Further thoughts of an Orthodox Brit

General collective thoughts and shares of a 28 year old British Orthodox Christian Full Deacon, under the Coptic Patriarchate. Expect to find: Orthodox News, Church Fathers Quotes, Book Reviews and the odd personal thought/post. Don't expect to find: Polemics, support for Theological divergence, support for Phyletism.

One woman, at least, is safe. Throughout much of her pregnancy, she had been in prison in Khartoum, capital of the Republic Sudan, living with the dread expectation that she would be hanged once her baby was born. Her crime was that she had married a Christian and been accused by the authorities of apostasy, renouncing her faith, even though she maintained she had never been a Muslim in the first place. On Thursday, Meriam Ibrahim’s eight-month ordeal finally ended when she was flown out of the country to Rome where she, and her new baby daughter, met the Pope in the Vatican.

But it has been a different story for the 3,000 Christians of Mosul who were driven from their homes in northern Iraq last week by Islamist fanatics who broadcast a fatwa from the loudspeakers of the city’s mosques ordering them to convert to Islam, submit to its rule and pay a religious levy, or be put to death if they stayed. The last to leave was a disabled woman who could not travel. The fanatics arrived at her home and told her they would cut off her head with a sword.

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.

The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.

All this seems counter-intuitive here in the West where the history of Christianity has been one of cultural dominance and control ever since the Emperor Constantine converted and made the Roman Empire Christian in the 4th century AD.

Yet the plain fact is that Christians are languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.

The most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century saw as many as 500 Christians hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals in Orissa, India, with thousands more injured and 50,000 made homeless. In Burma, Chin and Karen Christians are routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labour and murder.

Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country’s Christians live in forced labour camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian.

A few voices have been raised in the West about all this. The religious historian Rupert Shortt has written a book called Christianophobia. America’s most prominent religious journalist, John L Allen Jnr, has just published The Global War on Christians. The former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks told the House of Lords recently that the suffering of Middle East Christians is “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”. He compared it with Jewish pogroms in Europe and said he was “appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked”.

Why is this in a culture that is happy to make public protest against the ferocity of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza or the behaviour of Russia in Ukraine?

In part, it is because our intelligentsia are locked into old ways of thinking about Christianity as the dominant force in Western historic hegemony. The church has not helped in this, with its fixation on pious religiosity and on cultural issues that it falsely regards as totemic – issues such as gay marriage and women bishops.

A bogus dichotomy between religion and equality has been set up, resulting in a succession of comparatively trivial new stories about receptionists being banned from wearing religious jewellery or nurses being suspended for offering to pray for patients’ recovery. Adopting the rhetoric of persecution on such matters obscures the very real persecution of Christians being killed or driven from their homes elsewhere in the globe.

Most of the world’s Christians are not engaged in stand-offs with intolerant secularists over such small matters. In the West, Christianity may have increasingly become embraced by the middle class and abandoned by the working class. But elsewhere the vast majority of Christians are poor, many of them struggling against antagonistic majority cultures, and have different priorities in life.

The paradox this produces is that, as Allen points out, the world’s Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide – they are too religious for liberals and too foreign for conservatives.

In the UK, it is socially respectable among the secular elite to regard Christianity as weird and permissible to bully its followers a little. This produces the surreal political reality in which President Obama visits Saudi Arabia and “does not get the time” to raise the suppression of Christianity in the oil-rich nation; and in which Prime Minister Cameron gets a broadside from illiberal secularists for the historically unquestionable assertion that Britain’s culture is formed by Christian values.

The reality of being a Christian in most of the world today is very different. It only adds to their tragedy that the West fails to understand that – or to heed the plea of men such as the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal when he asks: “Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?”

Archbishop Alexios of Gaza leads a prayer during the funeral of Christian woman Jalila Ayyad, 70, who was killed in an Israeli strike that destroyed her house, during her funeral in Gaza City on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Source: Yahoo News)

“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing. We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.

On Saturday, the Vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq warned that the end was “very near” for Christians in that country. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and six weeks ago, 35,000 Christians lived there. Today, there are no Christians in Mosul.

Canon Andrew White spoke with BBC Radio 4′s Today on Saturday, saying, “Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing. We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

Christians have lived in the city for nearly 2,000 years, all the way back to the time of Jesus Christ. A number of groups, including Assyrian Christians, Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox and members of the Assyrian Church of the East have their roots in present day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. They have been a minority in a predominately Muslim world, and have faced persecution at different times over the centuries. But they have never been completely driven away.
But this is exactly what ISIS has done, under the threat of execution. All Christians and Shia Muslims were given an ultimatum, either convert to Islam, or pay the equivalent of $750 per adult male, a sort-of poll tax, called a “protection fee.” Any Christians or Shia Muslims remaining in the city, and not converting or paying the protection fee were told in letters that there would be “a sword between you and us.”The Vicar came to London to speak and raise awareness of the situation in Iraq. “The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go,” he said.It should be noted that many of Mosul’s Christians had already left the city prior to ISIS’s proclamation because of all the fighting and bombings at the start of the ISIS takeover in Mosul. By the time the letters were posted and the announcements were made in all the Mosques, there were perhaps 1,500 Christians left in the city. When they fled last Saturday, it was with the clothes on their backs, being forced at gunpoint to leave any wealth, jewelry or anything of value behind.In making his own nation and setting up his Islamic Caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was able to take advantage of the lack of a centralized authority in Iraq and Syria. Since the last of the Christians have departed the city, Christian churches have had the insides gutted, crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary destroyed, and many have been converted to Mosques. Survivors who fled the city tell gruesome stories of beheadings, crucifixions and worse being perpetrated by ISIS rebels.

