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The city of Jerusalem has always been a major center for conflict. In 1099, an invading army took the city and massacred the inhabitants. The destruction was so complete that the invaders proudly reported that the narrow streets ran red with blood. 88 years later, an army appeared to retake the city, and after four days of fierce fighting the defenders of the city recognized that they were greatly outmatched and could not win. They sent an emissary to the general and asked for terms of peace. On Oct 2, 1187 this victorious general entered Jerusalem, where he discovered that the holy places of his faith had been desecrated – used as stables for horses, chipped away and sold as souvenir trinkets. His reaction in the face of the previous massacre and this destruction of the holy places? He forbade any further violence, and commanded his army to put away their swords. For those in the city he conquered, he asked for a very small amount of money to be paid as a ransom and then let them go free. This general himself paid the ransom for many of the poorest people who could not pay. He then arranged guards to safely escort the caravans of refugees who wished to return to their native lands.

That is a true story. The first group that took the city in 1099 were the Christians, the crusaders from Europe come to reclaim God’s promised land. They wrote verses like Jer. 48:10 on their shields, “A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord ’s work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!,” Pope Urban II sent preachers all over Europe to promise instantaneous salvation and a hero’s welcome in heaven for any men who died in this Holy war, and so those Christians proudly killed the Muslim residents of Jerusalem. (Sounds way to much like the edict I read from bin Laden and the other radical Muslims.) The general’s name that re-took the city and was merciful and, dare I say Christlike, was Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt, who was a devout Muslim.

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