IDEMA: The question of religion and ethnic cleansing

What we are witnessing today in Iraq is ethnic cleansing, here based on differences within Islam. Is religion the cause of ethnic cleansing or the excuse?
Jul 16, 2014


I just returned from the Balkans, where ethnic cleaning shocked the world in the early 1990s.

In Bosnia, in particular, you still see many buildings riddled with bullet holes. In one heavily Serbian part of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska, our bus passed hundreds of burned-out homes that were once occupied by Bosnian Muslims who were driven out, murdered or put in concentration camps by the Serbian soldiers led by Slobodan Milosevic.

Sarajevo, in the heart of Bosnia, is 80 percent Muslim. In the civil wars, the city was surrounded by Serbian snipers in the hills above the city, who picked off thousands of men, women and children. Many Croatians and even Serbians within the city were also  murdered, but the majority here were Muslims.

The Muslims in the former Yugoslavia are Slavs, forced or enticed to convert when the Turks conquered the area in the 15th century. The only way you can distinguish Muslims from other Slavs is by dress and religious traditions.

Our Muslim guide in Sarajevo made the argument that the civil wars were not about religion as much as land and power. Which invites us to consider as we look at Iraq — is this conflict about differences within Islam, or land and power? I would argue for the latter. 

I believe that religion is used by power-hungry groups to fan the flames of hate. Religion then becomes an ideological justification for conflicts in which the true basis is the desire for power over territory and people.

We should not blame Islam for these conflicts, or Christianity for the civil wars in the Balkans, but rather evil men who want power and use religion as a means to that end.

History gives us many examples. Hitler, a lapsed Roman Catholic, cleansed his conquered territories of Jews, using ancient anti-Semitic prejudices within Christianity to stir up hatred. His real interest, of course, was land, not religion.

American Indians were cleansed from North America because white people wanted their land, and Christianity was used to stir up hate. In the doctrine of “manifest destiny,” religion even provided an ideological basis for extermination and creating reservations.

The Bible is filled with ethnic cleansing with religion being used as a justification for murder and land grabs. Take this chilling illustration from II Samuel 8:l-2: "David defeated the Philistines and subdued them. … He also defeated the Moabites, and making them lie down on the ground, measured them off by the line; he measured out two lines to be put to death and one full line to have their lives spared."  

Today, we would call David a mass murderer — but in the context of the times, he was simply conquering land and killing people inspired by a religious ideology. Also see Joshua 6:17-21, where men, women and children are slaughtered in the name of God, and even all the animals, so the land grab would be complete. Again, murder in the name of God.

Executing people lying on the ground, defenseless, seems to be a Middle Eastern way of killing people, as our TVs are showing us in Iraq. 

If religion really had the same power in our minds and hearts as money, land and power, there would be no wars and no ethnic cleansing — at least in those countries which profess to be religious. Mosques and churches fill the cities and countryside of Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and the other former Yugoslavia republics, yet unspeakable atrocities occurred there in the early ‘90s.

Religion is not the cause of ethnic cleansing and wars, but it can be used, and often is, to justify the violence the same religions warn us against. The evil lies in the human heart.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist



"Christians" as in saved reborn Bible believing disciples earnestly living the Christ like life would not justify murder or any other sin with misquotes and misinterpretations from the Bible. People that pretend to be or think they are saved but are not Christians certainly will justify any vile act and claim it was God’s idea.
As for King David he was under God's own command and never took on an enemy without first praying clutching his Holy Ephod. Did King David prove that even the mightily blessed by God can still be painfully human? He sure did, he sent Uriah to battle and ordered he be slain by the enemy alone to cover his lustful acts but his sin was seen by God and prophets despite his attempt to cover it and Bathsheba’s pregnancy.
God did command in some instances that all be killed in order to end and extinguish corrupted and sinful cultures lest the Hebrew people take on their ways and become corrupted themselves. The Bible points out that when Hebrews disobeyed God and took slaves or spoils things went south, remember Abraham took Hagar and bore a child Ishmael, together Hagar and Ishmael begat the nation of Islam.
We all fall short of the glory of God and the challenge is to chip away at the sinful US and as lesser amounts of US remains greater the residence of the Holy Spirit (God) who becomes the Lord of our lives while decommissioning self as lord.


The new testament has written in warnings about false Christ's and the Greek word along in that sentence is the word "Mega" So there will be Mega false teachers, Christ's and false prophets. Written also is by their fruits we will know them. People and so many churches create a "Jesus of their own mind(s)" and think they are going to Heaven when if fact their lives reflect continual unrepentant deception, narcissistic attitudes that lands them in front of an all powerful, all knowing God saying "depart from me I never knew you" Discernment has been lost here in many churches. No one really agonizes to get to know the Jesus of the Bible. Oh they will take the Catholic Jesus, or the Jehovah's witnesses Jesus or just one in their own minds like an imaginary lover. But not the one in the Bible. And their shallow, phony lives reflect that fruit. So fruit inspections should be done before joining any church or group of believers.


The situation as presented by Rev Idema is not entirely dissimilar from what we are experiencing here in the US - an influx of undocumented refugee children who are fleeing their violent homeland.

