Christian and Islamic Extremism and Compassion

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Christian and Islamic Extremism and Compassion

The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is an extremist Christian militant movement. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army, its intention is to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments as recorded in the Old Testament. The group employs rape, murder, child soldiers, destruction of property, mutilation, and kidnapping. It belongs on the Christian spectrum.

How does that make you feel, western Christian?



There are real problems inside religions. Not one faith system is immune. Muslims must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Islam that people feel they can slaughter schoolchildren and office workers and claim it is being done in the name of Allah. Christians must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Christianity that people feel they can protest on behalf of the unborn and at the same time call for the death of abortion doctors or perpetuate the death penalty, and when a group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can call itself a Christian organization.

I would like to distance myself as far as possible from the Lord’s Resistance Army. I know most Muslims would like to do the same with ISIS and al-Qaida. Please don’t be like the terrorists who lump people from other faith or political systems into single-story categories.

I think, I hope, people are moving beyond such simplistic generalizations but there is a long ways to go. Yesterday 3.7 million people marched in France. Thousands gathered in other cities around the world. Saturday night right here in Djibouti a Catholic priest, Protestant pastor, and Muslim imam led prayers at an interfaith gathering, praying for peace. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came. Muslims, Christians, atheists…These are signs that we are moving in the right direction. Let’s keep moving.

It is time to start examining our books, our traditions, our hearts. I don’t know what it will take for violence to end but I know one of the first steps needs to be developing compassion.

Compassion: to suffer with.

I don’t mean developing an emotion or an inner attitude of compassion. I mean active, engaged compassion. Intentional. In order to suffer with we have to look at each other and engage with each other. We have to know each other’s stories. In order to do that we have to get into relationships, we have to meet people. In order to do that we have to take the gigantic risk of stepping outside our homogenous circles.

These kinds of international tragedies are excellent opportunities to exercise that kind of courage. Ask a Muslim what they think of current events. Ask a Christian what they think of current events. Ask if you could pray together for peace. Ask if they (the ‘other’) knows any passages from their scriptures about peace and healing. You might not think you know any of these ‘others.’ I doubt it. There must be a cashier or a fellow student or a coworker or a neighbor. Maybe you’ve never spoken before. Now is a good time to change that.

Brené Brown says, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

We can’t simply defend a religious system by saying, “They aren’t real Muslims.” Or “They aren’t real Christians.” That isn’t productive. We have to get personal and do the hard work of reconciliation by starting with the darkness inside. We have to root out that darkness in ourselves and work on developing empathy and compassion. We have to recognize our shared humanity.

*image via wikimedia


  1. Marie Rogers January 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Rachel, this is one of your best posts, in my opinion, and so timely. Thank you.

  2. Carrie January 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Wonderfully expressed. Thank you Rachel.

  3. Marilyn January 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Excellent! So well said and has Marie says – so timely.

  4. Rhine January 14, 2015 at 11:33 am - Reply

    It was a good start but I got stuck on the second paragraph when you put the slaughter of innocent unborn children(abortion) in the same category as the punitive consequences reserved for the most heinous crimes(death penalty), and have a heard time listening to anything else you might have to say.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones January 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Rhine, I didn’t read it the same way/write it the same way you seem to have taken it. I contrast the protest for life on behalf of the unborn with the calling for death of abortion doctors, meaning I see them as contradictory, at odds with each other. One is for life and the other is for death.

  5. Susan January 16, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

    I understand your point that not one faith system is immune to acting out violently. The problem is sweeping under the carpet major tenets of Islam faith that are a running theme to kill in the name of Allah. Our president is not brave enough to use words like Islamist terrorist and jihad. I admire the Egyptian president who has called for a reformation of his own faith, Islam. There could be a fatwah on his head. We must study what Islamist scholars are teaching. It is not a minority, it is a growing force of fighters that believe these teachings.

  6. Trudy Grossman January 22, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Thank you for this article and the work you do. As a Christian I have been thinking about these same issues. I try to keep an open mind. People that have never lived in another country have a harder time letting go of stereotypes. Meeting people, getting to know them where they live, is the best education. I understand your points about compassion completely. It truly is a rare thing. I am looking forward to reading more of your writing. I thank my friend Gill Andrews for posting this on Google +.

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