William Faulkner once said: “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” We often think about time and history as a straight line leading from the past, running through the present, heading into the future. With this conceptualization, the past is past and gone. However, there is another way to think about time. Tree time. When we cut down a tree, the rings of the stump are concentric circles of time. The first year exists at the center and each succeeding year surrounds it.
So it is with the meeting of Christianity and Islam on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq. The historical center of the present conflict is the history of the Crusades. Many in the Muslim world consider the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as another Crusade. The Crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims, Christians and Pagans, Christians and Christians over four centuries. It was a tragic time when armies of the state fought to promote a religious cause. Crusaders travelled far from home as warriors and pilgrims, warriors and penitents, warriors as walls to stall the spread of Islam. They won and lost battles. They destroyed and plundered and raped. They were sometimes brutally massacred when the Muslims won on a particular day.
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