From Easter services to cablecasts of Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller Killing Jesus, Christians are focused on the crucifixion of their Savior. American believers and non-believers consider this a historical event. But in the Middle East, crucifixion is a current affair.
ISIS has resurrected crucifixion. In doing so, these Islamofascist scum have built a bridge to the fourth decade a.d. The only way to top this would be to feed Christians to lions this evening at Rome’s Colosseum.
By prying this ancient practice from the history books and returning it to modern life, ISIS has reconfirmed its epic evil. Obama immediately needs to implement a coherent strategy to relegate ISIS itself to the history books.
Much of the news about latter-day crucifixions and other atrocities escapes the confines of ISIS-controlled territory thanks to a brave group called Raqaa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. Details are grim.
‐These crucifixions began in March 2014, reports CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz. ISIS charged a shepherd with murder and theft. He was shot in the head, and his corpse was tied to a wooden cross in the main square in Raqaa, Syria, ISIS’s capital.
‐Last May, two more victims were crucified there and left to rot in the sun for three days. “This man fought Muslims and detonated an IED here,” read the placard around one victim’s neck.
‐ISIS crucified nine men last June, according to London’s Telegraph. Eight, from Deir Hafer, Syria, were killed and displayed in the village square for three days. A man from Al-Bab survived, despite being nailed to a cross for eight hours.
‐Last October, London’s Daily Mail reports, ISIS crucified a 17-year-old boy in Raqaa. His crimes? Selling his photos of ISIS military bases and “apostasy” — converting from Islam.
‐Seventeen men were killed in mid-January in what the International Business Times called a “crucifixion frenzy.” The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that one victim was executed for “taking a picture of an ISIS fighter and publishing it on Facebook.” Another was nabbed for smoking, charged with being an Assad-regime informant, and crucified. Fifteen others were denounced as rebels and mounted on crosses.
‐ISIS does not limit this carnage to adults. Citing a February report from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Reuters indicated that “Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive.”
In Raqaa, “executions are simply routine — a part of daily life,” writes my fearless friend Benjamin Hall, a combat journalist who has reported from Iraq and Syria, with ISIS’s black flag flapping menacingly mere yards away.
“Before an execution, residents are called to the town square — posters warn them of the upcoming schedule,” Hall explains in his new book, Inside ISIS: The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Army. “People are encouraged to watch and expected to watch, and if you miss too many executions, you might get a knock on your door: a stern lecture from a fighter, perhaps a few days in prison, perhaps a few lashes. You never know.”
“These violent acts are part of a fundamentalist revival campaign, but these forms of ancient punishment were rarely if ever seen in the Muslim world in recent centuries,” Georgia State University Islamic scholar Abbas Barzegar told CNN. “It has become a standard feature of fringe Islamist groups to revive these outdated practices in an effort to bring back what they believe is authentic.”
“People are tired and they hate everything,” a resident of ISIS-controlled territory told CNN. “If you don’t close your shop during prayer time you get lashes, if you smoke you get lashed, if you say one wrong thing you can be executed.” He added: “It is like a waterfall of blood. There are more and more executions and now the children watch like they are used to it.”
Father Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, based in Grad Rapids, Mich., offered me these reflections on this ghastly phenomenon:
Crucifixion is as barbaric now as it was when the Romans inflicted this form of capital punishment on Jesus. There are several rubs in this for the Christian: Because we hold to a reverence for human life, this must include even the lives of our persecutors. Their lives are also precious — so precious, in fact, that we are obliged to pray for their conversion. Additionally, while each of us is taught to expect such persecution, and even admonished by Christ to take up our own cross and follow him, we see the cross in many forms these days. Of course the most obvious and brutal form, that you identify here, but it also comes in more subtle and sophisticated forms like the Christophobia evident in the secular hostility to letting Christians practice their faith. Still, this reality does not exempt the Christian from seeing the dignity even in their persecutors nor in developing prudent and effective ways to combat the persecution.
Father Sirico takes the high road of forgiveness, as Catholic priests usually do. When ISIS members reach the Pearly Gates, they can beg for mercy. Civilization’s urgent challenge is to get them to stare up at Saint Peter at the earliest possible moment.
The time is now to exterminate ISIS, throw its collective corpse in a cave, and block the entrance with a boulder.