A GREAT TEMPEST
ISIS Destroys the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah
The destruction of Shrines is not an act of aggression against a thing. It attacks a people and, in this case, it offends Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The destruction of the Tomb of Jonah at Mosul is based on a ‘fundamentalist’ notion that even a revered grave or sacred site is offensive to the oneness and grandeur of God. The extremists claim they are destroying idolatry. Two thoughts come to mind:
First, the situation in Iraq caused by the rise of ISIS has been brewing for a long time. It is important for us not to confuse the political ambitions of ISIS with authentic Islam no matter what they may claim. Too easily we are tempted to believe the extremists speak for the norm of a religion and its people. The violence of ISIS is not justified by its religious claim. Certainly the use of more indiscriminate violence to combat ISIS is no solution. The violence of the past two wars in Iraq has only created the situation for more mistrust and violence. At a certain point a population becomes weary and even unwilling to protect itself. We are witnessing the ill effects of greed and priority of oil over life itself. The violence of the present moment has its roots in that greed for wealth and lust for oil (two idols we need to overcome.)
Second, the unwarranted destruction of a site revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims reminds us of the common spiritual heritage the people of these faiths have but so seldom enjoy. Perhaps this destruction of Jonah’s Tomb is a rallying call for all people of good will to rise to the occasion in the cause of peace. While we cannot be attached to stones and buildings, the destruction of these is no less an attack on a peoples’ heritage, culture, and religious expression. Violence must not have the last word.
Jonah is the prophet of making friends with a supposed enemy. Jonah became angry with God’s love for the wayward people who heard the word of the Prophet and repented. Jonah had to confront his desire for punishment and revenge. Perhaps the destruction of the prophet’s Tomb evokes his spirit so we might work in the cause of understanding and serving one another.
Never in history has violence reconciled or united a people. At some point, the need for peace built on true justice rises to the surface. As people in many parts of the world grow weary and numb at the violence around them, we must not be surprised if they suddenly express their hurt in rage. We must learn to care for one another rather than worship the idolatry of might. What Jonah heard in his time, we must hear now:
… should I, your God, not be concerned about (the people) of the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons? …Jonah 4: 11
The true God of Jonah not only forgives but embraces all. Jonah had to overcome his anger at God’s inclusiveness. Exclusion only buries people in resentment, fear, and hostility. May God’s concern for the people of the great city be our concern for one another and the peoples of the world.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The Interfaith Peace Project