It's not going well. Besides being used as a political football, it is creating angry divisiveness among citizens of towns that are scheduled to temporarily take in some these homeless children, according to immigration law and awaiting their scheduling to go before immigration court. There was a face-off in Oracle, AZ; even Michigan gained national attention when in Vassar, MI, a group of men carrying military assault weapons converged on the town to show their anger about a facility that was to house some of the children.

I think it should be mentioned that Jesus was an undocumented child refugee, forced to leave his home country under the violent King Herod.


Not sure they issued documents back in those days. But heard a republican senator mention that eighty percent of the refugees were male. And eighty three percent of those were between fifteen and eighteen years old. and I quote "prime gang recruitment age" Could be a bunch of govt. subsidized thugs. On the other hand. They could be anything else, with the education and guidance a stable family life provdes.


"We should not blame Islam for these conflicts, or Christianity for the civil wars in the Balkans, but rather evil men who want power and use religion as a means to that end."

For a man of God to make a specious argument that there is moral equivalency between the savages of Boko Haram and ISIS in 2014 and Christianity, whether going back to the Crusades or the highly questionable history of the the Reverend regarding the Balkans, is disingenuous and an equivalency only a committed Progressive could draw. Nothing less than I have learned to expect from the Left Reverend. For a more balanced, educated look at the history of Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodocs in the Balkens, see


This, from a top commentor on another forum, (who happens to be a Michigander), commenting on the expectation of an Israeli occupation of Gaza:

"To the best of my understanding, it is not possible to ensure summer vacation, a normal summer for our kids without a ground operation in Gaza."--Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister.

Whether gallows humor, condescending sarcasm, or moral depravity, his statement summarizes Israeli callousness and cynicism: wipe out a people; exterminate. The idea of forcing a mass evacuation from their homes on threat of death is revisiting the mindset of Naziism. As a Jew I ask, what has happened to my people, my religion, its ethical teachings, its history of engagement in progressive causes, whether civil rights, labor unionism, antiwar, the nuts-and-bolts of American democracy in action which, absent Jewish participation, is no longer the same, and for the American Jewish community has become a transmogrification of original, indeed primal, HUMANENESS into mass population removal, wholesale bombing of defenseless populations, and now, a center for the disabled?

Lieberman, Netanyahu, etc., what summer vacations do you think Palestinian children look forward to, what "normal summer" when they, their mothers, their fathers are facing death, destruction, loss of home, inadequate medical supplies, blockade? Except in America, Israel will be known in the world as a Society of Butchers, steeped so deeply in militarism as no longer even able to envision, much less act on, MORAL CHOICE.

Mass evacuation, so their homes can be destroyed, equals ethnic cleansing. "


How does it escape a reasonable person's notice that the Palestinians started this latest hostility by lobbing rockets into Israel causing the Israeli reaction? How can one ignore that Egypt proposed a reasonable cease fire agreement that was accepted by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians, who cemented their rejection by sending more rockets into Israel?

This is all of a piece of Progressives who ignore the fact that the United States was attacked without provocation on September 11, 2001 and claim that Bush started a war against Afghanistan - ignore facts to attack the best examples of freedom in the world.


First of all Joshua was commanded by God to take Jericho,IE: the actual God of the Bible. Clearly stated in Jericho 6:2-5. So should we go by your interpretation of "murder in the name of God"? Or should we go by what the Bible says? Same case with David seeking first the Kingdom of God, praying reverently before battle. Odd to summarize God's commands(again the true God of the Bible) as "religious ideology",seemingly insinuating a personally inspired religious conquest. Seems like a real stretch comparing extremists of Islam and the likes of Hitler to men like Joshua and David, who according to the Bible were inspired by the true God. There is a huge difference between "religion" and Christianity. It appears that the only accurate Biblical statement in the article may be the very last sentence : Matthew 15:19

The situation in the Balkans is far more complex than described by Mr. Idema. The hatred of Serbs and to some extent Croats for the Muslims dates back 500 years.
The Ottoman Empire, under the mandate of Islam, warred against the Balkans for centuries. Of significant importance was the practice of kidnapping boys of Balkan christians at a young age, raising them as muslims, training them as soldiers (the Janissaries) and using them in wars against their own people. This practice of literally turning son against father, family, religion and culture has bred within the Serbian culture and mindset a deep and abiding hatred for all things Islam.
Therefore to see a fellow Slav practice this religion is an affront unlike anything most of could ever imagine much less experience.

About a third of the territory of today's Bosnia is predominantly Serb. These provinces have seceded from Bosnia and are semi independent and closely aligned with neighboring Serbia. The UN refuses to recognize them as an independent state nor accept their desire to be incorporated into greater Serbia. Does this make sense? Don't these people have a right to self determination? Forcing Orthodox Serb and Muslim Bosnian, called Bosniaks, to live together in a muslim dominated country is just stupid.

Back to Iraq. Many knowledgable people suggested partitioning the country after Saddam was ousted. There exists two major ethnicities, Kurd and Arab, and two major forms of Islam, Sunni and Shiite. And there has always been animosity among them. Like Yugoslavia, they existed as a country only as long as a brutal dictator was able to suppress dissent. To believe they could co-exist voluntarily is simply illogical.
It is time to realize that democracy is not compatible with these cultures.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.