Mark Pickup


April 6, 2015

The town was shocked! A young man was arrested in my community of Beaumont on terrorism-related charges. The story has been widely reported.

According to one news source, the 17-year-old youth was charged with "attempting to leave Canada with the intention of joining the terrorist group ISIS to commit murder." Townsfolk could not believe that something like this could possibly touch our quiet family-oriented community. What were we to make of it?

Some citizens comforted themselves by hoping he wasn't one of ours. One person commented, "It's worth noting that it [a news story] only says that the person was arrested in Beaumont. It could have just been where they apprehended them on the way to the airport."

Perhaps, but rumours were circulating, and it's hard to make sense of it.

Even in communities that emphasize family values, evil can arise.


Even in communities that emphasize family values, evil can arise.

Terrorism experts speculate that ISIS is successfully recruiting young people because they are disenfranchised in western countries and are unable to assimilate.

That's not necessarily true. Look at Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary (aka Jihadi John) thought to be the British man in the infamous ISIS videos showing the beheading of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015. He was a rising rapper who left his parents' $2-million home in a respectable northwest part of London to wage jihad in Syria.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 young people from Canada, Britain and the U.S. have been recruited by ISIS to fight in Syria and elsewhere for radical Islam. Recruits for ISIS are coming from places like Toronto, Calgary, London, England, Sydney and Canberra, Australia, and American cities like Chicago or Sterling (pop. 28,000) near the capital of Washington, D.C.

Why not Beaumont (pop. 15,000), near the provincial capital of Edmonton? What makes Beaumont immune to the influence of evil? Nothing.

The Catholic Church teaches about the universality of sin and evil throughout history (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 401). Humanity is inclined toward evil.


It says, "Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness" (1707). In our heart of hearts we all know this is true. We are capable of good and evil.

I have noticed something about human nature. It is the holy person who sees himself as a sinner. The closer he gets to holiness the more he recognizes his own propensity for evil. It is the wicked one who thinks he is okay.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in his classic Mere Christianity: "A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right."

Lewis explained this: "You understand sleep when you are awake, not when you are sleeping. You can see your mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk." It makes perfect sense.

That takes me back to the boy arrested in my community on terrorism-related charges. The courts will judge whether he is guilty.

But if he is found guilty, we can ask whether he has been completely indoctrinated into evil or can he still recognize good. Does he call darkness light and light darkness?


In other words, can he be brought back to goodness, and the world of the living, from the malignant sickness that has taken hold of his mind?

There is a remedy but it is not where he is looking. It is with Jesus Christ and his sacrifice at Calvary: He puts an end to evil and sin. Christ is the author of life not death, truth not lies, and the way back to goodness is through repentance and faith. He can break the bonds of sin.

Christ brings a newness of life to his followers as they take up the "new commandment" to love one another, as he first loved us. Pope Benedict said this new commandment "is not simply a new and higher demand: it is linked to the newness of Jesus Christ to growing immersion in him." It is critical truth: in it rests the mysterious essence of joy.

The joy that comes from a growing immersion in Jesus Christ is still available to the young man languishing in jail after being arrested in my community. It is also available to the townsfolk and to you and me through faith.