War, Peace and Religion
A distinct trend has emerged in the interaction between nation states during this early 21st century. It’s a phenomenon as ancient as the Holy Roman Empire, as venerable as the Ottoman Empire of old.
It’s the phenomenon of religion.
Despite all of the efforts of the post-Enlightenment secularists, of the rabid socialists who swamped our university campuses during the latter half of the 20th century, despite the aggressive efforts of that godless religion—communism—to trample the religious masses underfoot since the Russian revolution, competing theisms are back with a vengeance, strutting the world stage in a fashion not witnessed since, yet powerfully linked to, the First Crusade, launched by Pope Urban ii on Nov. 27, 1095.
To the historian, the history that we are writing today has an all-too-familiar ring to it.
As we have declared, fully six years prior to 9/11, “Now we see war … as the tool religion has used down through history to gain its satanic conquests” (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1995, emphasis mine throughout).
When al Qaeda hit New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, that historic reality brought 3,000 souls to their fiery deaths. Ever since, religion has dramatically escalated its status in international affairs. So much of this religious hatred, terror and warfare is directed at one singular spot on the map, one holy city—Jerusalem—and one ethnic group—the Jews.
In that sense, nothing has really changed since 1095.
However, a little time and space were bought for world Jewry back in 1917. This past week marked the anniversary of a milestone event in the Middle East, and the city of Jerusalem. Ninety years ago, a group of Australian Light Horse Infantry mounted a heroically successful cavalry attack on Beersheba, something that not even the Crusades of the mighty Roman Empire could manage to do, thus opening the way for British forces to defeat the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Megiddo. In the process, the British wrested control of Mesopotamia, Palestine and the city of Jerusalem from the Islamic control under which it had been ruled from the time of Arab conquest in a.d. 638.
Following a period as a British-mandated territory, the State of Israel was declared an independent nation on May 14, 1948. Ever since, despite a series of revolts and wars either stimulated or initiated by Islamic powers, Israel has maintained a tenuous hold on its status as a sovereign nation, gaining full control over Jerusalem in its lightning Six Day War of 1967.
But the hatred of Jewry, and the lust of other nations to dispossess the Jews of their homeland and of Jerusalem, continues to gain strength weekly. It is a hatred of long pedigree. As Karen Armstrong, author of Holy War, observes, “The Crusades made the hatred of Jews an incurable disease in Europe, and Islam would henceforth be seen as the irreconcilable enemy of Western civilization” (preface to the 2001 Anchor edition).
Jew and Gentile, Christian and pagan, Islamist and the infidel, the faithful and “the great Satan,” all of these ideas have triggered movements of zealots who would seek to take over the world to install their version of world peace by imposing their religion.
The phenomenon of 9/11 was a powerful witness to the resilience and strength of the undying nature of this zealotry and the hatred it breeds. As Armstrong muses, “It is now over a millennium since Pope Urban ii called the First Crusade … but the hatred and suspicion that this expedition unleashed still reverberates, never more so than on Sept. 11, 2001, and during the terrible days that followed. It is tragic that our Holy Wars continue” (ibid.).
The realization of the phenomenon of religion leaping into full perspective as a vital ingredient affecting global politics today has led the Economist to dedicate its current issue to this most important subject. This issue of the Economist leads with the comment: “Not long ago most politicians, intellectuals and even some clerics assumed religion was fading from public life. Now it is everywhere.
“From Sri Lanka to Baghdad new wars of religion have appeared; from Washington to Delhi there are huge arguments about faith’s role in the public square. Religion has returned … it is hard to think of a subject that seems more relevant to politics this century” (November 1).
This edition of the Economist is a must-read for any student or practitioner of international relations. During this present decade of disorder it is in the field of political science that there appears to be such a dearth of truly wisely attuned advisers to governments. Practitioners of international relations appear to be in the greatest need of appreciating both the history, the consistency and the sheer power that religion has had on international relations in the past, and has revived, most powerfully, to influence this world in the present century.
