Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Canceled

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

You have  successfully canceled your registration.

If you want to start over again please go here.
http://www.incommunion.org/2012/04/12/registration-2012/

 

 

 

Registered!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Dear Friend,

We are happy that you have registered on-line for the 2012 North American Conference of the Orthodox Peace Fellowdship, and look forward to making your acquaintance (or renewing an old relationship)!  Here is some additional information to help you plan your trip:

Transportation:

If you let us know well in advance how you plan to come, we will try to help with transportation from the airport or station, provide driving directions or otherwise advise you. What we are able to do will depend, in part, on how arrival times and locations are distributed, but we will do our best.

Accommodations:

Please make your reservation at the Ramada (if you plan to stay there) as soon as possible. Rooms not reserved after May 1 are liable to be given to other prospective guests. Each conferee is responsible for making their reservation with the hotel, and for any charges they may incur. (Conference organizers should be getting your name and room number from the hotel, in case you needed to be reached after-hours or in case of an emergency.)

If you are staying elsewhere, we will appreciate having your contact information there, but cannot provide transportation, unless you can make it to the Ramada to join other conferees there.

Conference Venue:

All of our meetings on Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2, will be held on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley. Nearer to the event, we will give you an exact location where you will check-in for the conference and be directed to the first meeting.

Sunday’s program will take place at the All Saints of North America Monastery, which is in rural Dewdney, British Columbia, about ten miles from Abbotsford. Transportation will be provided, for those who need it, from the Ramada Plaza. If you plan to attend, and need transportation — or, if you will be driving and need directions — please contact us prior to conference if at all possible.

Conference Program:

If there is time, you will be sent a program booklet in advance, so that you can look it over at your leisure. You will also be given a hard-copy when you check-in on-site, so you don’t need to print out the program at home. All sessions are to be held in plenary (no break-out sessions), and each session will include some time for questions and/or discussion.

Upon checking in, you will be given your booklet, a name-tag and some other information. Also available, if you need them, will be pens and notepads.

Other considerations:

Please make sure that we have an emergency contact for you, and that we know of your requirements regarding meals, architectural accessibility or other special needs. if you are slated to be a speaker, be sure that we know your requirements (projector, podium, etc.) prior to the event.

Local Conference Coordinator: Andrew Klager – [email protected]

Conference Chairman: Alexander Patico – [email protected]

Payment:

Do you want to pay online for the conference? If you did not do so already, you can do so securely here: http://www.incommunion.org/secure/OPFConference2012.html

“For the Peace from Above”

Monday, December 26th, 2011

For the Peace From Above:
An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism

edited by Fr. Hildo Bos and Jim Forest

The online version of the book is made from the first edition, published in Poland by Syndesmos in 1999. A much-expanded second edition (see below) has now been published by the Orthodox Research Institute.

Click here to view the table of Contents

The contents of the online first edition of the Resource Book may be reproduced freely, with reference to the source: For the Peace From Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism (1999 edition: Orthodox Peace Fellowship/Syndesmos Books).

* * *

Regarding the new edition:

publisher:
The Orthodox Research Institute
ISBN: 978-1-933275-56-7
$24.95 plus hipping and handling (USD)

For the Peace from Above is a unique resource tool offering a wealth of information:

  • reference texts from Scripture, Church canons, the Fathers, liturgical texts and contemporary authors
  • official Orthodox Church statements on racism, nationalism and on specific wars
  • essays by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemeos, Metropolitan George of Mount Lebanon, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Bishop Irenaeus of Backa, Olivier Clément, Fr. Sergi Tchetverikoff, and many other authors
  • clear and challenging definitions from dictionaries, Fathers of the Church and contemporary authors
  • study tools for workshops and group activities

Table of contents:

Introduction — iii
Chapter One: Defining Terms — 1
Chapter Two: Reference Texts from Holy Scripture — 15
Chapter Three: Canonical and Synodical Reference Texts — 43
Case Study 1: The Definition of Religious Nationalism (Ethno-Phyletism) — 69
Case Study 2: The 1986 Chambésy statement — 73
Case Study 3: Church, Nation and State — 88
Chapter Four: Reference Texts from Authors from the Patristic Period 99
Case Study 4: Acts of the Martyrdom of Early Christian Soldiers — 147
Case Study 5: Christian Soldiers in the Roman Army before Constantine — 152
Chapter Five: War, Peace and Nationalism — 155
Case Study 6: Prayer for Peace in the Liturgy — 177
Case Study 7: Commemoration of Warrior Saints — 179
Chapter Six: Reference Texts from Modern Authors — 199
Study 8: Orthodoxy, Culture and Nationalism — 233
Case Study 9: The Serbian Church and Milosevic — 238
Chapter Seven: Various Recent Official Statements — 243
Case Study 10: Orthodox Americans, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and Iraq — 287
Chapter Eight: Essays and Texts — 303
Chapter Nine: Study and Action Guide — 451

