Syria: jihadism cannot be ignored, Father Dall'Oglio says

One part open to dialogue, theologians must listen to understand

12 April, 17:14

    (by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MARCH 12 - Jihadism is a cultural, political and military reality that is growing stronger by the day and cannot be ignored, not even on the theological level, according to Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian Jesuit who lived in Syria for 30 years before being expelled by Damascus authorities in 2012.

    The jihadist galaxy is ''a considerable cultural, religious, political and military subject'', he told ANSAmed in an interview, stressing the weight of jihadism ''in its local and transnational expressions'' within the current ''geo-strategic'' framework.

    ''It is a political and military actor whose weight must be reckoned with, given that is has won in Iraq, is winning in Afghanistan, will not be defeated in Mali, and is making a solution for Somalia impossible'', he added.

    What is to be done? ''First of all, operating on an intelligence level to prevent even graver consequences and to bring about the downfall of its projects to universalize terror''.

    But action must also occur on the social level, continued the Jesuit, a recent guest at the Anna Lindh Foundation Euro-Mediterranean Forum in Marseille.

    This means ''helping Islamic civil societies take their responsibilities on the ground'', he added in reference to areas that have fallen under the control of Islamist forces, which have until now been excluded if not banned from power. ''They have lived off criticism, but now must begin to live on assumed responsibility, and to work to organize their societies''.

    The founder of the Mar Musa monastic community for interfaith dialogue north of Damascus, the Jesuit has the Syrian civil war uppermost in his mind.

    ''It's important to protect the democratic diversity of the Syrian people, which, feeling abandoned, turned to jihadism to free themselves of the regime'' of President Bashar al-Assad.

    Diversity within the Muslim world must also be protected, he added, in order to ''defend the pluralism that exists within Islam, which is also an ethnic pluralism''. But in order to do this, the three monotheistic religions must make ''a theological effort'' to analyze ways to stand up to Islamism and political jihadism, Dall'Oglio said, inviting their intellectual communities to ''listen in order to foster mutual understanding''. There are two types of jihadism, he stressed. ''One that is open to dialogue'' and another that is rigidly dogmatic, ''harder to manage, a swamp in which all sorts are crawling, from secret services to mafiosi to extremists. A swamp which we must pull our youth, our children out of: religious youth, that need religious discourse, which they certainly do not find in prisons like Guantanamo''.

    As far as Syria, Dall'Oglio concludes, ''in the first phase I fought for a diplomatic intervention'' to prevent the great international conflicts ''from being fought on the living bodies of Syrians''. Then he supported a non-violent NGO presence ''when everything was still possible, that is, until the summer of 2011''. But now the time has come, he concludes, for ''the right to self-defense and the obligation to rescue a people in great adversity''. (ANSAmed).

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