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Who will fight for our freedoms now?


Clear thinkers and champions of freedom are in short supply, all the more so with the death of George Jonas.

jonasGeorge Jonas

This column was already underway when news arrived on Sunday afternoon of the death of our colleague, George Jonas.  Displaced from his native Hungary by totalitarianism, he — in the words of his Saturday compatriot in these pages, Robert Fulford — "never gave up trying to protect freedom — from communists, fascists, Islamists or any other totalitarians."

He was inspired to defend freedom by the assaults upon it that he survived, and his courage and clarity inspired others to do the same.  His death came at the end of a week in which the need for the likes of Jonas was painfully evident, and the discouraging news is that there are not so many like him.

Last week marked the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the first of two Islamist mass killings in Paris last year.  After a full year to think about what happened, and a regular diet of Islamist terror killings as food for thought, the dismal news is that the likelihood of reversing this threat to our freedoms and security is very low.  Unable to articulate a defence of our heritage of liberty, we enter the battle of ideas unarmed, and so we have to pretend that there is no great battle to be fought at all.

For example, take this otherwise pedestrian introduction to the anniversary from the Canadian Press: "On Jan.  7, 2015, two French- born brothers killed 11 people inside the building where the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo operated, as well as a Muslim policeman outside.  Over the next two days, an accomplice shot a policewoman to death and then stormed a kosher supermarket, killing four hostages.  All three gunmen died."

It takes some doing not to mention that the killers were Islamists, or that Jews were killed at the supermarket.  That a Muslim police officer was killed is noted, which is a strange place to start with religious identifications in this story.  But it is not strange if the only value you have is the desire not to make a judgment between competing ideologies, cultures or religions.

It takes some doing not to mention that the killers were Islamists, or that Jews were killed at the supermarket. 

The Catholic bishops of France issued a statement for the anniversary that declared that the French "must urgently rethink our educational model, learn to work with the most deprived, show real moderation in our respect for creation, see the human being as worthy of infinite respect from conception to natural death, fight injustices, welcome difference and change our view of foreigners.  It is together, without any form of exclusion, that we will succeed in giving our country an impetus and perspective again."

All of which is true, but not at all evident how it might be relevant to the very critical problem of Islamist violence.  A theological response might point out the error of theological positions that promote violence, but that would offend the cultural mandate of not giving offence.

At Charlie Hebdo itself, where giving offence is the purpose of the whole operation, its anniversary cover took aim at Christianity, which is safe to do in France, even popular, but also irrelevant to the massacre of a year ago.

I don't care for Charlie Hebdo and, after suffering the brutal murder of its staff last year, am not inclined to demand of it anything at all.  Yet after a full year, its response is not to put the Prophet Muhammad on the cover under the caption "the assassin is still on the loose," but rather an unmistakably Christian image of God the Father, complete with a Trinitarian symbol and adorned with bloody hands and a Kalashnikov.  It wasn't religion in general that slaughtered the staff at Charlie Hebdo, and it certainly wasn't Christianity.  Yet even at Charlie Hebdo, there is an apparently advanced incapacity to think and speak (or draw) clearly about the threats to our freedom.

The year just past was a particularly bloody one for Islamist violence.  It concluded with a new year's eve rampage that brought the sexual violence of Tahrir Square to the platz of German cities.  Will 2016 be better or worse?  No one knows, but the eagerness to overlook the nature of the violence plaguing us suggests that effective resistance will be unlikely.

Clear thinkers and champions of freedom are in short supply, all the more so with the death of George Jonas.  Requiescat in pace.

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NationalPostFather Raymond J. de Souza, "Who will fight for our freedoms now?" National Post, (Canada) January 13, 2016.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

Photo:  Tyler Anderson/National Post.

The Author

desouza Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

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