The book’s authors or persons quoted at length include:

Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Nicholas Berdyaev
Fr. Hildo Bos
Fr. Sergi Bulgakov
Bishop Irenaeus Bulovic of Backa, Serbia
Olivier Clément
John H. Erickson
Jim Forest
Metropolitan George of Mount Lebanon
Fr. Lev Gillet
Fr. Stanley S. Harakas
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk
Fr. Thomas Hopko
Anton Kartashov
Vladimir Lossky
Metropolitan Maximus of Sardes
Fr. John McGuckin
Fr. John Meyendor
A. Schmemann
St. Maria Skobtsova
Louis J. Swift
Gregory Trubetzkoy
V. Rev. Dr. Georges Tsetsis
Charles C. West

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To order from the publisher, Orthodox Research Institute:

http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/store/books/bos_forest_peace.html

Review of Fr Alexander Webster’s book “The Virtue of War”

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

from In Communion / Spring 2004 / issue 33

The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West
by Alexander F.C. Webster and Darrell Cole
Salisbury MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 2004; $20

This book is a work of polemic. The opening chapter is a clarion call to the Christian West to realize the danger of militant Islam and gird itself to fight back and defeat it. “Nine-Eleven” is presented as a belated moment of awakening for the West, and the purpose of this book is to convince Christians of the “virtue of war,” as the title puts it: that is, to demonstrate that in certain circumstances (which include the present circumstances of an Islamic attack on Western civilization) war is not only a regrettable necessity, but a positive good, in which good ends are achieved by the virtuous means of warfare.

The book is co-written by an Orthodox priest and theologian, Fr. Alexander Webster, and a Western theologian, of probably Protestant credentials, though with a deep and articulate sympathy for the Western Catholic tradition of the just war. The aim is to demonstrate broadly-based Christian support for an offensive war against evil, and especially to include the Orthodox tradition, that has often been presented as viewing war in deeply mistrustful terms. The opening chapter, as part of its clarion call, presents an alarming account of Islam, centrally and essentially committed to jihad in military terms, in the course of which there are several references to Orthodoxy’s long familiarity with Islam, as compared with the West.

This might be a good place to begin an assessment of the book, as it is certainly true that the Orthodox have a long familiarity with Islam, reaching right back to the beginnings of that religion. In the centuries since, Orthodox have often had Islamic states as close neighbors, and also lived cheek-by-jowl with Muslims, in Palestine and later under the Ottomans and the states that succeeded that empire. At times this relationship has been sharply antagonistic; so it was in the first century or so of Islam, when the Umayyad Empire sought to take Constantinople. But more often, the Orthodox have found a modus vivendi with their Muslim neighbors, as the Western crusaders found out to their annoyance, when they discovered that the Byzantine Emperor was engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the Muslims, to their mind simply enemies of the faith.

Plenty more examples could be cited for this Orthodox quest for a modus vivendi: Manuel Komnenos’ modification of the rite of conversion for Muslims, making it clear that Orthodox and Muslim worshiped the same God, however different their conceptions of him; Gregory Palamas’ favorable impressions of the mullahs with whom he met and engaged in theological discussion during the couple of years he spent as a prisoner of the Sultan (only Palamas’ more conventional, “apocalyptic” view of Islam is cited here).

In contrast, the West has tended to see Islam in terms of extremes: either the infidel, against whom one waged crusades, or a representative of an alluring “orientalism,” explored by the late Edward Said in his famous book of that name. Fr. Alexander, in his chapters in this book, seems anxious that the Orthodox should not be left out of this crusading drive against Islam, which is very much the fruit of such extremes of perception on the part of the West.

The chapters by Fr. Alexander are not a little confused. He seems to accept the virtual pacifism of the Church before Constantine, and seems uneasily aware that the Byzantine attitude to war was ambivalent; he speaks of a “penitential gloom” in Orthodox attitudes to war, but it is this that he seeks to dispel. His argument advances along several lines. First, he draws attention to the bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament. He is certainly right to warn against the potential Marcionism of opposing a God of love in the New Testament to a God of armies in the Old, but in his resolution he seems to obscure the prevailing impression left by the Lord’s teaching.

