Three items of news have caught my attention recently. The first is the decision by America’s Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage. Such a decision may have seemed impossible a couple of decades ago, and yet with hindsight it seems incredible that it took so long.
I know that not all readers of my blog will be in favour of this move, but we can all surely be thankful that we live in democratic countries where such decisions are made transparently and peacefully, according to the rule of law, and where open debate about them is possible.
The second item that I could hardly fail to miss was the murder of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Racism is an issue that may presently seem insoluble, yet I’m optimistic that one day it will be solved. And I am confident that the solution will be reached through a combination of free speech, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Indeed, how else could such an issue ever be resolved?
But there’s a third news item that has thrust itself into my field of view – the mass murder of innocent people in several countries by followers of Islamic State. Here my optimism fades. How can free speech, civil rights and democracy defeat people who are explicitly opposed to all three of these principles, and whose aim is to enslave all people to a warped religious belief?
This isn’t a case of one religion against others, or the Middle East against the Free World. Islamic State kills Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and most of its victims are Syrians, Iraqis and other people from Middle Eastern countries.
We’ve faced enemies like this before. Hitler, likewise, sought to force evil ideas on the world, with contempt for democracy, free speech and human rights. Well-meaning people sought to appease him and stop him through peaceful actions, but we know how that ended.
How can you stop someone who is prepared to use lethal force to achieve their ends, and cares nothing for the values that underpin civilization?
The Nazis were defeated through war, and I fear that Islamic State can only be defeated by the same means.