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Over the past month, the world has fallen further and further into turmoil. War and disaster have covered Africa, Russia is instigating unrest in Ukraine and militants are causing problems throughout the Middle East. There seems to be no end in sight to all of this violence. What is particularly dangerous is the use of religion to justify attacks on an innocent populace, the enslavement of free people and the destruction of historic places.

In his "Angelus appeal for peace in Iraq, Gaza," Pope Francis described the situation that we now face: "The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; people massacred; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies."

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In response to these horrible events, he continued, "All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God. War is not to be waged in the name of God. I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the [rule of] law."

Since these words were spoken, a terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State beheaded two journalists, and its militant forces tried to eradicate the Yazidi and Kurdish peoples. Those who are not part of that extreme faction are deemed an enemy, and they seek to destroy Muslim and non-Muslim alike who dare to disagree with any of their beliefs. They have even threatened attacks on United States soil.

With evil present throughout the world, now is not the time to succumb to fear but to grow strong in our faith. Jesus taught us in Matthew 16:25-27 (NRSV): "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct."

We cannot sacrifice our Christian values because we are threatened and afraid. It is our duty to fight for justice, defend others and stand up for what is right. Our world and its people are suffering, and we must act.

A strong military solution appears to be the only thing that will alleviate the current situation, but future peace requires the will of the people to stand up against tyranny. We cannot continue to ignore these problems when they first start, and isolating ourselves will only make things worse.

If we stand idly by and refuse to help, then we have no right to call ourselves Christians.

Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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