How to disrupt ISIS recruitment
SIR – I recently visited the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, the scene of the siege of Marawi, where the ISIS affiliated Maute group briefly took over the city and inevitably met their end. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to stir people from passivity and complacency, face a situation head-on and contend with it.
I met the staff of Duyog Marawi, a group initiated by the Redemptorist order with support from the wider Catholic Church in the Philippines. Their staff and volunteers are Muslims and Catholics, mostly young people who are committed to peace and the restoration of the lives of those affected by the troubles in Marawi. “Duyog” means to “accompany” and the group intends to “journey with” the Meranaw people as they move through the various stages of recovery and development.
Before the insurrection in Marawi, ISIS recruited children as young as nine as fighters. The younger they are, the easier to brainwash, coerce and manipulate. The Maute family ran a residential school where many were recruited, and while their families noticed how their joy left them to be replaced by aggression and hatred, they did not anticipate the outcome. Now, however, through Duyog Marawi, the Muslim community has taken ownership of the problem.
Duyog Marawi is now involved in countering the ideology and recruitment tactics of ISIS through a mobile madrasa (Islamic school) for the children and a similar system to reach older youth to warn them ahead of time and teach them proper values. They are seriously disrupting ISIS recruitment through their efforts.
As I listened to the three courageous young Meranaw Duyog Marawi staff, Juji, Jam and Hudaifa, it occurred to me that every young person seeks to know and find his part in the larger story, a noble or worthy cause to champion. Along with their Christian colleagues they had chosen the way of peace. They are the beacons of hope for a shared, common future.
Perhaps communities in other nations can learn from this excellent project and apply a similar model to prevent radicalisation of the young.
Manila, the Philippines
We need another St John Fisher
SIR – Bishop Marcus Stock proposes that the election could be crucial for Catholic schools (Britain news analysis, November 20).
However, are our concerns confined solely to whether or not we will retain the right to choose whom to admit to our schools or might there be matters of a higher concern?
Catholic schools have long been said to attain higher than average academic standards and may that continue. We do need to provide well-rounded and fit citizens for this world, but what of eternity? If we do not at the same time produce saints for heaven then what success can we claim?
In his book Hope for the World, Cardinal Raymond Burke cites the gradual diminution in the quality of the teaching of the Faith throughout the 1960s. Anecdotally, some commentators suggest that of the available options for the education of our children, the numbers continuing to practice the Faith on leaving school shows the least favourable result among former attendees of Catholic schools. Why is this? Are we to ignore this trend and say nothing?
Then there is the matter of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to be taught in our Catholic schools as of next September as mandated by the Government. As a grandfather of grandchildren attending Catholic schools, I do not accept the bishops’ assurance that “all is in keeping with Catholic teaching”. If our teaching extends beyond that of stating that the only licit place for sexual expression is within holy matrimony, then that is not Catholic teaching and no amount of “age appropriateness” can alter that. Are we still the Church that Christ founded or are we merely co-workers in secular society’s social engineering?
There is a parallel to this, is there not? While the majority of bishops of England and Wales acceded to Henry VIII’s declaration pronouncing himself as head of the Church in England, not everyone agreed. The time for another St John Fisher is long overdue.
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
Beads and ballots
SIR – Catherine Lafferty’s reference (Britain news analysis, December 6) to Hilaire Belloc’s candidacy on behalf of the Liberal Party for the parliamentary seat of Salford in 1906 is a useful and timely comparison with the expulsion of Rob Flello by the Lib Dem party on account of his Catholic faith.
However, despite the fact that Belloc received “warm applause” after declaring at his first campaign rally in Manchester with rosary in hand, “If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative”, that clearly wasn’t the same reaction (even from some prelates) when the Italian politician Matteo Salvini brandished his rosary at political rallies and in the Chamber of Deputies.
One has to wonder now in this present era of libertine atheism in respect of politics whether or not the pious Belloc would also survive the constructed label “alt-right”.
On the other hand, Ms Lafferty is perhaps wrong to claim that Belloc was on hostile territory in “Nonconformist Manchester” as even by 1906, the Diocese of Salford was over 50 years old and the Catholic population was not insignificant.
Edmund P Adamus
No ordinary person
SIR – St Joseph’s role in the infancy narrative, which we will soon be hearing, is an important one. Yet his part in that narrative is often misunderstood. We know that he was “a just man” and that he and Mary were “betrothed”. We know also that when Mary was “found to be with child” he resolved to send her away. And this is where the misunderstanding comes in.
I believe that those who speculate about Joseph’s assessment of the situation often get it completely wrong. They imagine that Joseph, knowing that he was not the father of Mary’s child, could only have reached one possible conclusion: that Mary must have been unfaithful. After all, no one in history had ever been conceived without a human father. But this view of Joseph’s assessment limits it to that of an ordinary person. And Joseph was no ordinary person – he was quite extraordinary.
I’m sure that the reason why Joseph decided to send Mary away, was not that he felt that she was unworthy of him. It was the other way round. If, as many believe, he and Mary had already taken a vow of celibacy, he knew that Mary would not have broken that vow – any more than he would. And so, if Mary had conceived, Joseph knew that there could only be a supernatural explanation. And his first reaction was that he was not worthy (pre-figuring Peter) to be part of this extraordinary situation. But, of course, he was.