Prince Prospero's Castle
The recent riots by Christian Indonesians creates an interesting contrast to the usual headline. In a reversal of roles, Christians are rioting to protest the execution of militiamen who performed criminal acts and murdered innocent people. In my view it is just as wrong as if it were the other way around . Therefore it should be condemned.
PALU, Indonesia — Christian mobs torched cars, looted Muslim-owned shops and burned a prison, freeing hundreds of inmates, in violence touched off by Friday's executions of three Roman Catholics convicted of instigating attacks on Muslims. On the island of Flores, the executed men's birthplace, machete-wielding mobs ran through the streets Friday, sending women and children running in panic, police and witnesses said. ...
Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus da Silva, 42, were found guilty of leading a Christian militia that launched a series of attacks on Muslims in May 2000 that left at least 70 people dead. Human rights workers say the men's 2001 trial was a sham, and that while it was possible the men took part in some of the violence, they almost certainly were not the leaders. ...
Palu, where the executions took place, was largely calm, with thousands of police standing on street corners and guarding markets and churches. But violence flared in the Sulawesi villages of Tentena and Lage, where hundreds of Christians rampaged after learning of the deaths. Thousands also rallied in the eastern province of East Nusatenggara, home to many Roman Catholics, blockading roads and setting fire to government buildings, including a courthouse and a prosecutor's office.
This kind of phenomenon was not unknown on the island of Mindanao, where Christian militias arose in opposition to marauding bands of Muslim "rebels" -- really glorified outlaws -- and these militias committed atrocities themselves. I remember how in one village the elders recounted how they had been repeatedly raided by these Muslim gangs, who slit open the bellies of pregnant women, along with the usual acts of murder and pillage. Then one day a busload of Muslims accidentally stopped in this godforsaken town. Not the guilty parties but just ordinary Muslims who were on their way someplace on some lawful occasion. And they were killed to a man and buried in a mass grave. The villagers' goal was not justice; just simple revenge. And the same tableaux was enacted on the wider canvas. As a Libyan-supported gang called the MNLF ran rampage across southern Mindanao it was met in many localities by a paramilitary "Christian" gang called the Ilaga, which is dialect for Rat, led by a bizarre character called Toothpick, of whom I have written about before. Toothpick himself could be described, not to put too fine a point on it, as criminally insane, and his men were no better. Together, these two groups waltzed each other across the length and breadth of the Zamboanga Peninsula -- the Rats versus the Jihadis -- and it would be a bold man who could pick the better of the two. That would be like finding a cool spot in hell. I'll bet dollars to donuts that such pickup militias are to be found everywhere along the bloody borders of ethnic conflict, from Chechnya to Kosovo and probably in Palu, Indonesia as well.
Civilization was invented so that ordinary folks could leave the tasks of vengeance and justice to a state who would presumably dispense it impartially according to laws enacted by common consent. But as states fail to do their job, and as the "International Community" gets reduced to impotence and symbolic acts by the dead weight of political correctness, a growing number of people are finding themselves living in a world of increasing anarchy. Paradoxically, the amount of real civilization in the world -- as represented by actual security and effective governance -- is declining in direct proportion to the increase in the number of filigrees and curlicues in the treaties, declarations, understandings and covenants that the "International Community" has barricaded itself with. Two parallel universes begin to coexist. An imaginary universe obsessed with Global Warming, multiculturalism, world governance and image inhabited by bureaucrats and intellectuals, and a real universe shot with poverty, rife with ethnic hatreds, chaos and inhabited by militias; with the imaginary universe pretending it is in control of the real universe.
I don't want to make too much of a single example, but I think it is reasonable to say that the international system is starved for effective action. The incessant back and forth between the United Nations and Iran over the issue of its uranium enrichment program is classic example of Zeno's paradox as applied to international affairs. Every diplomatic moment halves the distance between warning and activity but the distance, though ever decreasing, never quite crosses the line between thought and deed. We will always almost, but never quite, come to the rescue of Darfur; just as we are condemned to be forever on the verge of stopping Iran's nuclear program. The moment of action never comes; and the process of warning never ends. Kofi Annan denied having advised Iran's Ahmadinejad that he could safely ignore the Security Council's demands to stop the uranium enrichment program. In this case Annan was on the side of right, or at least of fact. He should have admitted the accusation and defended himself by claiming he was only telling the truth.
Returning to the subect of Palu we can say that no it is not appropriate for Christians to riot; nor is it correct for Papal remarks to give rise to international tensions. But the reason this has happened is because the temporal authorities -- and our esteemed opinion leaders -- have taken a long vacation from history and left the rest of us to make it up as we go along. It is not known when they will return. And when they do, perhaps history itself will have moved on.