It seems that the declaration of a renewed Islamic caliphate in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah last January is something that was far more than a publicity stunt and indeed will need to be taken very seriously. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام) has apparently taken control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city of nearly 2 million souls, roughly 200 miles north of Baghdad, roughly in the same location as the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire Ninevah. This is the same group who declared the caliphate just after the New Year in Fallujah and who have been fighting over a broad swathe of western Iraq and eastern and northern Syria for the past couple of years. The ISIL has apparently seized the provincial government office in Mosul and several other important sites on the west bank of the Tigris River including the airport (with several military aircraft) and several prisons. Iraqi security forces are reported to have dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms and fled once the fighting became serious. Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki asked his Parliament to declare a nationwide state of emergency and pledged to send reinforcements north to contain the militants. Mosul is on the edge of the Kurdish autonomous region and its leader Massoud Barzani appealed for international help as thousands of refugees fled to the Kurdish region from the beleaguered city, but he made no commitment for his peshmerga to make any move against ISIL in the city.
Whether this is the start of some new Islamic empire I cannot say, nor can anyone else. Great movements in history have small beginnings. The ISIL has seemed to prove itself more effective in Iraq than in Syria where it finds itself at odds with other rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al Assad, but its influence in Syria should not be underestimated. In any case they seem to have reduced the Iraq/Syria border to a mere line on a map in many areas and they seem to be quite well armed and funded and if they can succeed in holding Mosul then it will be the greatest propaganda coup in the group’s history.
Chaos is spreading in the Middle East and we are seeing how the efforts of a few well motivated individuals can change the course of history. But there are other means than guns or bombs or vast military offensives. These are of the world and must perish as the world perishes. Prayer and sacrifice and the offering of one’s life through Jesus Christ to the glory of the Father will yield eternal results. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.