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Christianity and Ethics of War

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Christianity and the Ethics of War:

The last update about "History and Tales of the Crusades" tells us a lot about the ethics of war of the Christian crusaders. The conquering of Jerusalem shows a striking contrast between what took place after the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders in 1099 and after its fall to Saladin in 1187.

Here are some excerpts from the book "Jerusalem City of Herod and Saladin"; by: Besant & Palmer. On pages 187-188, the historians describe the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders in 1099 (page 187-188):

". . . The city was taken, and the massacre of its defenders began. The Christians ran through the streets, slaughtering as they went. At first they spared none, neither man, woman, nor child, putting all alike to the sword; but when resistance had ceased, and rage was partly appeased, they began to bethink them of pillage, and tortured those who remained alive to make them discover their gold.

As for the Jews within the city, they had fled to their synagogue, which the Christians set on fire, and so burned them all. The chroniclers relate with savage joy, how the streets were encumbered with heads and mangled bodies, and how in the Haram Area, the sacred enclosure of the Temple, the knights rode in blood up to the knees of their horses. Here upwards of ten thousand were slaughtered, while the whole number of killed amounted, according to various estimates, to forty, seventy, and even a hundred thousand.

Evening fell, and the clamour ceased, for there were no more enemies to kill, save a few whose lives had been promised by Tancred. . .

. . . In the morning the carnage hegan again. Those who had escaped the first fury were the women and children. It was now resolved to spare none. Even the three hundred to whom Tancred had promised life were slaughtered in spite of him."

On pages 357-359, the book gives an account to the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187:

". . . It was finally arranged that seven thousand men should be ransomed for thirty thousand byzants, two women or ten children to count as one man. When all was arranged Saladin gave them fifty days to sell and mortgage their effects and pay their ransom, and announced that he who should be found in the city after fifty days should belong to the conquerors, body and goods. . .

. . . But when all those who were ransomed were out of the city, and there remained yet many poor people, Seifed-din went to Saladin, his brother, and said to him, 'Sire, I have helped to conquer the land and the city. I pray you to give me a thousand slaves of those that are still within it.' Saladin asked him what he would do with them. Seif-ed-din replied that he would do with them as seemed him best. Saladin granted his request, and his brother released them all. When Seif-ed-din had taken out his thousand captives, the patriarch prayed Saladin to deliver the poor which yet remained. He gave the patriarch seven hundred. Then Balian asked Saladin for some of those left. He gave Balian five hundred.

' And now,' said Saladin, ' I will make my own alms' Then he commanded his bailiffs to open the postern towards Saint Lazarus, and to make proclamation through all the city that the poor might go out by this way, only that if there were among them any who had the means of ransom, they were to be taken to prison. The deliverance of the poor lasted from sunrise to sunset, and yet there were eleven thousand left. The patriarch and Balian went then to Saladin and prayed him that he would hold themselves in hostage until those who were left could obtain from Christendom enough to pay their ransom. Saladin said that he would certainly not receive two men in place of eleven thousand, and that they were to speak no more of it.

But Saladin was open to prayers from all quarters. The widows and children of those who had fallen at Tiberias came to him weeping and crying. When Saladin saw them weeping, he was moved with great pity; and, hearing who they were, he told them to inquire if their husbands and fathers were yet living, and in prison, those who were his captives he ordered to be released; and, in those cases where it was proved that their husbands were dead, he gave largely from his own private purse to all the ladies and the noble maidens, so that they gave thanks to God for the honour and wealth that Saladin bestowed upon them. Clearly a magnanimous prince, this Saladin, and one who was accustomed to return good for evil.

There were so many Christians who came out of the city that the Saracens marvelled how they could have all got in. Saladin separated them into three divisions; the Templars led one, the Hospitallers another, and Balian the third. To each troop he assigned fifty of his own knights to conduct them into Christian territory. These, when they saw men, women, or children fatigued, would make their squires go on foot, and put the wearied exiles on horseback, while they themselves carried the children. Surely this is a tender and touching picture of the soft-hearted soldiers of Islam, too pitiful to let the little children cry while they had arms to carry them, or to drive the weary forward while they could walk on foot themselves."

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