The canonical tradition poses a fairly daunting challenge. As he admits, there is virtually no exception to the canonical requirement of penance for any Christian soldier who killed in war before the eleventh century, and it is only thereafter in the West that this requirement comes to be forgotten. He might have mentioned, but does not, how the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas – disturbed that Muslim warriors went into war with the promise of eternal bliss if they fell in battle, whereas Christian warriors had no such promise, but rather faced penance if they killed – pleaded with the patriarch and the bishops to change this canonical regulation, but in vain. Instead, Fr. Alexander tries to suggest that the canon of St. Basil requiring three years’ penance (that is, three years’ exclusion from communion) is in some way ambivalent.

Another argument draws attention to the Byzantine military martyrs: but what is striking about these martyrs is that none of them died in battle, indeed in many cases their military careers are largely, or entirely, posthumous (e.g., the historical Procopios or Demetrios). These are not glorified combatant soldiers, but rather notable participants in the struggle against evil, and defenders of Christian cities and peoples.

Fr. Alexander draws attention to prayers for the armed forces in the Divine Liturgy; true, he mentions the threefold petition for peace at the beginning of the Great Ekteny, but not the fivefold petition for peace in what the Greeks call the Eirenika. It is clear on which side the weight falls. A good deal is made of the services for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Here we touch on something that needs to be brought out into the open. There is no question that, in the wake of the conversion of Constantine, the Church, both in the East and the West, lent not only its prayers for the peace and prosperity of the Empire, but also its blessing (within the limits noted above) to armed Defense of the Empire.

But is this part of the Church’s tradition, or a betrayal of it? The way in which the cult of the Holy Cross became part of the Imperial cult was dangerously close to idolatry, even if it is reflected in prayers and songs we still use. The way in which these remnants of the Christian imperial cult have come to serve a questionable role in modern Orthodox nation states might be regarded as one of the more dire consequences of “phyletism,” condemned, at least notionally, as a heresy by all Orthodox Christians.

I have concentrated in this review on Fr. Alexander’s contribution, because this is an Orthodox journal (and, indeed, the Orthodox Peace Fellowship is singled out for criticism by Fr. Alexander). The rest of the book presents the Western case. There we have a fine presentation of the Western case for a just (or justifiable) war, and an exploration of its history. Some good points are made, notably that the idea of a just war in which the virtue of the warrior is displayed and tested actually provides a means by which justice in war can be maintained. It is still the case, however, that Dr. Cole favors quite a hawkish conception of the “just war”; he is unhappy with the idea of such a war as a “mere” last resort. His position here leaves this reviewer with the impression that for him a just war can actually be a good thing, something that can be pursued with enthusiasm, rather than regret.

Whatever the merits of some of the arguments advanced, this book’s wider purpose is to justify a modern crusade against Islam – even though it recognizes, though to no noticeable effect, that Islamic terrorism is not actually a tautology – and calls on Western civilization to commit itself to such a crusade. This seems to me to leave no ground for questioning the right of the United States, or any other state powerful enough, to set itself up as a world policeman, the consequences of which seem to me profoundly alarming.

For a world power to take upon itself the role of being a world policeman raises Cicero’s question: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos – who will guard the guards themselves? The damage that well-intentioned people can do with the resources of a state (especially one so wealthy and powerfully armed as the US), as opposed what terrorists can do (and I certainly am not defending terrorism, or minimizing the guilt of terrorist action), seems to me immense. Consider Kosovo.

Look even at Iraq, where it more and more looks as if the military action there has destabilized the country and region in ways that are likely to have unfortunate long-lasting consequences. Simply in terms of numbers (which are ultimately irrelevant), the body count from allied action in Iraq exceeds that of the terrorists – and there is also the question, still quite unresolved, as to whether attacking Iraq had any impact on al Qaedi, or even was ever expected to. The metaphor of the policemen makes one think of friendly people keeping the peace. But the reality depends on who you are.

Here in England there is growing consciousness of the dangers of “institutionalized racism”: the policeman is not perceived as friendly – and often isn’t – if you are a black and living in South or East London. I know about this from teaching in South London for ten years. Similarly in Iraq: for a great many people there, the American “policemen” are not welcome, and thus are finding it more and more difficult to fulfil a police role. The atrocities in the Shia holy cities, almost certainly the work of Sunnis, are blamed by the Shiites on the Americans.

