Charles Eugène de Foucauld, martyr. Saint James the Greater.

As I said yesterday, we are not powerless; we are in possession of the most subversive weapon of ambush, which is prayer, which moves through and pours forth from time and space, intercepting and impacting our times, beyond what we can comprehend.

Our brothers and sisters in the ancient province of Nineveh are fleeing, shocked and without hope. They are “Flattened, destroyed.” They have been pulled off of long-traveled footpaths and watched them become erased before their eyes. It might be too early for them to realize that, in the supernatural way of Christ, their stronghold and inheritance remains — that there is still a path to follow, and a future. But we must help them to know it, to feel it within, by the force of our prayers, our fasting, our alms.

In my life, I have known when people are praying for me. I have felt it; been sustained by it. Help them to feel it.

UPDATE: Just saw this on Facebook. I didn’t organize and I don’t know who did, but interestingly enough, on the Catholic calendar Thursday, July 24 is dedicated to Saint Sharbel Maklouf, and Friday the 25th is the feast of Saint James. Make of it what you will.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Ryan Haber

    The sooner we can get it through our heads that the leadership of the West does not believe in tolerance, and hasn’t for decades, but only uses the idea as a way of breaking down Christian morals and attaining power, the better off we will be, tactically and morally.

    Our leaders are not lifting a finger to help, because like secular socialists the world over, they see Christians as the enemy, and any enemy of their enemy is their friend. It doesn’t matter how crazy these people are, I’d their craziness is battering Christians, it is hardly a problem to them. This is not a conspiracy theory because they are open about their goals, and this fact runs like a golden thread through their foreign policy.

    Why on earth would they try to prevent the flattening of Christians in Iraq when, with the constraints of their own circumstances, our leaders are trying to accomplish exactly the same result here?

  • Mary

    Hi Elizabeth. Do you know where that Facebook post originated? I’d like to be able to share it on some of the social media pages I manage. Thanks!

  • mothering spirit

    Thank you for this call to prayer and action. The situation is so devastating, and we have to keep it daily before our eyes.

  • Fr. Dan Folwaczny

    I’m all for timely fasting and prayer, but part of me wonders if the feast of St. James, sometimes known under the title of Matamoros, is maybe not the best day for this.

  • SimpleHiker

    In Western society, we have fought wars to take government away from
    the religious. Modern secular society no longer desires religion to
    police society.
    Christianity is no better than Islam. Remember the
    Crusades? Christians swarmed to the middle east en masse to attack
    Muslims & Jews.

    Christianity did not become a major religion by the quality of its truth, but by the quantity of its violence. Ditto for Islam.

    only solution is to get rid of religion entirely. Once humanity wakes
    up to the delusion that is “god”, and start looking at each others as
    fellow human beings instead of “others”, things will be better. “Others”
    meaning those of different races, religions, etc…

  • Gordis85

    Thanks so much Elizabeth for all of the very solid suggestions that will help us to be united to our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria and all other areas of the world where they are being persecuted. I pray for the grace to participate believing that in God’s good time, all will be answered and His people delivered from evil.

    May their witness be a mustard seed of renewal to the world.

  • Victor

    ((( It is a lie, and therefore a sin, against the very God it purports to serve. )))

    What are YA talking about Victor? YA’ve got to stop that so call preaching that YA know nothing about, the next think “I” mean thing YA’ll be saying is that YAR so called five per sent age “Jesus” cells told YA that… Mt 13:1-9 seeds that are being sowed in spiritual reality really are all ants, “I” mean puppets, no, no, “I” mean good human animals butt listen Victor, they really are gods and we are their godly angels who tell them where they can plant those humans, “I” mean seeds and…………………………………………..and………………………………………………………………….and…………………………….


    Go figure brothers and sisters in Christ!

    Forgive US (usual sinners) Anchoress cause there’s still so much more for me to read before I can officially give you my Canadian two cents worth so keep UP the good works and words but try to get a little rest now and then! OK? LOL :)

    God Bless Peace

  • Victor

    Hey SimpleHiker, “I” will bet YAS that Victor didn’t hear what His so called Holiness Pope Francis is doing these days cause if Victor #2 knew what we’ve learned below, he might be thinking of changing to “Other” meaningless religion (s) and……………………………………………………………………anddddddd…………………..
    I hear YAS! ARE YA BEING SARCASTICK VICTOR and don’t feel bad when YA learn that The Anchoress didn’t allow this comment cause truth be known, YAR way off topic. LOL :)
    God Bless

  • James1

    If you make claims such as you have, please back them up with references.

  • baffledlife

    The plight of the Christians in Iraq and ME prompted me to go to the CNEWA website to contribute, but the articles there brutalizing Israel as occupiers and
    sympathizing with Hamas/Palastinians made me rethink any contribution.I
    remebered how those Christian communities were virulently antisemetic.
    I will pray for them but as a Catholic, my money goes elsewhere.

  • baffledlife

    Elizabeth, what happened to my post?

