The Slaughter of the Innocents

The scourge of abortion is bad enough, but I went onto Facebook a few minutes ago. All of a sudden, I saw a large and shallow wooden box with what appeared to be dolls. They were not dolls but real human children killed by Daesh in Syria. I still have the tears in my eyes as I write this and a feeling of anguish. After seeing the dead children in the box, we were shown a man, presumably a father of a family with a dead child and a living one with him. I just saw the images. I’m glad I didn’t turn on the sound.

I left the following comment:

I don’t know about the origin of this video, but it is so heart-rending and crucifying to watch. Out of respect for those children, the video is just too much, at least for me. It popped out of Facebook as I popped in for a look. It’s too hard. I hope and pray the last man of Deash gets taken out and shot, that we can be rid of this abscess of humanity. That video has torn me to the depths and I can do nothing about the situation in Syria. I think it is better not to show such videos. Just inform us that the rats are killing children and that the war against them has to be won. Pray for us all who grieve – the parents and families, and yet the rest of decent humanity.

Now we know what happens when people put explicit videos on Facebook. It is not a mere antidote to apathy and indifference, but an exploitation of human beings with an ounce of empathy.

Perhaps I will make a suggestion, since I am too old and not fit enough to join the Syrian Army. It is altogether possible to put up a site on the subject of children, persecution of Christians, the fact that the jihadists are as bad as the SS and the Gestapo who went into French villages, killing every last man, woman and child in the name of reprisals against Résistance activity. Links to videos, even gruesome ones, could be given but with appropriate warnings, so that we can be ready for them. Having such videos pop up on the Facebook main page is too hard, and may be counterproductive.

I’m not being dramatic, and I have seen my fair share of Rambo and James Bond films. My curiosity was drawn to what appeared to be a box of dolls. Why show a box of dolls? Then I found out why. I was completely unprepared!

Then what can we do? Fine, dispel ignorance and educate people about what is going on over there. The war isn’t yet won, because the head-choppers are heading towards Jordan and the Golan Heights. Let them take on Israel, which has a good army – and nukes! When we see too much of what we are not prepared for, then we react in a way that is historically dangerous – vote for extreme right-wing politics. Mainstream politics don’t convince me either, and just at this moment, I am ashamed to be English. We live in a world where politics are a heap of lies and deception. Perhaps the jackboot would be better than the Caliphate and endless terrorism, but better still would be the love of Christ.

My grief turns to anger, and then to understanding how different people think and react. Only Russia was prepared to help the legitimate government voted in by the Syrian people. Other “democratic” countries want to split Syria up into warring sects of fanatical Muslims – for oil, for petrodollars, for grimy money. Those involved in this filthy intrigue also deserve to be taken out and shot once their crimes against humanity are known to the world.

I am tempted to pray for the Parousia, for the end of the world. Perhaps we can wish for such if we are willing to be the first to die. No prepping, no “bug-out” bags, just the reality of what we seem to deserve. Is that really what we want? Do we want to see the deaths of more innocents, humans and animals and the beauty of nature? If we are here at all, is it not for a purpose, to put good in the place of evil.

The person who put up the video wrote a comment in response to mine. Wilberforce also used graphic methods in his combat against slavery. Is it acceptable to put up videos that will wrench our hearts out or make us harder and more indifferent and uncaring than ever? We are seeing more and more videos of young men having their heads cut off with a knife, stamped on, shot repeatedly with high-speed bullets. On Youtube, you can find films of real executions, and salve your conscience by saying that they are guilty men getting the recompense for their crimes. Before we know it, these images of real death will affect us no more than James Bond killing the Hitler-like monster about to destroy the world. We should be extremely reserved with this kind of thing.

Like the old cat o’ nine tails in the British Navy, this kind of treatment breaks a good man’s heart and makes a bad man even worse.