But are such factors irrelevant to the book, The Virtue of War? They would be (or only tangentially relevant) if the book confined itself to a discussion of the question of war and the Christian conscience, but it doesn’t. The first chapter – drawing on a one-sided use of Huntingdon’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis – is, as I said above, a clarion call for Christians to support the American attack on militant Islam, supported by arguments that Islam as a whole is potentially militant.

It is interesting to see what Christos Yannaras makes of the Huntingdon thesis, which sees Orthodoxy as a separate civilization from the West, something Yannaras welcomes with undue enthusiasm, though I think he is right in saying that Orthodoxy has at least as much in common with Islam as with the West. This might lead one to the conclusion, which Yannaras does not seem to draw, that we Orthodox are in an unusual position to mediate in what could become a fatal fault-line for the history of the 21st century.

– Fr. Andrew Louth

Fr. Andrew Louth is an Orthodox priest of the Diocese of Sourozh in Great Britain and Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, UK.

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A related text:

Here is a response I made to an essay (published in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly in 2003) by Fr Alexander Webster in which he argued that war should be recognized as a “lesser good” rather than a “lesser evil.”

Jim Forest

* * *

St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly vol 47 / 1 (2003) pp 65-67

War a “Lesser Good”?

by Jim Forest

In Fr Alexander Webster’s argument that the Orthodox Church should regard war as “a lesser good” rather than “a lesser evil,” it is striking how meager is his attention to the New Testament. Does he really imagine Jesus sanctioning war and obliging his followers to take part in it? The Savior became incarnate in a country enduring the humiliation of military occupation, yet failed to side in word or action with the Zealot opposition. There is no Gospel account of him sanctioning anyone’s death. In the one instance we know of when an issue of capital punishment was brought before him, he succeeded in saving the life of a woman who might otherwise have been stoned to death. When the apostle Peter used a sword in an attempt to defend Jesus from arrest, the injury Peter caused was healed by Christ—his final healing miracle before crucifixion. Jesus responded to Peter with words Fr Alexander has omitted from his essay: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus’ only act of violence in the New Testament narrative was to use a whip—not a life-endangering weapon—to cleanse the Temple. The only sword he wields is the sword of the truth. Again and again he insists on forgiveness. In the Beatitudes he blesses the merciful and refers to peacemakers as children of God. Following the way of the Cross, Christ gives the example of nonresistance. Quite literally he gives himself for the life of the world.

In the first three centuries Christians were notable for their refusal to kill, a situation that was problematic for converts in the military or in certain governmental positions. Catechetical texts coming down to us from the early Church put a special stress on the obligation not to kill either in war or through abortion. Substantial penances were established for those who broke this discipline. Even after Constantine’s conversion and the end of anti-Christian persecution, it remained obligatory for priests, deacons and iconographers not to kill anyone, not even in self-defense. These canons survive unchanged into our own day.

However convinced Fr Alexander may be that certain wars may be regarded as justifiable or even good, he would be forbidden by Church law to serve at the altar if he were to kill in such a “good” war—a prohibition one would assume should also prevent a priest from encouraging or blessing others to kill. Fr Alexander seems oblivious to the values that stand behind this prohibition. Does the Church forbid its priests doing what it regards (according to Fr Alexander) as “a lesser good”? What do these canons reveal about eucharistie life?

Canons do not, however, always solve the problem of what to do in the crucible of life. Many Christians faced with evil forces, such as St Alexander Nevsky, have found no nonviolent option in responding to attack but armed resistance—though later in life, struggling to avoid calamitous defeat, the same prince lost the respect of many fellow Russians for prudent compromises he struck with the Golden Horde.

Since the age of Constantine, time and again faithful Christians of every rank have found themselves drawn into war. Soldiers and their weapons have been blessed by pastors and bishops. We must recall, however, that often the wars on which blessings have been showered were not events which can be regarded as bringing any mortal credit on those who fought in them, however heroic and patriotic the soldiers may have been: wars for the expansion of empire, wars of national hubris, wars of manifest destiny, wars of ethic cleansing, wars to gain valuable resources.

