Upon reading about the the church in Baghdad that was attacked and seized, it was hard not to think of Beslan. The New York Times reported:

A day after Iraqi forces stormed a church in Baghdad where gunmen had taken close to 100 hostages, Interior Ministry officials said on Monday that at least 58 people, including two priests, had been killed and 75 wounded in an afternoon of chaos that became a bloodbath. The death toll was considerably higher than initially reported.

Reading on, the comparison becomes more fitting as we see that, like Beslan, it nudged barbarism into the realm of ghoulism. Happy Halloween indeed.

Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi, the defense minister, said that most of the hostages were killed or wounded when the kidnappers set off at least two suicide vests as they took over the church.

One pictures the besiegers apparently unfazed by operating in proximity to the corpses, blood, and body parts they created. It’s difficult to refrain from speculating whether they, in fact, represented not the Islamic State of Iraq, affiliated with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, but a satanic cult. Oh, right Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is effectively a satanic cult.

No disrespect intended for the dead, but you could make a case that its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was possessed. (If you’ll recall, his greatest hits included beheading Nicholas Berg, the UN bombing in 2003 that killed 22 (including the beloved UN secretary-general’s special Iraqi envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello), and the attacks on the Shia shrines in Karbala and Baghdad in 2004 that killed over 180 and helped turn the sectarian strife into a civil war.

Another person for whom the case can be made that possession by the devil is his problem, too — if it weren’t construed as making excuses for him — is Reverend Terry Jones. Returning to the Times article . . .

The [Coptic] church, with a huge cross visible from hundreds of yards away, was already surrounded with concrete bollards and razor wire, and church leaders have been fearful of attack since the Rev. Terry Jones in Gainesville, Fla., threatened to burn a Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It’s true that, in retrospect, leaving the oversized cross in place might have been tempting fate, but deflecting blame onto the church is heartless. Meanwhile, are Focal Points readers inclined to accept the rationale that the Islamic State of Iraq was extracting revenge on Christianity for Rev. Jones’s act? If you are, do you blame the reverend for not anticipating this kind of blowback at a Christian target?

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