Six months ago, I posted a short meditation on cosmic evil. Since then, the Ebola fatalities figure has climbed from 1000 to almost 10,000. The body count in Ukraine amounts to at least 5400, over twice the estimate of last August. The immediate violence in Gaza resolved at around 2200 deaths, though of course nothing is really resolved.
Figures from ISIS and the chaos that surrounds them are still uncertain but certainly horrific. More than 210,000 have been killed in Syria in the last four years, and three and a half million have fled the country. Last year alone, 17,000 civilians died violently in Iraq. Christian communities that have occupied the Middle East for 1900 years have vanished completely. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and Muslims are starving in refugee camps.
Meanwhile, ISIS has drawn tens of thousands of young men and women, a substantial minority of them raised in secular western states, into its vision of an Islamist utopia born from apocalyptic violence. They seem completely fearless of divine or human retribution. Their assets amount to billions of dollars. The spokesman in a video from Libyan ISIS, released last Sunday and showing a massacre of about 21 Christians, reminded viewers that Libya is just opposite Rome, the ancient heart of western Christendom.
If I am distant from the media coverage, I am not physically remote from the suffering. As the crow flies, I’m only 640 kilometers away from Mosul. That is about half the distance from my parents’ house in Virginia to my wife’s family in Mississippi. I could drive there in a day, had I a car and were the borders open.
Of course, these statistics can convey nothing of the suffering experienced by each soul. Quantification cannot touch on the true nature of the beast. But there seems no other way to even hint at the magnitude of the destruction, as the world rolls on toward judgment.
I am not raising an alarm. I am in no position to pontificate. I am simply grieving, and seeking repentance for my own part in evil.
EDIT: It is completely coincidental, but perhaps appropriate, that I have posted this on the eve of Ash Wednesday.