Middle East CrISIS

What causes the chaos in the Middle East? What is ISIS? What are its intentions?

News of ransacked cities, public executions, stolen artifacts and propagandist videos from the Middle East may result in a swarm of questions in the minds of Americans. Analysts say the source of much of the unrest is not a string of unrelated events or random violence. The actions of the terrorist group called the Islamic State are calculated movements toward what members believe to be their part in the end of times.

Graeme Wood, lecturer on political science at Yale University, wrote an analysis in The Atlantic this month about the motivations of ISIS. He said the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. “Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned,” he wrote. “But …we can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.”

Father Andre-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Church in Lakewood, said Christians need to do their part to condemn and stand up against ISIS’ destructive path. As director of the Office of Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in the United States, Father Mahanna has worked to achieve unity and peace between Christians and Muslims.

But he said fear is preventing Christians from actively fighting the terrorist group since its founding in 2006. Since that time, ISIS ransacked Iraqi cities including Mosul, forcing millions of Christians and Muslims to flee from their homes and travel to surrounding areas.

ISIS’ power grew as it took control of Syrian cities and oil fields. An estimated $2 billion was garnered from oil, smuggling, extortion and stolen artifacts to fund its operation, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit think tank that promotes bipartisan policy.

The United States ordered targeted airstrikes to stem violence when it escalated in 2014. News of beheadings and brutal massacres spread over the internet with the help of social media. ISIS has used modern technology to issue threats and show the decapitation of aid workers and journalists, including James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Pentagon officials estimate ISIS has about 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, some of whom travel from outside countries to join. Many more victims have been claimed including Egyptian Christians and hundreds of Assyrians captured this year, the Bipartisan Policy Center reported.

DC_03-21-15.indd

Illustration by Filippo Piccone/Denver Catholic

 

 

ISIS differs from other extremist Islamic movements in that it believes it’s a central character in the countdown to the apocalypse. With the capture of Dabiq, Syria, ISIS awaits the arrival of an enemy army referred to as “Rome.” Prophets foretell of a battle in Dabiq between an Islamic army and infidel army—perhaps an American one—where Islam is predicted to prevail and the world will end, Wood explained.

“Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading,” he wrote.

ISIS poses a threat to Middle Easterners and to the world for its mission to defeat Westerners, even if it means its own demise.

“It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the prophetic model,” Wood wrote. “Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.”

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.