By all means, set up a site. Find out what is going on in countries like Syria and Irak. Write out a credible description of the war with Deash and the involvement of the western world. Give links to documents, photos and videos. Deal with the real problems and give us ideas of what we can do: add to the killing, look after the victims of war, raise money to help the Syrian nation rebuild itself and take back its exiled children. Then something positive might come out of it all.

We can at least pray for those people, still trapped in the hell-holes or in places like Turkey or the Greek Islands, or already discovering that there is no gold in El Dorado

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12 Responses to The Slaughter of the Innocents

  1. It’s “reality” Father! Symptomatic it seems to me of the post-WW generations is the avoidance of the real horror of humanity! The Cross should motivate us to love – and we’re apathetic towards it! The manifestation of humanity upon the gibbet like the serpent in the wilderness should make us recognize the cause as well as the cure! But we shy away and in so doing avoid dealing with the truth of our condition. Not “so” many years ago humanity didn’t spare itself the harsh realities of life… they were very real; people went to see the guillotine and the public hangings and beheadings as entertainment! Yet we are not so desensitized to death as we’d all like to make out. It’s the reality of our mortality though that scares us all – we’ll see others die, we’ll recreate seeing others die (film/video games/tv) yet we all shy away from death itself… Yet that’s the very reason why The Cross was necessary; for us to see the truth and embrace it. Therein lies our salvation and God even then in His love and mercy affords us the resurrection and Christian hope!

    I share these things because otherwise the “age of the martyrs” is consigned to sentimentalised history. The fact that humans have transferred their appreciation of brutality to the virtual is why the harsh reality of the truth should be revealed. The truth is, that hiding away the reality of abortion does not stop people murdering children; the same is true of the realities of the actions of Daesh/ISIS. Unless “the real” is exposed people will do nothing about it – as they have re abortion, as they have re the suffering under Islamic inspired brutality… If they SAW what people are fleeing maybe they’d appreciate more the need to sympathize and provide shelter? Maybe they’d DO something about it instead of turning off the Telly, turning another page in the newspaper or magazine? Apathy IS killing our consciences. It’s easy to “turn off” or “turn a blind eye”. Instead of hiding, shying away and saying “woe is me” (poor them, but my sensitivities!) we should be motivated to push and demand that “something” be done!

    • I don’t want to judge you simply because that video gave me such a hard time. I can imagine what it was like for Wordsworth in Paris shortly before he returned to England. His high hopes in the Revolution were dashed as he saw the carts of rotting bodies and heads being taken to the Picpus cemetery from the Place de la Concorde and Madame la Veuve.

      I thought I was fairly tough and “medieval”. I saw my father operate on animals and autopsy dead ones. I have seen animals die, and I have on a couple of occasions been present at the death of a person. I have seen my own mother dead and lying in her coffin. What was so terrifying in this video was that the victims were children. There are real executions to be seen on Youtube. Seeing Nazi war criminals getting their necks stretched seems to be no big deal. Saddam Hussein was a bad man, though not as bad as those who ruled Irak after him. Then there are very realistic films like Rambo IV where the effects are very realistic in the battle scenes. Seeing James Bond or Clint Eastwood killing villains is great fun! What would it be like to go to an execution in something like the 18th century? Hanging was no great deal, except for the victim. Did you see The Changeling with its very realistic hanging of a psychopath child rapist and killer? The guillotine? There is a blurred video of Weidmann in front of Versailles prison – all so quick and unspectacular. Perhaps hanging, drawing and quartering or breaking on the wheel provided better entertainment for the crowd.

      Reality? Life is cheap. I remember a passage from The Mission, where Cardinal Altamirando laments that such is life. Fr Gabriel corrects him – such have we made it. Yes we are confronted with martyrdom, but we are perhaps made that much more bitter in regard to the killers, that much more inclined to want to kill the lot of them. We are human.

