Soldiers of the Cross?
In November, 1095, Pope Urban II called upon all true Christians to free the Holy Land from so-called Muslim infidels. His speech sparked a period of violent conflict between Christian Europeans and the Muslims of the Middle East.
Thousands of knights, serfs, peasants, and even a few kings sewed the sign of the cross on the front of their tunics and went to war for Jesus Christ. The Jews, without a country, were caught in the middle.
The First Crusade
This crusade began in Clermont, France, as knights, farmers, shopkeepers, and fortune seekers headed east through Germany and then southeast to the Holy Land.
Determined to avenge Jesus’ crucifixion in blood, the leaders of the crusade massacred tens of thousands of innocent Jews, Muslims, and even Orthodox Christians who had the misfortune to dress or look like Muslims.
Finally the Crusaders reached Jerusalem, which they captured on July 15, 1099. A terrible massacre followed; streets were drenched with the blood of innocent civilians. The Jews and the Muslims who survived were sold into slavery, and Christianity earned a violent reputation that would last for millennia.
The Knights then built great, European-style castles on high hills, living in isolation and failing to influence any day-to-day lives of the common people. Jesus would not have recognized these soldiers who came to spread his kingdom because they knew so little of the methods he had taught and the way of sacrifice he had walked.
The Second Crusade
In 1144, an itinerant monk began urging soldiers to destroy the Jewish communities of Germany to avenge Jesus’ crucifixion. As a result, many more innocent people were slaughtered in Jesus’ name.
The Third Crusade
Spared the horrors of the first two Crusades, the Jewish communities in England were not as fortunate during the Third Crusade in 1170. Jews in York, Lynn, Norwich, Stamford, and other towns were massacred.
The Fourth Crusade
In 1198, Pope Innocent III began the Fourth Crusade. He ordered Jews to wear badges to identify themselves, and then ordered them to be killed to atone for Jesus’ death.
The Shepherds’ Crusade
The Crusades formally ended in 1291 when the Holy Land was recaptured by the Muslims. But a few years later, European Jews were subjected to yet another Crusade.
Nearly forty thousand, mostly teenaged, “Crusaders” killed and burned their way across Europe. Some sources indicate that 150 Jewish communities were exterminated by these “soldiers of the cross.”
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