In 1095, Urban II preached the First Crusade to end the abuse of Christian pilgrims and recapture the Holy City and Holy Sepulcher. Moslems view these Crusades as Christian wars of aggression. Yet the martial means the Crusaders used to recapture Jerusalem were the same as those the Caliph Umar had used to conquer the Holy City.
Until our time, Western man did not apologize for the Crusades. Gen. Eisenhower even titled his war memoir "Crusade in Europe."
For centuries, European Christians fought the Islamic world. In 1492, Muslims were forcibly expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella. In the early 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent invaded the Balkans, defeated the Hungarians at Bohacs and besieged Vienna. The Balkan wars of Suleiman bear little resemblance to the Christian crusades of Dr. Billy Graham. In 1571, the fleets of the Ottoman Turks were destroyed at Lepanto by a fleet organized by Pius V.
In the 19th century, the Ottoman Turks began their long retreat from the Balkans. At the end of the First World War, Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate, put the caliph on the Orient Express, severed the ties between mosque and state, and made Turkey a secular state.
In our own time, however, the issues Pope Benedict addressed -- the harmony between faith and reason, and the disharmony between force and faith -- have re-arisen.
In Afghanistan this year, a Christian convert was threatened with beheading for apostasy. Most imams and Afghans seemed to approve. In Indonesia, Nigeria and Sudan, Muslims are at war with Christians, in the Middle East with Israelis, in Chechnya with Russians, in India with Hindus, in Thailand with Buddhists. Other issues are involved, but faith seems ever present as a prime motivator of violence.
In the West, men and women convert to Islam and imams preach and proselytize. In Islamic nations, conversion to Christianity can mean death, as can preaching and proselytizing. Do Muslim faithful believe it is legitimate to use state power to impose sharia or maintain religious orthodoxy, as Henry VIII and Isabella believed?
In the West, a militant secularism has seized state power and the de-Christianization of America is well advanced. In the East, we had best recognize that the rage, militancy and intolerance so often on display are the unmistakable marks of a rising, not a dying, faith.
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