This week on Register Radio Jeanette DeMelo talks with Register Washington DC staff writer Peter Smith about the heightened US and world response to ISIS. And in the second half of the show, Jeanette and Register foreign affairs correspondent Victor Gaetan discuss the role of the Church in the crisis in Ukraine.

The U.S. Response to ISIS

Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff writer with the National Catholic Register. Before coming on board the Register in July, Smith was a Catholic freelance journalist for both the Register and Our Sunday Visitor, as well as a 2011 graduate of the National Journalism Center. He’s here to discuss the growing threat of ISIS, and the response from the US and the world.

President Obama said on Wednesday night that ISIS is a terrorist organization and is not Islamic. Smith explained, “What they’re doing in the name of Islam is absolutely horrible and barbaric. It’s a form of Islam that is relatively new.” 

The President outlined four big points about how the United States would destroy ISIS. One is a systematic campaign of airstrikes both in Syria and Iraq. Another is increasing support to the ground forces. The third prong is enlisting regional partners in counter-terrorism actions, and the fourth is providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians.

Smith was attending the In Defense of Christians conference earlier this week, and he said that participants are still “feeling out the President’s remarks.” He said that “on paper it looks very good [and] it looks promising, but there is definitely a sense of urgency that was expressed.” He mentioned the Iraqis who are without basic supplies as winter approaches rapidly and that there is “a need to see ISIS driven back from the plains of Nineveh and Mosul so that these people can return to their homes and have shelter.”

“There’s a desire to see the President follow through aggressively, both in creating a safe zone for the Iraqi Christians and other minorities, but also to provide desperate humanitarian assistance,” Smith said. 

“What they’re looking for is follow-through,” Smith stressed. Joan Desmond blogged about this plan being too little too late.

The speakers at the In Defense of Christians conference were stressing that ISIS and the other Muslim extremists do not represent true Muslim. There are many, many Muslims in the Middle East who are suffering at the hands of ISIS. And so, in this conference, they are pleading the case against Islamic fundamentalist who are trying to seize the interpretation of Islam.

“What ISIS is doing to Syria and Iraq is something that hasn’t been seen since the seventh century,” Smith said. 

Be sure to listen to the entire interview to hear Smith’s reaction and summary of the In Defense of Christians conference.

The Situation in Ukraine

Victor Gaetan is a Register correspondent, whose writings focus on international issues. Victor also covers religion for Foreign Affairs magazine. He's with us today to talk about the situation in Ukraine.  

This week, Gaetan reported, the situation in Ukraine seems to be heading toward peace. 

There has been a reinvigoration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the signs of can be seen just by looking around. Gaetan said he saw many people praying during the day and that the churches were packed on no particular holy day.

The Ukrainian Church, along with a smaller number of the Orthodox and Protestant churches, were “the movers and shakers” during the protests during last year. The priests and people were involved in helping provide medical care and assistance during the protests that led to the downfall of the regime.

Gaetan wrote a piece recently at the Register, “Ukraine: The War Nobody Wants, the Salvation Everyone Needs.”

“The general feeling throughout western Ukraine most people were very opposed to the war in this part of Ukraine. They were even demonstrating, refusing to respond to the call to go to the regular army,” Gaetan said.

The Russian perspective is much different than what is often portrayed in western media. “Putin considers himself a devout Christian,” Gaetan said, “and I think we need to take seriously his concerns and not just call him names.” He said that Pope Francis seems to be keeping the diplomatic lines open.

Gaetan spent some time discussing this, so be sure to listen to the entire interview.

You can check out all of Victor’s travel blogs on his Register blog.

Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.