UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
A protester in Ottawa demonstrates against the government’s payout to Omar Khadr this past summer. Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Christianity and Khadr: What would Jesus do?

A Christian critique of current affairs

By Michael Coren


Back in July, the Omar Khadr case became a national controversy. For those who’ve forgotten, Khadr, a Canadian, was taken as a boy by his father to Afghanistan, where he fought and was wounded. He was captured, delivered to Guantanamo Bay by the Americans and tortured. Then he confessed — his lawyers say under duress — to throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.

He later said he doesn’t know if he threw the grenade, so we have no idea if that actually happened. What we do know is that the Canadian government did nothing to prevent his incarceration and mistreatment, and that our Supreme Court ruled his rights had been denied and he was owed an apology. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did apologize and also provided $10.5 million in compensation, most of which is likely to go to Khadr’s lawyers.

So much was written at the time about the case that I will not reiterate the arguments now. I believe the government acted properly, and that one can detest jihadist terrorism and still support Khadr.

What interests me now is the profoundly angry reaction from many Christians. From senior politicians to social media warriors, legions of people who describe themselves as orthodox Roman Catholics, Christian patriots, evangelicals and the like accused those who were sympathetic to Khadr as being supporters of terrorism, of not caring about the family of the deceased soldier, of being in favour of Islamic radicalism and of insulting our own military. (By contrast, The United Church of Canada released a statement that said it “respects” the federal government’s decision to apologize to Khadr.)

There was certainly room for civilized disagreement over what happened, but this was not the spirit of the debate at all. It was no longer right and wrong but good and bad. I certainly felt the sting of accusation from countless conservative Christians, and I couldn’t help but think of the prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon,” and so on.

I realize that politics doesn’t always lead to easy and comfortable consensus, but I am convinced that the damage done to informed and respectful debate by social media and 24-hour news has inflicted colossal damage on the Christian conversation.

When we are astounded, upset or even hurt by something that is said, we too often reject the speaker rather than the argument. That’s bad enough in secular life. But if we are convinced that everybody is made in the image of God, how dare we act this way? Instead of trying to find the possible merits of an opposing opinion or understand the reasons why the argument was made in the first place, we reduce it to a caricature and then attribute base motives.

We must do better.

And no, that’s not me being Pollyanna. That’s me trying to listen to Jesus Christ.



Author's photo
Michael Coren is an author and journalist in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image