Would Christian Militias Help In Iraq and Syria?
Religion & Liberty Online

Would Christian Militias Help In Iraq and Syria?

Just as armed citizens have been protecting themselves and their property in Ferguson, Mo., small groups of Christians are forming in militia-style units in areas of Syria and Iraq. While most Christians believe they are allowed to protect themselves and others using force if necessary, it is a religion of peace. Christ himself urges us to “turn the other cheek.” Yet the outrageous and barbaric violence against Christians is moving some to call for a more aggressive stance against ISIS.

Edward Pentin reports that these Christian militia groups have some strong backing:

One senior official [in Rome], speaking to me on condition of anonymity, believes that if the Islamic State begins making serious inroads into Lebanon — a country that’s no stranger to sectarian armed groups — Christian militias will become an everyday reality.

Small numbers of armed Christians are already established in Iraq and Syria. A group which calls itself “The Lions of the Canyon” reportedly has been protecting several Syrian villages while other Christian militias took up arms in Aleppo for the first time in 2012.

Evangelical pastor Michel Youssef, an advocate of armed Christian civilians in Iraq, recently told the website Act for America that the idea to form militias in Iraq was the “only way to protect our families and friends from attacks because we are tired of awaiting an action from the government which is preoccupied with politics and never looks after us.”

Kishore Jayabalan, Rome director of the Acton Institute, also weighed in.

The morality of stopping the Islamic State is a no-brainer. They clearly have a right to self-defense and no one would object to their exercising it when every other sectarian group in the region already does.”

However, Jayabalan does not expect that the Vatican will publicly back such militias. However, he firmly states that lay people have the right to protect themselves and others, on their own authority.

What authority can they appeal to? Western governments won’t act effectively because they fear being seen as sectarian.

“No one has yet given a good answer to the question why Christians shouldn’t act in self-defense,” he said. “There’s too much moral preening going on. When people are being beheaded and crucified and the state is unable to defend them, do we really have to wait for the United Nations?”

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.