Peace Research in Egypt
Dr. Andrew Klager, a longtime mem-ber of the OPF who teaches at the Uni-versity of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, will be traveling to Egypt to research peace-building be-tween Coptic Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims. Andrew will be taking a close look at the facilitation of inter-religious peace-building between the two communities in the context of the unfolding political, social, and religious events since the Revolution of last year.
Andrew recently asked OPF if we might help fund the study trip to Cairo, which he will make at the end of the year. We have agreed to provide $800—approximately half the cost of a round-trip flight between Vancouver, BC and Cairo. Between OPF and the Mennonite Central Committee in British Columbia —Andrew comes to the Orthodox Church from a Mennonite background —Andrew now has the support he needs to cover travel costs, but he would greatly benefit from further financial support to cover research and trans-portation costs while in Egypt—food and transportation, stationery and print-ing, a digital recording device, etc.
Would you please consider making a modest gift ($25? Or even $50) to help with Andrew’s on-the-ground expenses?
Make a donation via our web site:
Or send a check to:
Orthodox Peace Fellowship, PO Box 6009, Raleigh, NC 27628-6009 USA.
Please be sure to earmark your donation with “Egypt project.”
For further information on Andrew’s research project, its hoped-for out-comes, and/or a CV detailing his exper-ience, credentials, and past publications, please contact Andrew directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to publishing an essay from Andrew on his findings in In Communion.
Andrew extends his heartfelt thanks for considering giving support to this important peace research!
A Patriarch Reposes
Paulos was born November 3, 1935. His family had a long association with the Abba Garima monastery, which he entered as a trainee deacon at the age of six, later becaming a monk and a priest. He studied at the Theological College of the Holy Trinity in Addis Ababa and at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Semi-nary in the U.S., and at Princeton.
In 1974, shortly after the revolution that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie, his education was interrupted and he was brought back to Ethiopia to be anointed bishop, assuming the name of Abune Paulos. Because he and four others were appointed without permission from the communist regime, they were arrested, and the Patriarch was subsequently executed. Released in 1983, Paulos re-turned to Princeton to completed his doctorate in theology, remaining in exile.
In 1991, the People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front assumed power. In 1992, Patriarch Abune Merkorios was ousted by a Church synod that elected Paulos Patriarch. Merkorios fled to the U.S., establishing a rival synod in exile.
Patriarch Paolos traveled widely, re-establishing good relations with the Coptic Church of Egypt and strengthen-ing ties with other Churches around the world. From 2006, he served as one of seven presidents of the World Council of Churches. He championed cooperative efforts between religious communities and was committed to Christian unity.
Following Eritrean independence in 1993, he reluctantly allowed indepen-dence for the Eritrean Orthodox Church. He helped broker peace between Ethio-pia and Eritrea after their bloody civil war and was awarded a Nansen Medal by the United Nations refugee agency for his peace and humanitarian work.
He secured the restoration of Church property that had been seized by pre-vious governments and celebrated the return of many holy relics and Church treasures which had been lost abroad, includeing a carved wooden tabot after it was found in a cupboard at St John’s Church in Edinburgh Scotland.
A tabot is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which the Ethiopian Church claims to be keeping hidden in a shrine in the north. Prince Menelik I, the sup-posed son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, is said to have brought the Ark to Ethiopia in around 950 BC.
Paulos supported a nationwide cam-paign to boost child immunization, shocking some in the Church when he suggested that HIV and Aids patients seeking a spiritual cure should take anti-retroviral drugs with their holy water. (Ethiopia is one of the countries worst affected by aids, per capita, in the world). But he rejected the use of con-doms, instead advocating chastity and monogamy as the best preventatives.
What the People of Syria Want
With bells ringing in celebration, hugs among reunited family members, a Mass of Thanksgiving, and a solemn interfaith ceremony of reconciliation, the village of Rableh, in the region of Homs, on the border with Lebanon celebrated after the release of about 240 Christians, mostly Greek-Catholic (the number of hostages previously reported was 280). They been taken by armed groups while working in the fields.
The release occurred thanks to in-tense negotiations by the heads of local families committed to the popular “Mussalaha” (Reconciliation) movement, who were able to establish contact with the Syrians present among the kid-nappers. The families were committed in the negotiations to the principle “to avoid fratricidal conflict and sectarian war: we are Syrians, we are a nation of people, we are on the same side.”
The success of the operation was manifest by the unconditional release of civilians, all unharmed, and the decision of some of the kidnappers—members of opposition groups from the same village of Rableh—to join the Mussalaha movement, which is interfaith and multi-ethnic and intends to revive the spirit of unity among the Syrian people in its peculiar ethno-religious mosaic.
