The following post is only a sketch and mostly addressed to those of Christian or Western background or culture. This is not by any means comprehensive nor concise nor even a thoughtful attempt to answer the "starter question". My goal here is merely to open up dialogue and give a few leads. (An historian who simply -humbly? - signs with LMH gets credit for inspiring the following - see source - which offers more sources - at end of the post.)
"Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven!" Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II - according to a number of historians - started 200 years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, 1095. Some say the Crusades began with this plea. According to one historian, he called upon those present to save their souls and become "Soldiers of Christ." The historian goes on to say that "Those who undertook the venture were to wear an emblem in the shape of a red cross on their body." And so derived, according to this source, the word "Crusader," from the Latin word cruciare - to mark with a cross. Evidently, the captivated audience began shouting "Deus le volt! -God wills it!" which became the battle-cry for of the crusades for the Pope's followers.
Yet many of us from all backgrounds might say, 'We thought Christianity was supposed to be a religion of peace?'
Yes, killing seems to be called for by God Himself all through the Old Testament and yet the Ten Commandments say emphatically: "Thou shalt not kill."
How could - did - the Pope justify a war?
While St. Basil and the early Church Fathers would unlikely have never accepted war, St. Augustine held that war could be justified in some cases.
European warfare in the age of feudalism included noblemen and knights and others fighting each other over land, possessions, romance, or right of succession. The Church (according to some recorders) may have justified war or killing in an attempt to control warlike behavior by the institution of a "Peace of God" in an attempt to protect the defenseless; the "Truce of God" which banned warfare on Sundays and holydays such as Advent and Lent; and the development of a "Code of Chivalry" for knights - a role which some powers (yet not all) of the Church honored through a Christian ceremony.
Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), following St. Augustine, was thought to begin a concept of "penitential warfare," ie using violent means when such warring was thought to be needed in defense the Church. Thus absolution was to be given to those who died "fighting for the Cross" in the reconquest (reconquista) of Spain.
Yet Pope Urban II was the one who formally established "penitential warfare" in the service and defense of the Church "for the REMISSION of sins", when he called for the First Crusade on November 27, 1095.
Skipping over a lot of history on the Crusades - look out how skewed interpretation of events can lead to more war. Evidently, after a bribe by Bohemond of one of the Turks, the Crusaders scaled walls to invade Antioch - June of 1098. The town became a bloodbath as evidently nearly every Turk was massacred. When Antioch had been taken over quite suddenly the Crusaders were besieged by an invading Turkish army from Mosul. Trapped within these walls, hopelessness and illness soon took over. Then, in the midst of despair, according to some stories, the Crusaders discovered the Holy Lance. (The lance named for piercing the side of Christ - claimed to be discovered in the Church of St. Peter.) Supposedly this is why the Crusaders rallied - considering this a sign. (What if the sword so named the Holy Lance was a instead of God's sign to do more killing - a reminder of Christ (and his Father's) chosen nonviolence and utter powerlessness on the cross and thus a help in ending the killing?)
Interesting reading (and I admit to knowing little at this point) so why don't we read and discuss this history in light of our huge dilemmas today? So you are still asking, what do the Crusades have to do with our time?
Historians report that on July 15, 1099 the Crusaders entered the city of Jerusalem. Maddened after three years of suffering and frustration, the Crusaders massacred every Moslem and Jew within the city.
(Look at our U.S. and Christian vernacular of leaders coming into full play right after 911 with the revenge-filled reasoning for the occupation of Afghanistan and then Iraq? What of the many years of suffering with our occupations - the growing frustrations on ALL sides and our repeating of history with "the surge")
Read Nicolas Davies: "Why Afghans dig Empire Graveyards"! Do we really want a similar legacy?
For those who insist on going to war - even in this age of nuclear weapons increasing and many madmen (with a few mad women?) on the loose - perhaps a mentor for all "sides" perhaps two mentors might be both Saladin or Salah ed-Dinand and St. Francis of Assisi.
Saladin was considered by many Christians and Muslims to be the greatest warrior of the Muslims. Noted for his chivalrous behavior, the Byzantine Orthodox of Jerusalem was recorded to have actually preferred rule by Saladin instead of heavy taxations by the Latin patriarch. Saladin, or Salah ed-Din, also was considered a skilled diplomat. Evidently, the Muslim world then was completely divided into the Shiite and Sunni religious sects, as well as the warring secular nations of the Turks, Syrians, and Egyptians. Saladin was thought to be the one who brought all of them into one unified Islamic force in the twelfth century. He is recorded to have extended the authority of the Sunni Caliph of Baghdad over Egypt, and also allow Shiites to practice their own form of Islamic faith. This was a large contributor, evidently, of the unification of Islam at that time. When the secular regent of Syria died, Saladin and the Saracens (Muslim warriors) were recorded to have captured Damascus in a BLOODLESS coup.
While Saladin, the new Sultan of Syria and Egypt, was uniting the Moslem world, the Crusader states were in a power struggle after the death of the peaceful King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem. Saladin set his sights on the Crusader states. Unopposed, all the Crusader cities except Tyre fell to Saladin's army as he swept through the Holy Land. Attacking Jerusalem on September 21, 1187 - the city was captured the city October 2, 1187. Unlike the Crusaders of 1099, Saladin SPARED THE INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM FROM BLOODSHED OR INJURY! (Has this EVER been a consideration with actual applied strategy in our US occupations? What should Blackwater in all the myriad manifestations including now the donning of more traditional miltiary garb say to us? What about the Crusade mentality of Blackwater founders? And what should the Drones tell us both metaphorically and in "real time" about dropping hell from the skies and the killing of civilians way beyond the figures so oft given?
