is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by
rulers as useful."
I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.
The First Crusade: a mission of mercy and defense against Islamic violence
conviction for God during the Middle Ages became
common among Europeans and Easterners. As Christianity had
spread north, south, and eastward since the dawn of the millennium, many
people across the continent journeyed to the Holy Land to see for themselves
where Christ had lived and where the gospel events had played themselves
out. The Christian communities native to the Middle East welcomed the visits
of their foreign brothers.
with the introduction and spread
of Islam in the seventh and eighth-centuries, the lower Mediterranean
Christian community began to be violently persecuted at the hands of neighboring
Islamic states. Non-Muslims, or "infidels" were executed in large
numbers in numerous parts of North Africa, Syria, and Egypt. Cities such
as Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem suffered great destruction. Even some
Christian churches as far north as Rome were destroyed by Moslem attacks
in the year 846.
1009, the Caliph Hakim destroyed the rebuilt Church of the Holy Sepulcher
in Jerusalem, killing many Christians and Jews in the process. By 1071,
Islamic Turkish Seldjuks came to power in Armenia, Syria, and Asia Minor.
The Seldjuks began their own holy war against Christianity which included
the capture and slaughter of European Christians who were making pilgrimages
to the Holy Land. European voices finally insisted upon a response.
Church of Rome's Pope Urban II proclaimed the need for a military venture
to rescue Middle Eastern Christians from their Islamic captors, and to retake
the city of Jerusalem. The very first such crusade coalesced within the
very next year - AD 1096.
were many thousands of common citizens whose zeal for the Church of Rome
and concern for their Arab-Christian brothers far surpassed their military
know-how. They took up what arms they had, many selling all but their most
needed possessions, and began the march toward Jerusalem. In some cases
entire families mobilized themselves for this perceived holy cause. Tragically,
the noble venture ended in massacre for nearly all of them, never even reaching
next crusade, the official First Crusade, was launched later that
same year. Large numbers of trained knights and archers were mobilized this
time, rather than zealous citizenry. Four separate expeditions of Crusaders
converged in Constantinople. Proceeding out from there, they began battling
towards the holy city. In the year 1099, their goal was achieved with the
capture of Jerusalem.
easy part was over. The hard part would be the next two hundred years of
trying to defend the city and surrounding area.
A warm welcome, at first
many Muslims received the foreign fighters quite favorably. Ancient writer
Ibn Jubayr offers his first hand observations during those times,
Many Moslems long
in their hearts to settle here, when they see the condition of their brethren
in districts under Moslem government, for the state of these latter is
the very opposite of comfortable. It is unfortunate for the Moslems that,
in countries governed by their co-religionists, they have always to complain
of the injustices of their rulers, whereas they have nothing but praise
for the conduct of the Franks, on whose justice they can always rely.
European powers built on this success, one cannot imagine how different
history would be today. Tragically, the mixed motives of the Crusaders and
those behind them proved to be a very fatal flaw in this temporary peace.
Subsequent Crusades: missions of plunder
followed seven more official crusades over the next 195 years. These subsequent
ventures, initially sent to shore up existing forces, lacked the nobility
of a rescue mission that had adorned those first expeditions. While earlier
missions had admittedly not been free of criminal acts, the brutality of
later Crusades was great. The next six Crusades would be done far less for
heavenly praise and much more for earthly plunder.
that Crusading forces were never the direct resource of any church, but
of monarchies; kings who recognized great benefit in publicly supporting
any cause believed by the masses to be godly. The most influential and most
high-profile church at this time was the Church
of Rome. Thus the publicly honored Roman Church became the source
to whom kings listened and took direction in determining whom to rob and
monarchs listened to Rome even while certain Christian communities (ones
unwilling to come under the authority of Rome's papal office) were incrementally
added to the enemies list. This would accrue to even include a large
number of Christian communities in the Holy Land. Thus some of the very
first people the Crusaders had set out to protect were later classified
as just another enemy to be destroyed.
veritable war by Rome against all non-Catholics increased over time to become
the period of the Inquisitions.
latter Crusades also targeted Muslim nations that had not only tolerated
Christianity, but had been very amenable to the First Crusade's overthrow
of ruthless Islamic Caliphs. The Muslim people's previous support, of course,
meant nothing to newly arriving Crusaders. Many of them were convicts recruited
from European prisons; undesirables Europeans were glad to send far away
and, given the alternative, the prisoners were glad to oblige.
vicious targeting of Muslims understandably fueled their hatred of the Europeans.
It also fueled Muslim hatred of Christianity which was being perceived,
albeit wrongly, as the Crusaders' motivation. Ironically, the Crusaders'
merciless attacks eventually fostered the very hatred that would unify the
Arab nations under Islam and, as a consequence, usher in the Crusaders'
1291, combined Islamic efforts finally drove the northerners out of Jerusalem
for the last time. A Christian missionary, native to Egypt, told me that
these terrible events are still actively remembered in certain modern Islamic
holidays. Thus the perpetuated memory of these ancient Western evils carried
out on Islamic nations in the name of Christ remains a significant contribution
as to why those nations so hatefully regard the "christianized"
West, especially America, as the Great Satan.
NEXT: The Inquisitions
to the Crusades and the Inquisitions
Catholicism vs. Protestantism