Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

March 24, 2019: Fed by the Glory

From Fraser Macnaughton


The comparison between the UK and Irish governments over the vexed questions of returning women and children from ISIS were made stark recently. Young women, often teenagers, were invariably groomed and radicalized into leaving their Western European homes and heading off to Syria to join ISIS fighters and marry them. While some may say this was taking the “idealism of youth” too far, in a sense these young girls are now in exile as the so-called ISIS caliphate collapses and they end up in refugee camps.


The Home Secretary of the UK government has meanwhile stripped the citizenship from one teenager who wanted to return home with her new baby. A few days after the announcement, her family received news that the baby had died, the third child the now 19-year-old Shamima Begum has lost. Shamima’s mother has now written to the Home Secretary asking him to reconsider his decision as an “act of mercy.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid has come in for severe criticism from many quarters with his opposite number Dianne Abbott describing the baby’s death as “a stain on conscience of UK government.” She went on to comment that “It is against international law to make someone stateless, and to leave a vulnerable young woman and an innocent child in a refugee camp, where we know infant mortality to be high, is morally reprehensible.”


By contrast, across the Irish Sea the Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, has said that a suspected ISIS member will be allowed to return.


Lisa Smith is currently being detained in Syria accused of being a member of the extremist group. As an Irish citizen, Smith will have the right to return to Ireland as will her child, who is an Irish citizen. Varadkar noted, “this is an Irish citizen and we don’t believe that removing an Irish citizen’s citizenship from her or her child and rendering her stateless would be either the right or compassionate thing to do.”


While the UK government has been accused of pandering to right-wing populism and opening itself to maneuverings by potential leadership candidates for the as-yet-not-vacant post of prime minister. While no one would want to agree with Begum’s extremist position there seems also to be a divergence in government policy in allowing men to return in similar circumstances from Syria and Iraq, while acting illegally in stripping a 19-year-old girl of her citizenship.


Explore…Isaiah 55:1–9

  • How might you react to former ISIS supporters or fighters returning to your community?
  • How might your faith group reach out to the despised or outcast in your communities in ways that demonstrate justice and compassion?
  • What is your take on the contrasting behaviours of the Irish and UK governments in this story?



Often it is so hard to remain faithful to the gospel of love and compassion when it is counter-cultural to the community in which we live. But sometimes we have to be prophetic, to speak out for right and justice even at cost to ourselves. May the Spirit sustain us when we are called to do so. Amen.


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