Going back to this quick look at the Crusades, there was by comparison to Richard who's hot-temper marred his leadership. Too impatient in a negotiation with the chivalrous Saladin known as Salah ed-Din, Richard had 2700 Muslim prisoners-of-war slaughtered by the Franks. Thus, how then could war have been avoided? What IF these Christian, so-called, Crusaders had applied what they surely should have been taught about Christian non-violence and peace and had been at least as peace-making and chivalrous as Saladin? My understanding is that many voted to Obama simply to avoid the hot temper of McCain in the helm.
When finally the two mighty warriors of the Crusades at last decided to negotiate. they were evidently both tired of war. On September 2, 1192, they signed a peace treaty. The Crusader states would retain control of the coastal strip from Tyre to Jaffa, with their other holdings in Antioch and Tripoli. Jerusalem would stay in Muslim hands, but Christian pilgrims would be allowed free access to the Holy sites of the city. The City of Acre rather than Jerusalem became the center for the Crusader States. The Third Crusade and sublime idealism due to war were both over.
Skipping over the Fourth through Eighth Crusades, here are a few questions(mine and paraphrases from others):
Were the Crusades truly based on any ideals or principles? How could these bloody battles have been avoided? If we give that Pope Urban II had only the motives of recapturing the Holy Land, defending the Byzantine East, and uniting Europe - and stopped there, would that have been truly principled? Did he consider consequences, imperfect if not downright war-like noblemen and knights filled with greed for power, land, riches and easily corrupted by their own natures without spiritual and other disciplines?
Evidently, the first three Crusades were more consistent reported while many conflicting reports exist for the Fourth and following Crusades. Why? Might the historians have allowed their own biases to cause loss of interest? Might the Crusades become an embarrassment by so much that ended in disaster? So how are we not NOW repeating history with one disaster after another?
And the Crusader states lasted only from 1099 to 1291. Jerusalem itself was in Christian hands for 88 years alone. Much was left disunified in Europe. Christianity and Islam were thrown into complete opposition, a polarity that has lasted TO THIS VERY DAY.
Perhaps only TWO figures deserve and have received lasting respect: Saladin, the Muslim leader, and St. Francis of Assisi. Both were shown in a favorable light by Dante in The Divine Comedy. While the historians, both Muslim and Christian by tradition consider the Franks barbarians when they captured Jerusalem, Saladin was recorded to have recaptured Jerusalem in gentlemanly fashion, without loss of life to Christian citizens. St. Francis of Assisi, stood up eventually to the corruption and power of the Pope and renounced his participation in war as well as any connection to wealth. He called directly upon the Sultan of Egypt in an effort to bring peace. (By the way, St. Francis of Assisi has been my mentor since early childhood! One film to bring out now to an inter-generational audience may be "Brother Son, Sister Moon.")
Many consider the Crusades to be most relevant today, even with some necessary but easy to make exchanges or analogies to greed for oil and land, property for that purpose or for routes to make the oil monopoloies to prosper. Yet, popular support is gained by bringing up old religious conflicts and justifications in the name of God or Allah.
American troops still occupy Iraq and Afghanistan and now secretly Pakistan. More miilitary activity is planned and imminent. and Israelis and Palestinians are locked in an endless and bitter struggle with the Occupiers once again wrecking the land and massacres ignored.
The Crusades may well be prophetic for the future. Perhaps Osama bin Laden struck a chord when he called the West "Crusaders."
While recent inter-religious dialogues are ongoing and increasing perhaps beginning with an historic meeting in Jerusalem, January of 1964, and 7 December 1965 when the anathemas of 1054 were mutually revoked.
The Papacy of John Paul II visited Egypt in March 2000 in order to improve relations with Islam. He pointed out that Christian, Muslim, and Jew alike worship the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And shortly afterwards, in Jerusalem, referring to the Crusades (as well as other events), he asked God forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church. 69, 70
The Crusades leave the question: is there any just war?
Again, this quick sketch owes much in terms of key events and raising questions as well as format to a writer who simply signs off with LMH. To read this reference and see more Go here
I wonder what might happen if many of us would simply send such items or our own summations by letter, FAX, email or very shortened versions such as this one statement here to our leaders and contacts - political and religious?
The writer of this reference, quite likely a Christian - offers the following at the end of the paper - The Commandments direct us not to kill. And Jesus himself instructed us:
"Do not resist one who is evil;
if anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
turn to him the other also."
"You have heard it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy."
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 5:39, 43-44; 22:39
LMH, the source of inspiration for this post, ends that reference with this clear, URGENT conclusion: "May the Crusades be an important lesson to all of us who cherish peace."
I also will now occasionally let readers here know of a new site I've just started No More Crusades. (Which will need lots of hits to be available by a "cold" search - so find it via this blogsite. Send suggestions and please read and comment here and on the new site which should come up through this oneheart site with a click here...GO here Also, if enough folk keep trying to go to nomorecrusades dot blogspot dot com this should help the site to come up easily. No More Crusades blog may not be for most oneheart readers as many recent items relating to the surge will mix with historic and sometimes philosophic and religious events and attempt a serious bringing to light of human and civil rights abuses and needs.