Consider what might be regarded as the very best of recent wars: World War II. Here there was an aggressive enemy driven by totalitarian and racist ideology willing to kill not only opposing soldiers but large categories of noncombatants. Many people could find no way to respond to the war imposed on them but to fight back with whatever weapons they had. At last the Allied counter-attack resulted in city bombing, fire storms and finally the use of nuclear weapons. There were hundreds of thousands of noncombatant deaths which, in today’s “Newspeak,” would be regarded as “collateral damage.” Many of those who fought against Hitler and his allies, though possessing medals for heroism on the battlefield, have had to live with nightmarish memories of the killing of noncombatants and other terrible memories of what occurs in the actuality of war. They may well regard the war in its overall objectives as justifiable and unavoidable, but certainly not good. Indeed, one cannot even speak of the killing of the guilty as good deeds.

For all his interest in what in the Roman Catholic Church has come to be known as the Just War Theory or Doctrine, Fr Alexander seems to take little interest in one of the key elements of that doctrine: the protection of noncombatants. In the reality of modern war, it is the noncombatant who is the typical casualty. In the age of St Alexander Nevsky soldiers fought soldiers, but in our world when bullets fly and bombs fall, it is the most defenseless members of society who are the most likely to die or be maimed. Can anyone, least of all a follower of the Gospel, speak of events which claim the lives of so many innocents—mainly women, children and the aged—as “a lesser good”?

Were states to call on Orthodox Christians to take part in the destruction of churches or the wholesale burning of icons, there would be organized resistance by the faithful with the hierarchy speaking out boldly. But when it is the destruction of human beings, bearers of the image of God, what is most striking is the cooperation of the faithful in it and the near silence of their shepherds. True, one does occasionally discover theologians who raise questions about war. One of them, Fr Stanley Harakas, is briefly if dismissively referred to in the Webster essay. But one rarely meets an Orthodox Christian who has heard about such debate regarding these questions. The questions are raised in academic journals and forums and, sadly, there they tend to remain.

[end]

* * *

Witness in Jerusalem

Friday, September 24th, 2010

By Helena Koumi

Before I came to Palestine-Israel, I had no way of knowing that the three-week war in Gaza was just around the corner. At the same time, being here has made me realize that there is an ongoing war being fought every day. It happens in Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the West Bank, and also in Israel.

The war is partly about information – about being able to tell your side of the story. But it is also a low-intensity war to create “facts on the ground.” Such low-level warfare is part of daily life here in Jerusalem, both the western Israeli part and the Palestinian part in the east.

My name is Helena. I live in Stockholm where I work for a Christian peace organization, the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation. I came here to Jerusalem in November. I am Swedish by nationality, but, thanks to my father, also Greek Cypriot. It’s a connection I’m very proud of and helps explain why I am Greek Orthodox. When I was growing up, we went every second summer to Cyprus, so the Greek culture and the Orthodox tradition are close to me.

My decision to work for peace comes partly from spending so much of my youth time on a Mediterranean island divided by war. In Cyprus, the green line dividing the Greek side from the Turkish runs right through the capital, Nicosia. Now I am here in Jerusalem, another divided city plagued by conflict.
What brought me here? Why did I choose to be part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a project sponsored by the World Council of Churches? Mainly it was the combination of the project’s Christian values and the possibility of doing very direct work for peace in a place of profound division that attracted me. I also wanted to work closely with people in the midst of ongoing conflict. I had no doubt that it would be a very enriching experience, and it has definitely been that.

The EAPPI has volunteers from different countries working for three-month stints in six locations in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We seek to provide an international nonviolent presence, offering a degree of greater protection to people under military occupation. We do this mainly through reporting and monitoring, for example at military checkpoints, while providing solidarity with people struggling against the Israeli occupation, and through public advocacy.

I arrived in Jerusalem not long before Israel started its attack on Gaza. During the first pre-war weeks, we received many calls for emergency help and witnessed several house demolitions. We also saw a family being evicted from their house of over 50 years, a house that, since 2001, the family had been forced to share with settlers. The story of that family – the family Al-Kurd – has affected me deeply.

The Al-Kurd family are refugees from 1948, when hundreds of thousands Palestinians were forced to leave their home when the state of Israel was formed. The United Nations gave the Al-Kurds a home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah. Orthodox Jews now claim ownership, based on a document from the Ottoman period, to the house and the land it stands on. Though the legality of the claim is disputed, in 2001 a settler family moved into one wing of the house and then demanded that the Al-Kurd family pay them rent. The family refused, and since then they have been engaged in a long legal battle.

