In modern societies people nowadays regard the notion of a holy war as nothing more than a contradiction. The deliberate slaughter and wholesale destruction of people and societies seems to be as far from holiness as one can get, surely.
However, religion and war have gone hand in hand for centuries and still do. Armies of young men forge ahead into battle with a belief that God is with them, He is on their side and will keep them safe irrespective of the risk. In biblical times, losing a war sometimes meant changing religion for the losers.
However, for war to be a holy war there has always been a central point of focus with religion being the spearhead. Preconditions such as the achievement of a religious objective, the authorisation of a religious leader and possibly spiritual rewards for the victors have a tendency to be ‘just war’ conditions.
Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war, (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith) which were briefly; spreading the faith, rescuing Christians, recover religious sites being profaned and avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago). From this you can see that the conflict against ISIS qualifies from every angle and perspective.
The British government managed an aggressive and pernicious campaign to overturn an embarrassing 2013 parliamentary vote on the bombing of Syria. It succeeded, but only after the Paris killing spree and the refugee crisis it was attached to. The reality for the government is that its citizens do not support its actions in Syria. The latest polls suggest less than half support the bombing of Syria and a third strongly object. How will they react when they find out Britain will start bombing Libya quite soon, one can only speculate.
The government accepts that it needs a new narrative to continue the indiscriminate and illegal killing of countless innocent civilians abroad to support it’s commitments to domestic weapons manufacturers and blindly follow American foreign policy.
The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state but the Church, or person who heads the religious institution concerned.
This Christmas we have witnessed something quite extraordinary