Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945) was a German Christian pastor and theologian best known for his numerous theological writings, which continue to be widely published and popular to this day. What many people don't know is that he was also intimately involved in plans to assassinate Adolph Hitler.
While he was a Christian pastor and theologian, he at the same time felt compelled by his faith to take a stand against truly evil atrocities, which in his day and time meant first and foremost seeing Nazism brought entirely to an end. As such, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr (a German military intelligence organization), which was the center of the anti-Hitler resistance movement. The pastor and theologian had now also taken on the role of a spy and Nazi-dissenter and was actively moving towards being part of a plot to assassinate Hitler. Make no mistake about it though: he did not in any way take his involvement lightly, or ever try to justify his actions. In his work Ethics
, Bonhoeffer wrote "when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it... Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace."
However, in April 1943, before the assassination plot was carried out, Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Gestapo. He was subsequently executed by hanging in April 1945 while held prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp.
For many years I wrestled with what I call "The Bonhoeffer Question": Would I willingly commit an act of evil that I believe could lead to the eternal damnation of my soul if I was truly convinced doing so would prevent a greater evil from taking place? In other words, would I knowingly, voluntarily and purposefully murder another human if I surmised taking his or her life would save the lives of many others, yet at the same time possibly damning my own?
This question was one I tried to ignore for many years. Truth be told, it was a question I did not want to so much as even ask myself, let alone search my soul for an honest answer to. Yet it was a question I could not escape. It was a question that became all the more real with every passing day I spent living in countries which were ruled by the iron fist of evil, vicious men who cared about nothing other than their own selfish ambitions and existences. It was a question I knew I had to approach soberly and thoughtfully, and ultimately answer.
While I hope and pray I will never be faced with having to make such a decision, I concluded that even if it means damning my own soul, I would be an instrument of death, so that others may have life. I've come to accept that sometimes the lesser of two evils still means bloodstained hands.
I've increasingly found myself pondering "The Bonhoeffer Question" with regards to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the future of Syria, and her people, and have definitively concluded that his continued existence obliterates all chances of Syria ever knowing any sort of peace at all. He is an evil, monstrous animal the likes of which the world has not known for a very, very long time, and someone the world would be much, much better off without.
A handful of years ago a cartoon sketch of Bashar al-Assad with an Adolf Hitler style mustache, wearing a swastika-emblazoned armband, and being given the "Heil Hitler" salute from crowds gathered around him began rapidly increasing in popularity on Syrian opposition television channels and other news outlets across the Middle East. Obviously, a connection was made likening Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler in the minds of many who opposed him throughout the Middle East region. And then a few years later, the cartoonists' prophesies were fulfilled: a well-documented, indisputable connection between the crimes of Adolf Hitler and Bashar al-Assad, Nazism and the Syrian civil war, came to light.
During the first two years of the Syrian uprising, between 2011 and 2013, a former Syrian military photographer tasked with photographing detainees who were tortured to death in Bashar al-Assad's prisons used a police computer in Damascus to copy thousands of photographs. These photographs, which he managed to smuggle out of the country, provided indisputable evidence of war crimes and another reminisce of Nazism and the horrible atrocities which happened to the Jews during Hitler's reign. The pictures were of more than 11,000 dead souls who had been systematically murdered by the Bashar al-Assad regime during the first years of what was initially a non-violent uprising of Syrians calling for democratic reforms. The victims were almost entirely young Syrian men ranging in age from their early 20's to their early 40's whom experts say according to the photographs were tortured to death by means of slow starvation. This is the first time since World War Two – when Adolf Hitler systematically killed millions of Jews by means of slowly starving them to death – the world has seen such barbarism as this. It goes without saying, the gross atrocities the ongoing Syrian war is producing continue to beg the world for help. Whether we choose to believe so or not, with every bite of life-giving food you and I take, for a Syrian, life is literally being taken away.
In ancient Assyria, the ruling monarch's duty to protect and fight for his people was symbolized in lion hunting, a ritualized activity reserved for kings. Unfortunately, the contrast could not be greater between ancient Assyria's vision for rulers who committed to protect and fight for their own people and modern-day Syria's despotic ruler Bashar al-Assad.
In Arabic, al-Assad means The Lion. As much as calling and hoping for the killing of any person is an ethically and morally excruciating deliberation, I believe the slaying of The Lion, Bashar al-Assad, would indeed be best not only for Syria and her people, but for the entire Middle East region, and the world as a whole.
It's time for modern-day Syrian Bonhoeffers, courageous souls who fully understand that sometimes the lesser of two evils still means bloodstained hands, to resume the ancient Assyrian tradition of lion-hunting.
May God have mercy on their souls.