Rageh Omar, a Somali born British journalist and writer, hosts the fourth episode of Christianity: A History. Pope Urban II preached "salvation through slaughter" - commissioning every murderous thug in Europe to help "liberate" the Holy Land. The crusaders, following on from the Augustinian doctrine of "just war," embraced something more vile by far: holy war. It's not a pretty story, and certainly nothing like the romantic image of fluttering pennants and good king Richard. The pope's mercenaries indulged in atrocities that are hard to imagine, but are documented by the very men who perpetrated them, including the butchery, and cannibalism of small children. Again one has to ask about the disjoint between the teachings of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament letters compared to those who, after putting thousands of civilians to the sword in Jerusalem, trooped into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the blood of their victims still staining their bodies and clothes, to give thanks to their god.
Sow the wind, as Hosea warns (8:7), and reap the whirlwind.
In the West the crusades are viewed as ancient history, best forgotten, but in the Muslim world they are remembered with the same fierce passion that still divides communities in the Balkans and Ireland. Old wounds were opened again last century when the bungling British proclaimed a mandate over Palestine and proceeded - as only the British can do - to completely screw things up for subsequent generations. When George W. Bush used the rhetoric of the crusade to launch the war on Iraq more fuel was added to the fire, an error of judgement that played into the hands of extremist groups like Al Qaeda.
And so past meets present. Both are sobering and disturbing. This is a film that gives anyone who calls themselves Christian pause for thought.