  • MeanLizzie

    If you were disturbed by what you read, why not drop them a note about your concerns? Why wouldn’t you want them to know that something on their site caused you to withhold a donation?

  • MeanLizzie

    Nothing. All comments are held in a moderation queue (and this has been true for years) until I release them. I just released yours. Because I have been sick for 8 weeks with a broncho-pneumo situation, I don’t always have the energy to stay at my desk all day long and moderate comments. Yours waited exactly one hour to be released. Sorry it was too long and therefore upsetting for you. We are becoming an increasingly impatient society, but I am trying to get well. :-)

  • MeanLizzie

    For taking an hour to moderate your comments?
    Okay, then.

    If I were truly one of your “favorite” writers, btw, you’d know better than to call me “Liz”. :-)

  • Victor

    For what it is worth baffledlife, I did click on the site that The Anchoress provided and made a couple of Catholic donations Long story short, I didn’t see any of what you speak about but in all fairness, I really wasn’t looking, I simply made my donations and then left.
    Like The Anchoress said, let them know what up set you and who knows, it might even make you feel better in the long run.


  • baffledlife

    Thank you for your reply Lizzie. I wanted you and readers to know that this is a tragedy for thousands of Christians in the ME but there is another unreported aspect of Christianity in the ME hundreds of years in the making. On their webite an artlcle( 10 July 2014)
    quoted a spokesman for the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land criticizing Israel for “occupation of Palestinian territories”. I easily found three other similar articles. My thinking is that Catholics and Jews have a common enemy in the ME. As to you not seeing sympathy for Hamas, you have a very broad view of who is Hamas and who is not when it comes to Gaza and the West Bank. Those poor people are suffering too but we should name their oppressor, Hamas.

  • MeanLizzie

    Well, I’ll go look but once again, I think a better — and fairer and more constructive — thing to do would be to write to them with your concerns, so they can take a look at their content, and also respond to your concerns. Don’t you think?

  • K Borah

    We are called through Lay Apostles of Jesus Christ the Returning King, Our Lady of Medjugorje and many other ministries to pray and fast for what is coming. That is the action plan. It also includes daily Mass, Frequent confession, reading of scripture, Eucharistic adoration and so on. DO IT quit whining and do it!

  • Sue Korlan

    Given that Thursday is the memorial day of St. Sharbel, that’s the day I’m going to be doing my prayer and fasting for the Iraqis. Also because I don’t fast on feast days and Friday is a feast day on the calendar rather than a memorial day. But I will continue my prayers for them.

  • Terrenceor

    Yes Hiker that is what we need. More Atheists like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, PolPot,Castro and many other God Haters implementing their Utopias and murdering tens of millions in the process. NOT!!!! The Catholic Church in its most corrupt days could not hold a candle to anyone of the fore mentioned maniacs.

    Islam like Leftism is of Satan, so don’t count them on the side of God.

  • NewClassTraitor

    I am Jewish but grieve for my Christian brothers in Iraq — some of whom still speak the same Aramaic/Syriac language in which our Talmud is written.

  • Navarricano

    I believe that the Feast of St. James the Greater is the perfect day for the celebration of fasting and prayer for Christians suffering persecution in Iraq. As I’m certain you know, Father, St. James the Greater is Spain’s national patron because of his shrine at Santiago de Compostela. The Apostle was invoked by Christians in medieval Spain as their patron and protector during the 700-year struggle to regain their ancestral homelands from the North African and Arabic invaders. (Incidentally, the term matamoros (“moor-slayer”) arose following the Battle of Clavijo in AD 883, the battle at which the Christian forces prevailed over the Muslim army despite being outnumbered. Following the battle, the Christian knights reported having seen an apparition of St. James, mounted on a white charger, leading the Christian forces into battle. I understand that the title is understandably harsh to our ears and our modern sensibilities, but I think that the best solution to that problem is simply not to use it. In any case, 25 July is the Feast of St. James the Greater, Apostle. I will be celebrating the feast and praying that the Apostle intercede for the Christians in Iraq who are suffering this persecution, and that he obtain the grace of God to move the leaders of the West to do something for them.

  • Dan F.

    You have to understand that many of the Christians in Israel/Palestine are themselves Palestinians and descendants of the Samaritans who first followed Christ – They have had a difficult relationship with the Jews for a very long time and it’s not just one sided.

  • LT Brass Bancroft

    So much for the Francis effect.

  • johnnysc

    Thank you…..yes I found it quickly enough in the News section. I definitely agree with you that I would have to rethink donating after reading that July 10th article. But I looked around a little more and apparently you can donate by region with Iraq being one of them. Still I guess the best way to be sure your money is going where you want it to would be to call or send them an email (which you can do on the website) voicing your concerns.

  • Jim

    Maybe you should rethink calling yourself a Catholic, since Jews seem to be your top priority.

  • Don Campbell

    Hiker, perhaps you should study some history before you make a fool of yourself again.