The release was celebrated in the village with a solemn ceremony of reconciliation, which was attended by all the heads of families and clans, hun-dreds of people involved and their fami-lies, religious leaders, Christians and Muslims. During the celebration Pope Benedict XVI was mentioned as a “spiritual leader who has indicated the path of reconciliation for Syria.”
Rableh has been “under siege” for months by armed gangs from different backgrounds. Fr. Bakhos, the local priest, celebrated the Mass of thanks-giving in his church, noting that “from something evil something good can come.” Hope was expressed that the experience of Rableh could serve as “an encouraging precedent for reconcilia-tion among the civilian population in the war-torn region of Homs.”
IOCC Continues in Syria
Hiba, 5, clinging fearfully to her mother’s dress round the clock, wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Ever since she and her mother fled Homs with brothers Sami, 4 and Rana, 2, loud sounds elicit screams and send them diving for cover under tables and beds.
More than half of Syria’s 260,000 refugees fleeing to places like Jordan and Lebanon are children in great need of food, clothing, and basic care items. Many arrive with nothing. International Orthodox Christian Charities attends to the immediate needs of these children and their families with the distribution of emergency relief items such as health kits, infant supplies, and bedding.
IOCC Jordan is working with local churches and relief partners at Za’atri refugee camp. For older children, the disruption of fleeing their homes as well as leaving school and friends has been especially traumatic. IOCC is assessing the education needs of the school-aged refugee children and working with part-ner agencies to help improve enrollment into local schools for students.
Through donor support, IOCC has delivered bedding sets and essential per-sonal care kits to more than 1,600 refu-gee families scattered in urban settle-ments across five Jordanian cities. In Lebanon’s Bekaa region, almost 1,700 refugee families with small children received basic necessities as well as kits filled with essential hygiene items to help protect children at risk from ex-posure to unsanitary conditions. Many Syrian refugees are hosted by families in Lebanon, but growing numbers are mov-ing into collective shelters where many people share common facilities.
Inside Syria, there are some 2.5 mil-lion people in need of support due to the conflict and 1.2 million internally displaced, according to the UN Regional Relief Coordinator. Families who remain in conflict areas struggle to survive with-out jobs or the means to pay for food or medical care. IOCC works with families inside Syria in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
Donate online: www.iocc.org,
by phone: 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or
mail: P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.
Mr. Erdogan Gets it Wrong
Turkey bombarded Syrian military tar-gets on October 3rd and 4th in response to Syrian forces shelling a Turkish village.
The Turkish bombardment killed five Syrian soldiers as Turkey’s parliament authorized cross-border military action in the event of further aggression. The military and political moves are de-signed to show Turkish resolve and possibly send a signal to the internation-al community that intervention may be called for. Turkey supports Syria’s rebels and has called on the Assad regime to forfeit control of government.
Speaking to a crowd in Istanbul, Erdogan boldly declared “We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through inter-continental wars.”
“Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mis-take,” he added. “When they say ‘if you want peace prepare for war’ it means that when the time comes, war becomes the key to peace.”
Turkey and Syria have a long history of simmering conflict. Mr. Erdogan, known for his commitment to the prin-cipal of building common cause through dedication to dialogue and cooperative cultural, economic, and other exchanges with Greece, has perhaps forgotten to apply the same principals in Turkey’s relationship with Syria. It may be in neglecting to prepare for peace that Turkey is being led to war.
In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned the Syrian strike, and the US has made clear that it stands by its NATO ally’s right to defend itself against aggression. While tit-for-tat punitive strikes are recognized internationally as legitimate means to prevent further aggressive acts by a state, it remains unclear whether the Syrian bombardment was an act of aggression against Turkey or a reckless and wanton act of retaliation against Syrian rebels based there.
Think about Chernobyl…
The apocalyptic visions begin just inside the doors of the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum and many of them lead into the Book of Revelation.
In this museum, the key is in the eighth chapter: “And…there fell a great star from heaven…upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
When Ukrainians translate “worm-wood” into their own language, it be-comes “chernobyl.” It’s easy to connect the two when discussing the legacy of pain that followed the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl near Kiev, when explosions and fire at the nuclear reactor’s core released a plume of radioactive debris.
Soviet officials claimed a mere 31 died. Ukrainians mock this number, say-ing it’s impossible to calculate the subse-quent numbers of cancers, birth defects, and other forms of human suffering.
“The catastrophe at Chernobyl took its victims before their time,” said Archpriest Andrei Tkachev of St. Agapit of Pechersk Orthodox Church in Kiev. “Man is supposed to meet death in his own time, when he has a chance to prepare to meet God. That kind of death is a gift from God—a good death. That is not what happened for many of the victims of Chernobyl.”
