As a devout, practicing Catholic, I am utterly dismayed at how much of the world rejoices over the Hamas invasion of Israel.
History has forgotten how Lithuanians and other Europeans swung Jewish babies by their ankles to smash their heads against trees so they could save bullets. It is the same as Hamas decapitating, burning and killing innocent Israeli children.
The Hamas terrorists and their Palestinian collaborators in Gaza remind me of the atrocities committed eight decades ago by Nazis and their local collaborators. Back then, too many Catholics either directly participated in killing Jews or shrugged their shoulders, telling themselves they were helpless in stopping the atrocities.
For more than 20 years, I studied the choices of my grandfather, Jonas Noreika. Though he is celebrated in Lithuania as a heroic fighter against communism, during the Holocaust, he was involved in killing up to 14,500 Jews in three cities. He believed that killing Jews would solve Lithuania’s problems, but the evil actions of him and his followers ultimately brought more misery to his beleaguered nation.
In 1941, the provisional government of Lithuania called for the cleansing of Jews. It led to the murder of 96.4 per cent of Lithuanian Jews, the greatest percentage in all of Europe.
Within a month of the government edict, my grandfather ordered the murder of 2,000 Jews in Plungė, then organized a grand party for the other half of the town that remained. Lithuanians drank, sang, and danced, convincing themselves they had murdered Communists — not innocent civilians. Watching Palestinians gleefully dancing in the streets after the Hamas carnage reminded me of that earlier celebration of the killing of innocents.
Hamas and other Middle East terror organizations say their goal is to gain the territory “from the river to the sea.” The Nazis had a similar slogan, lebensraum, more space to live. But both are euphemisms for genocide, cleansing the land of Jews.
The real root of the problem, however, is a psychological fear and hatred of Jews, who have become scapegoats for their troubles. Like my grandfather and many other Lithuanians did, the Palestinians delude themselves into thinking that if they kill Jews, their difficulties will disappear. But history shows the disasters that followed when other societies persecuted the Jews.
As I painfully studied the life of my grandfather, my heart was opened to the simple yet profound truth of a loving God, who tells us that no human has a right to kill another, except in self-defense. It took me many years to deprogram myself from considering my grandfather a hero and to daring to call him out as a perpetrator in the murder of innocents.
My Catholic faith and my deep trust in God convinced me that as much as I love Lithuania, my allegiance to and love of God is greater.
I call upon all Christians to love our God above all else and turn against the evil of Hamas terrorists. We should support Israel in whatever way we can and back its right to defend itself, as we would defend ourselves if the missiles of Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemen, Iran, and who-knows-how-many-others were aiming their missiles at Christians.