      You address the problem of the refugees and immigrants. There is chaff among the wheat. Pope Francis complained that not enough was done for the refugees, but have we seen evidence of the Vatican gardens being turned into something that resembles the Jungle in Calais? There is right-wing propaganda and prejudice, but terrorists are entering Europe via these rat lines. The real solution is to defeat Daesh and let Assad rebuild his country and make a place for his people to return. The chances are that if we take a family into our homes, we will get cleaned out and our throats slit.

      Indeed, what do we do? The way I see it is give our money and homes to people we don’t know and who may be complete frauds? Go and kill jihadists? Are you good with a gun and guerilla warfare? I have often thought of going to Syria after the defeat of the enemy and help the little people build wooden houses to live in. The migrant crisis was engineered and made a lot of money for some very unpleasant people.

      I am as uneasy as you. There must be something we can do. I read alternative news and see the involvement of our own political elites in what amounts to a proxy war. We are lied to all the time, and all the bits of news we hear contradict each other. We are being taken for idiots. Perhaps many people are apathetic, because there isn’t a damned thing we can do about Syria, Irak, etc. Not all of us. I do think it is bad psychology to club people into anger, tears, grief or whatever way people react from such provocations. I have seen others on Facebook – horror after horror. We all want the raghead bastards taken out and shot, but would you pull the trigger?

      There has to be a better way. I suggested the idea of websites that give the truth, but prepare people for seeing the worst – and leave them the choice. I ask you to think about this point of view.

      • ed pacht says:

        Do we combat sexual sin by showing pornography? Does the graphic display of evil bring an increase in virtue? Does rage beget love? There is a titillation in watching violence that raises a desire for vengeance as surely as pornography raises a desire for sex. Neither is healthy. Neither is Christian — and there is money to be made in showing people what is not healthy for them to see. Of course it is wrong to hide the truth, but I firmly believe discretion and wisdom are essential in deciding how to present this kind of truth. Rape is reality too — do I need to see it performed?

      • As Catholic Christians we generally display (sometimes quite graphically) the gruesome tortured body of a man upon what is generally recognised as the most barbaric form of execution devised by man. Often in glorious colour, often very large portrayals in both sculpture and paintings. Quite often too we display the tortuous route to Calvary similarly. How is that different? We don’t cover these depictions on the off chance a stranger who doesn’t know the story might see them? Or when families come in for baptism or children for First Holy Communion instruction? In the latter case we even march them along the tortuous trail explaining what’s happening in each gruesome scene!

        There are sites Ed where the result of sexual sin can be seen… the physical effects of sexual abuse, STD’s, venerial diseases, beaten and murdered prostitutes, people and children dying from AIDS etc. But unless one looks for them, makes a conscious effort to see them… who enjoying their concupiscence is going to do that? Similarly, who in their ignorance of world events and current affairs or global appreciation is going to look for sites of Christians being murdered by having their heads hacked off with knives, or innocent children being slaughtered?

        I wonder that if these pictures/films from Syria et al were in sepia or black and white like the harrowing images of the holocaust we’re all so used to, would that be more acceptable? I don’t remember anyone ever complaining about those wretched scenes in like manner?

        Why isn’t the content rather than the presentation more anger inducing? True, I could imagine these scenes without assistance, so deeply ingrained into the human psyche through years of conditioning via violent imagery in film and tv, it wouldn’t be difficult to abjectly conceive similar pictures in my mind. But they would be conceptual not real. Virtual, not truth. As you assert, we are being lied to all the time. This generation is a “seeing is believing” one thanks to multi-media. The truth hurts, but only if you know it.

  2. Stephen K says:

    I’m with ed, here. I do not agree that it is necessary or helpful in all cases to be strapped to an armchair with our eyelids kept open [aka A Clockwork Orange] to watch violence, in order to form a right opinion and action about it. I’ll be honest. I live in a place where the kinds of Daesh violence are a world away, and I don’t need to live or die in it to know that it’s bad. I don’t want to be a voyeur. As far as I can I won’t let anyone else make me an unwilling voyeur. I know Daesh and a thousand other groups are evil and violent. I’ve got intelligence, dammit! I’m not in a position to go out there and shoot the bastards myself, so I count it as a blessing. Here in my own country I do what I can to assist what I think rightful causes and support Medecins Sans Frontieres. I refuse to let my energy be sapped by spending time thinking myself into futile rage against people I can’t do more about. I have to thank God for the space to spend time loving my children and being what I should be to the people I actually meet. There’s only so many hours in a day.