The museum opened on April 26, 1992, the fifth anniversary of the dis-aster and soon after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The exhibits include 7,000 arti-facts from the 76 towns and villages —with 76 churches, in this historically Orthodox culture—that were razed in the radiation-tainted resettlement zone.
The door into a large chamber dedicated to the families and children of Chernobyl leads to the church icono-stasis, with a radiation suit hanging in place of the Archangel Michael and barb-ed wire and a contamination sign block-ing the way to the altar. High overhead is an icon of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of endangered children.
The altar is gone, replaced by a boat —to carry souls over the waters of death —full of children’s toys. Under the boat, the blackness is full of the icons of saints.
The Chernobyl disaster was especial-ly poignant, said Tkachev, because it struck a region that for many symbol-ized the innocence and safety of the past.
“The people here were simple peo-ple. They didn’t have writers and journal-ists to tell their stories,” he said. “This is an attempt to tell their story, using what they left behind when they were forced to flee the homes, their schools, and their churches.”
“Modern life separates a man who has deep faith from a man who has little. In these villages, life and faith was sim-ply combined and you can see that here.”
In one of the starkest images—over a map of the stricken region—the melt-ing reactor literally shatters a famous icon of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child, while an apocalyptic storm swirls around her.
“We are tempted to think that fire and water and all the elements of nature are at our command, but that is not true,” said Tkachev. “We can become victims…. The more technologies are in our lives, the more danger that we be-come their servants, even their slaves.”
The archpriest stroked his beard, thinking of another way of stating the ultimate message of this sobering tribute to lessons learned at Chernobyl.
“If a man builds a bicycle and it breaks, he will be hurt when he falls. If he builds an airplane and it breaks, he will almost certainly die when it crashes. If we build a nuclear reactor in our back-yard and it breaks, the catastrophe will kill many and may last into future gen-erations. This teaches us is that we must fear God and try to be humble about the things we build with our own hands.”
…and Imagine Iran
With talk of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities growing more feverish by the day, the mood in Iran is unsettled as never before. Iranians say they feel alone, stuck between a defiant govern-ment and a world so unattuned to their suffering that the fatal consequences of a strike on the Iranian people has so far been totally absent from the debate.
The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble, a report written by an Iranian-American scientist with expertise in industrial nuclear waste management and publish-ed by both the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and the NGO Omid for Iran, notes that a number of Iran’s sites are located directly atop or near major civilian centers. One key site that would almost certainly be targeted in a bombing campaign, the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, houses 371 metric tons of uranium hexa-fluoride and is located at the city’s edge; toxic plumes released from a strike would reach the city center within an hour, killing or injuring as many as 70,000 and exposing over 300,000 to radioactive material. These plumes would “destroy their lungs, blind them, severely burn their skin, and damage other tissues and vital organs.” The report’s predictions for long term toxici-ty and fatalities are equally stark. “The numbers are alarming,” says Khosrow Semnani, the report’s author, “we’re talking about a catastrophe in the same class as Bopal, India and Chernobyl.”
Beyond those initially killed in a po-tential strike, the Iranian government’s lack of readiness for handling wide-scale radiation exposure could exponentially raise the death toll. The study outlines Iran’s poor record of emergency re-sponse and notes that its civilian casual-ties from natural disasters like earth-quakes have been far greater than those suffered during similar disasters in bet-ter prepared countries like Turkey. With virtually no clinical capacity or medical infrastructure to deal with wide-scale radioactive fallout, or early warning systems in place to limit exposure, Iran would be swiftly overwhelmed by the aftermath of a strike. “To talk about this would be considered a weakening of people’s attitudes. The government only speaks of tactics and resistance, how unhurt Iran will be by an attack,” Says Jamshid Barzegar, a senior analyst at BBC Persian.
Though their government’s woeful unpreparedness remains unknown to most Iranians, their anticipation of the inevitability of war is growing. Moham-mad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Re-volutionary Guards, told Iranians in late September that “we must all prepare for the upcoming war” in the bluntest warn-ing yet by a senior official. When MP Mohammed Reza Tabesh criticized Jafari’s remarks in parliament, the hard-line majority shouted him down with cries of “Allahu Akbar.”
Sterile media speculation in Israel and the U.S. ignores the question of civilian casualties, portraying an attack on Iran as a tidy pinpoint strike like those Israel has carried out against Iraq and Syria, but Iran’s extensive nuclear infrastructure is far more developed and dispersed and cannot be destroyed without extensive and sustained attacks. Iran, for its part, claims the number of casualties it might sustain will be tolerable. “Hawks in Israel, the U.S., and Iran, want to underplay the level of casualties,” says Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. “But both sides are wildly wrong, there will be quite devastating consequences.”
❖ Summer Issue / IC 65 / 2012