Crimes Against Humanity

It’s getting into late night where I live, and like many I’m still following the awful news from Paris.

Social media is lit up. In response to numerous pious appeals for prayer, one friend sent me this message,

I wonder why are we praying for peace. Why not for their [the Islamic terrorists’] death and destruction?

Another friend invited people of faith to offer the Office for the Dead. I’ve prayed it, asking God to receive His own into paradise. Yet even in those prayers there is an appeal to divine justice and wrath against evil people,

Lo! the book, exactly worded,
wherein all hath been recorded:
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

Elijah’s messages were condemnations of evil and promises of divine retribution. For example,

Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, who is in Samaria. He will be in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. Tell him: “Thus says the LORD: After murdering, do you also take possession?” And tell him, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick up your blood, too.” Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me out, my enemy?” He said, “I have found you. Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD’s sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will consume you and will cut off every male belonging to Ahab, whether bond or free, in Israel. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha, son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.” Against Jezebel, too, the LORD declared: The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the confines of Jezreel. (I Kings 21:18-23 NAB)

Elijah owns the epithet “enemy” when Ahab throws it at him. There is no pretense of misunderstanding or estranged brotherhood. Ahab and Jezebel are defined by their bloody deeds, and Elijah, messenger of God, is their enemy.

After World War II and, in particular, the Holocaust, the nations of the world framed a body of law condemning Crimes Against Humanity. The code is sadly familiar tonight (emphasis added),

“Crimes against humanity” include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

murder;
extermination;
enslavement;
deportation or forcible transfer of population;
imprisonment;
torture;
rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
persecution against an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds;
enforced disappearance of persons;
the crime of apartheid;
other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.

Why has the world lost its moral commitment against this kind of evil? Why is Islamic violence in particular given a pass? Over and over, the cry Allahu Akbar (God is great) goes up as blasphemy, a celebration of violence against people made in the image of God.

Why do we not cast ourselves as Elijah did, as allies of God and enemies of manifest evil? Why don’t we see that Crimes Against Humanity are blasphemy, because they desecrate the humanity that Christ came to share and save?

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