Coincident with religion being the focus of attention at the Economist, an announcement emanating from Rome, the old spiritual capital of the religion that spawned global Christianity, has brought the vision of the European unity movement into fuller perspective both in terms of religion and politically. It came from the mouth of that arch-Europhile, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
Back in July, Prodi, a devout Catholic in addition to being religiously devoted to the great European unification dream, was quoted as declaring: “The pathways of our ancestors are a great heritage …. It really makes me angry that we do not have pilgrims walking towards Rome any longer. To rebuild the great pilgrims’ path we do not need great investments, but heart. I am pressing everyone to make it happen” (Independent, July 31).
This past week, the one-time head of the European Commission and current prime minister of Italy declared the dream of restoring the Via Francigena one step closer to fulfillment.
“Premier Romano Prodi on Monday unveiled the first of 1,544 signposts which will soon show modern-day walkers the paths used by medieval pilgrims traveling from Canterbury to Rome. … ‘It’s about the rediscovery of our identity: We need to revisit the itineraries of the past,’ the premier said at a ceremony held outside the gate of the Monteriggioni castle, which overlooks Sienese hills” (Italy Magazine, October 30).
Now, let’s put all this in perspective. The Via Francigena was a pathway used by Roman Catholic pilgrims who trekked from the city of Canterbury in southern England (site of the cathedral of same name) to Rome, before the Protestant Reformation.
Under Henry viii, Britain became a Protestant nation, refusing to bow to Rome. Its religion centered around the Church of England, not the Church of Rome. Thus Canterbury, long a religious center in Britain, whose Protestant religion calls its head the “archbishop of Canterbury,” became a focus of the practice of a religion in opposition to Rome.
So what is Prodi doing indicating that the revival of this route established by Roman Catholic pilgrims traveling from England to Rome is about the “rediscovery of our identity”? And why should this devout Roman Catholic be angered that “we don’t not have pilgrims [presumably from Britain] walking towards Rome any longer”? Is there a hidden agenda here? This is the very man who, during his term as head of the European Commission, oversaw the slicing up of the European Union into regions, ignoring national boundaries. On the EU map of Britain, England does not exist as a nation. The United Kingdom is simply carved up on the map into several innocuous regions, having no national identity! It’s just a component part of an empire, that which is progressively morphing into a literal resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire!
Sooner or later, the British public must become aware that this EU monolith is intent on swallowing it whole—lock, stock and barrel—and reclaiming “Mary’s Dowry,” as the Vatican has traditionally viewed the British Isles.
It is said that all roads lead to Rome. The very fact that the old Via Francigena, which starts in England and ends in Rome, is in process of being revived, attests to the underlying theme that Britain is considered part of the European Union’s (Rome’s) imperial heritage. It clearly indicates that Rome has an agenda to impose its religion from the British Isles to the Ukraine plain. From the Nordic nations to Africa and beyond, and especially, given the Vatican’s diplomatic overtures to Israel, in Jerusalem!
That is an event about which we have been warning since this magazine’s inception, and our mentor, Herbert W. Armstrong, for almost 60 years before that! It’s part of a process that is increasingly bearing on international relationships both within the European Union and beyond.
The world’s eyes remain fixated on the rhetoric, the bullying and the carnage created by pan-Islamism. Yet the religion possessing the bloodiest history of all is resurrecting its power right before our eyes, and few there be that see the danger in that event.
It’s about time we sat up and truly listened to the rhetoric of Rome. Increasingly, it carries an unrelenting political edge. It’s an edge that history has witnessed before, the edge of the crusading sword, most recently seen in the Balkan wars, and honing itself right now for a future whirlwind reaction to the major thorn in its side, pan-Islamism.
Truly, religion is back with a vengeance on the world scene! And to those who truly understand this phenomenon, it is but a harbinger of the soon-coming replacement of all man’s religions by the one, true, most pure religion of all! (James 1:27).