The liberal Catholic activist group Network, headed by Sister Simone Campbell, famous for “Nuns on the Bus,” is asking supporters to urge President Obama to exercise strong “diplomacy” against the “violence” in northern Iraq. Thousands of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population have fled the invasion and occupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as Network indirectly notes, without citing ISIS.
Here’s Network’s recommended note for Obama:
As a member of the NETWORK Catholic social justice community, I am writing to urge you to take a strong leadership role in resolving the violence and persecution that is going on in Northern Iraq in the Nineveh Plain and surrounding region. Christians and Shia are leaving. Food and money are running short. There is violence and destruction everywhere. Some of the sacred sites have been destroyed and the people are terrified.
Pope Francis recently said, “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive.” Only a strong U.S. and multinational response can possibly make any difference to these suffering people. Please utilize the United Nations mechanisms to help to bring peace in this area. Within this context I urge you to convene our multinational regional partners to stop the bloodshed. Our nation needs to be a leader for good and peacemaking, not just war. I urge you to act so that diplomacy can be the way forward.
Notice Network doesn’t describe how “diplomacy” will affect the ISIS reign of terror, which has included demands that Christians convert, pay special taxes as non-Muslim legal inferiors, or die. There are also reports of crucifixions, beheadings, torture and mandatory female genital mutilation, among other horrors, under the new Islamist rule over northern Iraq. These atrocities are intrinsic to the ISIS interpretation of Islamist rule. These details don’t merit specific inclusion in the Network message.
ISIS doesn’t have embassies or diplomatic envoys per se. It’s a terror revolutionary group grabbing territory in Syria and Iraq to recreate Islam’s mythologized caliphate, which would delegitimize all other regimes in the region. ISIS is funded and manned by Islamists throughout the region but not really by any single state. So with whom can “diplomacy” be applied? Network is not clear on this point. It’s obliged to express concern about persecuted Christians but offers no plausible remedy.
Removing ISIS rule from northern Iraq will require the Iraqi military retaking the territory, with U.S. arms and advisors, in collaboration from local Sunnis who likely are exasperated by their ISIS “liberators.” Meanwhile, many Iraqi Christians have found refuge with the well and U.S. armed Kurds.
There’s really no solution to the ISIS invasion in Iraq that is not military. But Network, which is essentially pacifist, like most of the Religious Left, is loathe to admit the necessity of force. Instead it prefers cheap talk about “diplomacy.” No doubt fleeing Christians in Iraq are grateful.
It’s tempting sarcastically to suggest that Network deploy its renowned “Nuns on the Bus” caravan to northern Iraq in a direct quest for peace. But “Nuns on the Bus,” taking a break from its usual Welfare State advocacy, is very busy now touting mass legalization for illegal immigrants. Network has its priorities, and don’t expect “Nuns on the Bus” to mobilize even in this country for persecuted Christians in Iraq or anywhere else.
Diplomacy often has utility but typically only when backed by the possibility of force. Groups like Network prefer to imagine a fantasy world where sweet reason trumps self interest and might. Its radical nuns and activists need to study the ethical resources of their own tradition.