ISIS, genocide -- and the rest of us

Iraqi monastery destroyed

The Nazi destruction of stolen art were acts of gratuitous violence. Similarly gratuitous destruction of ancient heritage is now underway wherever ISIS is seen in Iraq and Syria. And so is another genocide, this time of Christians, writes George Weigel.

- Ethics and Public Policy Centre

The Monuments Men was a disappointing movie, but one of its most chilling scenes sticks in my mind as an analogue to the appalling wickedness underway in the Middle East.

In the film, SS Colonel Wegner supervises the destruction of art works plundered by the Nazis: Treasures intended for Hitler’s fantasised Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. But as the Allies close in on Germany in 1945, Hitler decides that, if he and his goons can’t have these masterpieces, their rightful owners—and the future—won’t have them, either.

So Wegner and an SS squad armed with flamethrowers incinerate painting after painting, including Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man. Colonel Wegner, we learn later, was an extermination camp superintendent before he got busy destroying paintings.

Today, the jihadists of ISIS routinely tear the crosses and bells from Christian churches in areas under their control, even as they hammer Christian images and statues into dust, desecrate Christian tombs, and do everything possible to destroy the artifacts of a Christian civilisation that dates back to the days of the Apostles.

But, as with the Nazis, even greater evils are visited upon people. In ISIS-controlled areas, Christians are murdered by beheading or crucifixion for refusing to convert to Islam. Rape, regarded as a religious benefice by maniacal barbarians who “pray” before and after violating their Christian victims, is a routine occurrence in these ISIS enclaves, from which Christians are also sold into slavery, including sex-slavery.

The most recent cultural outrage to come to light was Islamic State’s demolition of the vast stone monastery of St Elijah in Mosul. As the indefatigable human rights campaigner Nina Shea wrote, the monastery, a house of Christian worship for a millennium and a half, was “reduced to rubble” by the “determined application of sledgehammers, bulldozers, and explosives.”

But as Ms Shea went on to note, the wanton destruction of a sacred place is also a metaphor for “the genocide of Iraq’s Christian people and their civilisation.”

Photo: BBC

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