    • It’s maybe worth noting that the video clip under discussion did not actually show any violence – only its result and the anguish of one of the grieving parents holding his deceased children in his arms before laying them to rest with their peers.

      • ed pacht says:

        Haven’t seen that particular one,and, just perhaps, I might not object too much, but I have seen some that resemble my description, as well as less graphic ones that certainy appear to intend to produce hatred and rage. If the intent (or the usual result) is to answer hate with hate, or to encourage hatred as the motivation for retaliation, then I am convinced that this is not a presentation acceptable to Christians, or for that matter to any humane society. That said, to oppose evil and encourage the increase of virtue is indeed part of the Christian mission. Attitude and purpose are all-important. No, we cannot uncaringly let such horrid things go on when we can do something about it, but neither can we hate our enemies, being commanded by Christ to love them.

        You reference the crucifix. Any use of this sacred symbol to direct anger at others is, frankly, blasphemous. To look at a crucifix is (or should be) to remember my own sins as the reason He hung there, to condemn my own sins, repent of them, and seek mercy

      • Please note the context in which I referenced the crucifix – certainly not in a context of provocation nor rage; but as an example of what is apparently generally “acceptable” regarding gruesome images…

      • ed pacht says:

        … and please note that my reference is as to what such an image is to be used for. If it be directed toward ones own sin it may indeed be fitting and proper. If it be used to stir up anger toward others (a use to which anti-Semites, for example, have used the crucifix) it becomes reprehensible. What is the use to which videos like those being discussed (even if less graphic) are being put? Are the intended results equivalent?

      • We seem to have drifted a little. I did not object to the video because of blood and gore, of which there was none. I have certainly failed to choose words well like when using “explicit”. This video caused the most pain through what was implied. It seems to me that the bodies are whole, clean and “patched up”. The only thing wrong with them is that they are dead. Anyone with empathy will feel the grief of the man holding the dead child and comforting the living one. Perhaps the implicit is even worse than seeing snuff videos of men being beheaded with a knife or people having their heads blown open with gunshots!

        Many things will also depend on our level of exposure to audio-visual. I have always known television in my lifetime, but hardly watch it nowadays. I watch films on my laptop, and tend to go for what I would classify and “historical / drama”. I do enjoy James Bond and 1960’s World War II classics. Perhaps this video caused the same grief in me – and I say grief rather than recoiling from horror – as when seeing photos and films of when the Allies liberated the concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

        That being said, I do believe it is better to discuss the humanitarian agonies of those war zones, and offer readers the possibility of seeing videos that can be upsetting because of their horror content (gruesome executions, etc.) or the absolute grief of a parent in a moment when that person should have been respected and not filmed. This kind of thing is extremely powerful to those with empathy. I probably have too much empathy! To fail to understand this aspect might arise from being a type of personality with little or no empathy. I make no judgement in that regard, but I would never aggress the intimate emotional life of other people.

        I don’t believe in censorship and depriving freedom of speech either. There is a balance. Freedom for one person has its limit where the freedom of another person begins. We have to discern these barriers. Perhaps we can use implicit means of getting a message over, but with a certain amount of “veiling” – which is why I have added to this article a photo of pieces of dolls in a box. The message is there, but the grief of the parents is respected.

