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International Column

By; CCGPC International Correspondent Rev. Dr. Ovr. ++Ian Gaylard

Why religion is war’s irresistible weapon

What happens when one of the world’s largest religions starts to split apart? The potential consequences are staggering. It can lead to bitter and uncontrolled conflict, countless deaths and devastated economies.

That hasn’t happened yet in the latest Sunni-Shia split within Islam triggered by Saudi Arabia’s mass executions last weekend. But it did happen nearly four centuries ago during Christianity’s catastrophic religious wars.

Climaxed by the so-called Thirty Years’ War between 1618 and 1648, it became one of the most prolonged, destructive conflicts in European history. It started as a battle between Catholic and Protestant states but eventually engulfed most of Europe in a political bloodbath.

There aren’t exact parallels between these two conflicts, except for one important thing: They both remind us that the exploitive use of religion as an instrument of war seems hard-wired in this planet’s history.

Given that, we shouldn’t be distracted by the inflated religious rhetoric from both sides this week. This clash between the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite theocracy of Iran is more about a struggle for regional power and privilege than it is about Islam.

On Jan. 2, Saudi executioners carried out death sentences by beheading or firing squad on 47 men, most accused of having links with Al Qaeda terrorists. But the most prominent person put to death was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia’s leading Shia cleric who had no connection to Al Qaeda.

In fact, Nimr was an advocate of non-violent resistance to the Saudi monarchy and had been arrested in 2012 for criticizing the royal family. He had long championed the country’s oppressed Shiite minority. In the Islamic world of 1.6 billion, Shiites make up about 15 per cent of Muslims compared with 85 per cent who follow Sunni Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s executions were a breathtaking and dangerous provocation. They seemed designed to inflame Iran, its chief rival in the Islamic world, as well as sabotage the efforts of its historic ally, the United States, to achieve some sort of settlement within the region, including in the Syrian civil war.

Nimr’s execution sparked protests among Shiite communities worldwide, but the most explosive response was in Iran itself. Led by hardliners, mobs set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. This prompted Saudi Arabia to break off diplomatic relations.

The pillaging of the Saudi Embassy embarrassed Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who is being challenged in next month’s parliamentary elections by hardliners who oppose Iran’s recent nuclear agreement. It also enabled Saudi Arabia to claim to the world that it has been the victim in this week’s events.

An irony in this conflict is that Sunni and Shia Muslims, although embracing different views of Islam, have often lived peacefully together. They do not have a history of animosity. But Saudi Arabia now clearly believes that fuelling sectarian tensions will be to its benefit.

Who ultimately will dominate the region? Until recently, Iran had been isolated and ostracized — with no prospect of regional leadership — and that served Saudi interests perfectly. But that is changing.

Empowered now with its nuclear agreement, Rouhani’s Iran shows signs of wanting to become a more engaged member of the international community. But a moderate, economically stable Iran is not a prospect that the Saudis welcome. As much as anything, that explains the brazen brutality of last weekend’s executions.

In fact, the Saudi action strengthens the hands of hardliners everywhere, both within the Middle East and beyond. It makes a peace agreement in Syria nearly impossible and fortifies the hardline opponents of Iran’s moderate government.

Saudi Arabia is playing a very dangerous game. This is incentive enough for the world’s major powers  to use their power and pressure to ensure that Saudi Arabia and Iran follow a path of peaceful coexistence.

Looking back to the 17th century, many historians agree that there was at least one great achievement of the Thirty Years’ War. However bloody and senseless, the conflict helped end the age of religious wars and significantly reduced the destabilizing role of religion in European politics.

Now is not the time for the world to forget that crucial lesson from history.

Overseer ++Ian Gaylard
International Columnist

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Clergy, Church Leadership Council Members and Board of Directors of Churches,

Denominations, Parishes and Congregations Nationally and World Wide.

Here is an opportunity to get your copy of

Guidance for the Protection of Places of Worship

By Counter Anti-Terrorism and Security Expert

David Otto

Personal message from H.E. Rev. Dr. Overseer ++Ian Gaylard

I am the Security Adviser to the International Police Commission and the International Organization for Educational Development, both of which are International Diplomatic Missions.

I am also the CEO of Global Risk International Ltd, a specialized security consultancy. Website:

We have, as a company, prepared this very special security manual as a guideline,

designed solely for Religious buildings and areas with large congregations of people. I have attached the cover and index of the book which has been prepared by David Otto, one of the worlds foremost anti terror experts. In hopes that it will peek your interest and hopefully entice you to want to know more on how you can protect your property and Lord’s flock from the dangers lurking in the real world around you. Preparing yourself and protecting your flock so that you will not become victim to the evil that wishes to do unthinkable harm, destruction and devastation at any cost. From the simple attack to a facilitated well planned attack. All of which are designed to disrupt, dismay cause fear and even panic. Yet you can do something about that right here, right now.

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The author, David Otto, Patriarch +++Andrew Patrick and myself, have agreed that we will not set a price for this book but rely on donations towards its preparation and distribution. For how does one place a value on the protection of life and property of such magnitude.

The benefits expressed within the pages are beneficial to those that think it important. We encourage you to help us continue this ministry by reciprocating generously, filled with the guidance of the Holy Spirit leading your heart and Love Offering / Donation.     

If you feel that it is something that your Church or Churches should use, then please feel free to send it to your different areas for their use. Please, inform them that we are relying on donations to support this effort and educational program.

To receive your copy of Guidance for the Protection of Places of Worship by David Otto, email me for our bank details if you wish.

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I do hope that you can make use of this book.

Please stay safe and may God bless you all.

H.E. Overseer ++Ian Gaylard

D.Div., M.Min., MS.B., CMAS., SIA., ASIS.

c.c.t.k., i.c.a.c.c., o.s.a., s.o.e., s.o.s.b.n.b.

International Column

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