The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joined a number of other political leaders in Europe and elsewhere in declaring that his country is now at war with IS. There may not have but a formal, legal declaration of war, but his statement expressed his conviction that IS is acting in a way that demands an international response, in which the Netherlands will have to play a more substantial role than providing a few F-16’s.
Recent events—in particular in the last week in France—raise many difficult questions. How can IS be dealt with? Should the solution be primarily a military one, with all the risks of unforeseen escalations? What does IS plan to do in the near future? Could the Netherlands also become a target? Is there a chance that IS might resort to the use of chemical weapons?
The secret services work overtime to discover what attacks are being planned, and by whom. However, we all know that absolute security cannot be guaranteed. It is impossible to protect all public meetings, each bus and train, and all ferries and cruise ships. As long as there are people who are willing to blow themselves up for their ideal, ‘incidents’ will happen.
We are faced with the urgent question whether recent events will greatly impact on the policies regarding asylum seekers. Do these events put the Muslims in such a negative light that, as a result of public pressure, western countries will reduce the number of people they are willing to admit? Will all this be extra ammunition for populist politicians who detest Islam? How will this influence future political relationships in Europe? Etcetera, etcetera.
There are also questions of a different kind—questions a Christian should ask. Or, more specifically: questions that I must ask myself as an Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I am not a one hundred percent pacifist, but am very reluctant to agree with any military interventions. There are plenty of examples where violence has only provoked more violence rather than bringing peace. But I understand that something must be done when people are taken hostage and are subsequently beheaded and when people try to kill people in restaurants and concert halls at random
In addition, there are theological questions, in particular in the area of eschatology. Should Adventists consider the possibly that their traditional end-time scenario must be revised? Is Catholicism—assisted by ‘apostate’ Protestantism–the real enemy of the future, or might Islam be a greater danger? Or would it be better to keep all options open and refrain from too many predictions?
Should we perhaps concentrate all efforts on cultivating good relationships with Muslims in our environment? Must we more intently show that we are the ‘neigbors’ of all people—also of the people who live in our asylum seeker centers? Should we not do more to support projects that aim it increasing tolerance for people with other ethnicities and beliefs, and to prevent the distribution of stereotypical perceptions? Might organizations like ADRA not pay special attention to improving the social and economic conditions in a number of Islamic countries, so that radical Islamic ideas become less attractive for the local population? Would it not be good if local Christian (including Adventist) faith communities would get more involved with social and educational projects for those who have recently migrated to Europe?
The developments in the world are complex, confusing and unpredictable. But, in any case, they demand a truly Christian reaction—individually and collectively. However, when all questions have been asked and everything that we can say has been said, we should continue to underline our conviction that somehow God is still in charge in this world.