        Even if we are emotionally provoked against the perpetrators of the atrocities, we have to ask ourselves the question of what we can do. Most of us are absolutely unable to do anything. We are misinformed about the thousands of refugees and “economic migrants” coming into Europe (though the frontiers are now closed). Many are people who have been through the most incredible suffering and have lost everything. They need to be helped by the proper authorities and humanitarian organizations. There is also a Trojan Horse operation being conducted by Daesh, Al Qaida and others to get terrorists into Europe to kill people in Europe. That is why we private individuals can do nothing.

        Think before exposing someone’s private and heart-felt grief, because some of us can feel it, suffer from it, and suffer from being unable to help.

      • Fr Anthony. Perhaps its because we live and minister in different settings that we have a different appreciation on this? I live and minister in an urban, inner-city environment (Brighton is no longer just a seaside town) at the harsh coal-face of societal and civil indifference and generally grow more wearisome of apathy or resignation to current affairs i.e. to the plight of the impoverished and defenceless both in our midst and far away. Last November I was a key-note speaker in a discussion at the House of Lords about the Syrian Refugee crisis and “our” response, my apostolate is supporting “Brighton & Hove a City of Sanctuary” who’s aims are… “to celebrate the contribution of those that have come here for safety and we hope to reduce isolation, fear, and exclusion.”

        While we cannot perhaps ourselves directly influence government policy let alone organise a military response to the crisis in the Middle East, there are a great many things we can do even from the relative comfort of our armchair and at least two that everyone could do – prayer and awareness. The former perhaps is a given – though too many think like that and forget to pray. The latter we can use through social media to heighten and raise awareness of the plight of those whose homes and lives are being literally destroyed “for no good reason”. This sometimes requires using provocative and reactionary material to awaken people to reality – especially as the majority on social media are dwelling in, what I would call a malaise of “virtual reality”. Not all, of course, but very many, for some it is a deliberate vehicle to avoid their living reality, which is why sometimes I think it appropriate to show the contrast of other’s people’s current lives and experiences if only briefly to make others realise that “there is always someone else worse off than you”.

        So I admit, yes, to sometimes posting provocative material to elicit a reaction – any reaction, as in marketing they say “there is no such thing as bad publicity” and in the great media scrum that is the internet, getting one’s message out is not as easy as most might assume; running a charitable company I appreciate this. My efforts for the homeless in Brighton are often thwarted by apathy and ignorance, its amazing the lack of appreciation others have of “the need” let alone the level of need that is not supported by statutory bodies. Our effort now includes not just homeless individuals but families and pregnant mothers, forced to seek our help with the drug addicts, alcoholics and socially challenged of our community. I helped found an ecumenical mental awareness charity to enable churches to cope with the occasional “difficult” visitor but also to raise awareness of what some of their own flock are enduring – one person in four in the UK suffers mental illness of some kind. But even then, the level of “buy-in” is poor, only twenty churches out of over a hundred sent somebody to our Mental Health First Aid course (a nationally recognised qualification).

        After years of battling against the ignominy of not being “mainstream” and suffering the derision and falsity of misinformation, misportrayal and character assassination by those who should know better as Christians, yet at the same time endeavouring to “do something”, perhaps you’ll forgive me for being myself occasionally, reactionary or provocative though that may sometimes be? I don’t mean to cause anyone any deliberate offence, nor do I not have some sympathy for those whose sensibilities are perhaps more easily upset than mine. But I don’t keep doing what I do despite many obstacles, without myself having feelings of empathy and sympathy for those I strive to serve and of course, I have feelings myself.

      • Dear Archbishop Jerome, Yes, I think our worlds are far apart as are our ways of relating to them. My own Bishop is also connected to humanitarian efforts via Credo Care. He also has a presence on Facebook, more of a light-hearted way of “being there”. He is also involved in the campaign to preserve English values and the institutions that make for our national stability and sense of identity. Facebook can be used in so many different ways. I use it in a very limited way myself, something like the old Yahoo e-mail list.