Many clergy are fearful that the Christian Church will never return to Mosul. They talk of the 1,800 year old edifices that have been put to the torch, the shrines that have been destroyed, and they beg for the world to take notice and help them in their plight. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned ISIS’s actions, as did Pope Francis. But now, those Christians are refugees, some finding haven with the Kurds, while the majority went to Dohuk, which is 87 miles north of Mosul. Will the world hear their pleas?

Dear Followers,

From Thursday onwards (or perhaps Friday morning) I will be taking a 3 week break as I am travelling to India to see Family and for some Church Business in the area.

I will begin queueing some posts over the week (maybe 1 per day I am away) and would like some suggestions for what you would like to see.

I am considering going back to the old format of Church fathers and other Orthodox Saint posts, though if people want anything more, I will try to accomodae this.

Many Thanks,
Dcn Daniel

If you end a point with a petty Ad Hominem attack you pretty much negate your whole point.

Ad Hominem attacks for giving advice you disagree with.
Tumblrites, some of you disappoint.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Greetings, Can you make any suggestions to someone who feels "caught" between Roman Catholicism" and Eastern Orthodoxy for over five years now. I feel much more drawn to Orthodoxy, though I fear that leaving the Roman church will damn me to hell (the basic teaching of the RCC). The only other block I have is Peter and the Rock teaching of the RCC. Beyond that I fully believe all that Orthodoxy teaches. Thank you for any help & insight.. In Christ, Irish
theorthodoxbritreturns theorthodoxbritreturns Said:

orthodoxcatholics:

Hi Anonymous,

I find that many find these difficulties, though they are simple enough to think through.

1) This Catholic teaching is a modern invention, if the Catholic Church recognise the Sacraments of the Orthodox then how can recieving these Sacraments damn someone to Hell? Logically speaking, if you already “fully believe all that Orthodoxy teaches” are you not straying from the Catholic faith already by rejecting the Immaculate conception, Filioque and other modern Catholic fantasies? There can be no damnation by following the Apostolic Faith as Christ taught that “the gates of hell would not prevail” over the Apostolic Church, so I would not panic about this.

2) I would not worry about this, as the Orthodox are also in commmunion with ‘The Rock’ as he was first at Antioch and not Rome (just look at the Bible.) Antioch is a Petrine See and has always been so. Nowhere outside of Rome is it taught that Rome as a See is “the Rock of the Faith’, simply that Peter was. Do not let ahistorical and Heterodox Latin fantasies like this scare you again.

It seems like you are Theologically very tied to the Orthodox ut kept in Rome through their intricate forms of fearmongering, which says more about them than it does about your views. Just attend some Orthodox Liturgies and speak to Local clergy (Avoid online forums as they are no help at these times) who will put things into perspective for you and will help you find your way.

In Xti,

Dcn Daniel

The new jihadist rulers of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul on Thursday completely levelled one its most well-known shrines.

The Nabi Yunus shrine was built on the reputed burial site of a prophet known in the Koran as Yunus and in the Bible as Jonah.

"Islamic State completely destroyed the shrine of Nabi Yunus after telling local families to stay away and closing the roads to a distance of 500 metres from the shrine," said the official at the Sunni endowment, which manages Sunni religious affairs in Iraq.

The endowment official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and Mosul residents told AFP it took the Sunni extremists an hour to rig the shrine with explosives.

"They first stopped people from praying in it, they fixed explosive charges around and inside it and then blew it up in front of a large gathering of people," said a witness who did not wish to give his name.

The endowment official said the Islamic State jihadist group that overran large swathes of northern and western Iraq last month have now destroyed or damaged 30 shrines, as well as 15 husseiniyas and mosques in and around Mosul.

Husseiniyas are Shiite places of worship that are also used as community centres.

The official listed the most notable losses to Muslim heritage as being the shrines of Imam Yahya Ibn al-Qassem, Aoun al-Din and Nabi Danial.

"But the worst destruction was of Nabi Yunus, which has been turned to dust," he said.

The Islamic State late last month proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

The group aims to create an approximation of society as it was in the early days of Islam, which was founded in the 7th century, and considers Muslims who do not adhere to its puritanical version of the religion heretics.

The forced displacement of our people, the taking over of our churches, the destruction of our sacred shrines, and the stealing of the properties and the future of our people will not prevent us from fulfilling our mission in this dear Levant. This injustice, which is against the heavenly and human laws, will not compel us to ask for Western protection or help. It is not out of fear or weakness, but because we believe that we are the salt of this land and the witnesses of the Resurrection till eternity. Solidarity statements are not enough, they should stand against and stop supporting those who supply weapons and finance ISIS and similar organizations.
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church