        I follow the migrant crisis and the war in the Middle-East closely and have tried to understand things as well as possible in spite of the lies and disinformation coming from all sides. Goebbels would be proud of the use made and refinement of his propaganda techniques! The Americans have lied, the British have lied, and so has Assad and the Russians. Perhaps there is no truth. In this confusion, the natural reaction is apathy. I see the way things are going in England, and over here in France and everywhere else – the rich getting richer and not paying tax and the burden being on the hard-working and the destitute. The truth changes with the quality of the propaganda.

        As for audio-visual means of trying to get back and work for the persecuted, I don’t think isolated videos showing the modern equivalent of freshly gassed bodies at Auschwitz is the thing, but rather systematic presentations about who is doing it and who are sponsoring those who are doing it. Grief paralyses us, and there is evidence that Daesh use outrage (videos of barbaric executions) as a tool for their propaganda, telling us that we can’t win! I understand your analogy of the crucifix and its graphic representation of Christ’s Passion. Some are very sensitive to that, and others need “reward” rather than “punishment”.

        Of course, you and I belong to an “elite” of thinking people, where most people belong to the category of the “hylics” as the old Gnostics termed it. It’s an awful thing to say, but I do find it difficult to understand the “ordinary” family with the TV on from morning until evening with those dreadful variety shows. Perhaps with those people, show a good hanging, drawing and quartering – but would they not see it being as lackluster as villains being killed in James Bond films? Explain the reality to them, and we will find that their thought patterns are not ours. Perhaps those people don’t look at Facebook or the pages that link to you and your FB-friends. The chances are that your FB contacts need no converting!

        I have discovered quite a lot about marketing through my translating work. I hate that world and doing a job in that domain fills me with loathing. What do we do with so much suffering around us? I last lived in a city (Rome) in 1986. Since then I have lived in the country. Perhaps I lack courage or altruism, or perhaps I would prefer to die than live in town. The way I feel about things sometimes, I wish I could live on a boat and stay for as long as possible at sea! At the same time, I am aware of many things. I have written about drugs and addiction on my blog, though the worst thing I have been addicted to was cigarettes. Mental illness is another thing: I go along with Jung’s idea is that the whole of our sick society should be on the psychiatrist’s couch. I suspect that I might be somewhere on the Aspergers spectrum, but I have had to learn to cope in life and compensate for my difficulties going back to childhood. I have known bipolar people and schizophrenics. People in some homes are living like beasts. You need huge resources to set up charitable bodies for that sort of thing, and it helps to be a mental health professional to know what you are doing.

        The drama of a priest seeking “niche ministry” – the possibilities are very narrow. You seem to thrive in it. I would be useless at it, so I see my own limitations there. There is very little room for a “non-mainstream” priest, and the reason is very understandable: most independent clergy are charlatans or self-deluded. That how it looks to me. In America, the most sincere and genuine ones are taking an extremely low profile and are more assimilated to underground priests under persecution than copies of notables of mainstream institutions. I’m not pointing a finger in any direction, just saying what I find with some independent clergy. It is very difficult to get trusted. We in the ACC are only just looking better after years of suffering the consequences of the “Bishops’ Brawl” of 1997!

        It’s not easy to avoid making mistakes and their consequences from backfiring from us. I have known people who have tried to help at the Jungles in Calais and Dunkerque, and they often get beaten up by the people they were trying to help. There is the heart-wrenching side and there are the arrogant young men raping women and damaging property. In the next years, we can only expect the rise of the Right and authoritarianism. Action breeds reaction. I drove past the Calais Jungle last Friday, and my reaction was “poor sods” for listening to their friends on smartphones saying that England was El Dorado. They endured dungeon, fire and sword to get to Calais, and they paid their money to the traffickers – and now they can go further. All round the port is like East Berlin in the 1970’s. The only way this can go is genocide or mass deportations. Where?

        The gasses corpses of Auschwitz made the world hate Nazism, but what was needed was for lasting peace to come out of it. We now move into a new phase, one of world war and death – and more gassed corpses. We have learned nothing from history.

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