In the beginning of November, one week after my arrival, the family was evicted from the house. After that, the family moved into a tent on nearby land owned by Palestinians. Two weeks after the eviction, the father of the family, Mohammed Al-Kurd, died of a heart attack. So far the Israeli military has demolished the tent four times – a tent is a building, according to Israeli law, and the tent has no building permit. (In fact permits are almost impossible to obtain.) Many of the houses in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are regarded by Israel as illegal.

The mother in the family, Um Kamel, continues her struggle for her house with backup from the community and international groups such as EAPPI. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. We visit her several times a week. Just today she was fined. When demolitions are carried out, the family living in the house (or tent!) is ordered to pay the demolition cost. Even so, Um Kamel was relieved that the court did not order another demolition of the tent.

When I am speaking to Palestinians from the West Bank about their situation, the word that I hear most frequently is “trapped.” Because of the wall that Israel has built, people cannot move around as they like. Each passage through different districts requires a permit, and the roads are blocked by military checkpoints. A permit is required for health care, to get to work, go to school, or to visit relatives. Only if you are a Palestinian with an Israeli passport or a resident of Jerusalem can you enter Israel and Jerusalem without an extra permit. On the other hand, you cannot go to all areas in the West Bank with an Israeli passport. This policy applies to Israelis as well as Palestinians.

Ashraf is one of the security guards at the Augusta Victoria Hospital, near where I live. He is 24 years old and lives in a neighborhood just outside Jerusalem. This means he has no Jerusalem ID, and thus must obtain permission to pass the checkpoint to get to work. The hospital helps him with the issuance of a permit, but it’s only valid for Augusta Victoria Hospital. This means that he is not allowed into the Old City or to any other place in Jerusalem. He can move only between his home and workplace. He feels so trapped, he tells me, that his main desire is to find a girl from another country to fall in love with so he can move to her country. He sees that as his only chance to get more freedom and to travel.

I have also met Israelis who feel trapped. Last week at the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, I met a 20-year-old soldier, Shaul, who was behaving differently than I am used to soldiers behaving. When my colleague and I came, he waved at us and made funny faces. Considering that soldiers are ordered by their officers not to talk to us, we were very surprised. We were also surprised to see him opening up the turnstiles to let people pass when we asked him to, and even more so when he played some music on his mobile phone and started to dance in the booth.
We thought he was crazy at first, but later realized that he was probably the most “normal” soldier we had met so far. Every time Shaul opened the window of the booth to talk to us, he got a call from his officers telling him not to speak to us. Even so, he repeatedly violated the orders. When I asked him what would happen to him for violating orders, he answered, “Oh, they’re pretty rough.”

He said he feels trapped. “How long do I have to be here? I hate it. I don’t want to do this job.” He waved at the Palestinians and shouted. “Hey guys, I’m with you! Be strong!” He still has a year to go and desperately wants to get out.

Fortunately, his captivity is limited in time. It won’t last forever. For Palestinians, there is no end in sight.
Military service is mandatory for all Israelis, both women and men. Israel is the only country in the world with this requirement. Men do it for three years, women for two. But there are exceptions: ultra-religious persons, disabled people, married women, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and others.

Israel is a highly militarized society. It is no surprise to see soldiers and police armed with machine guns on the streets. Restaurants and cafes have security guards checking people’s bags, and the bus stations have metal detectors and X-ray machines, just like airports. They are afraid of suicide bombs. A whole generation of Israelis are marked by the suicide bombs that increasingly have become a part of their lives since the start of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian resistance to occupation that started in 2000.

In 2002, Israel started building a “separation” wall, arguing it was necessary for security. Though there are fewer suicide bombings, to what extent the wall has made Israel safer is a matter of debate. What is certain is that the wall has many other consequences. It separates families, it justifies the demolition of more Palestinian homes, it restricts movement, and impedes access to education and health care. The wall also has environmental effects and has resulted in gravely damaging the economy of the occupied territories. Almost 80 percent of the wall stands on Palestinian land – itself illegal, according to international law.

My team and I have been in an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem called Abu Dis several times. The separation wall climbs around the hilltops. There are several military checkpoints in the area that people have to pass through every day.

The Al-Quds University (Jerusalem University), where 10,000 students are registered, is in Abu Dis. Students come from many places to attend this university, the only Palestinian university in the Jerusalem area. Many of them have to pass through the Container checkpoint on their way to and from the university, a checkpoint one can only pass through by car. My team of Ecumenical Accompaniers goes there once a week to monitor the behavior of the soldiers.

They often stop cars; but on a recent day when we were present, a girl working at the university told us that she wasn’t stopped at all and that the lines are shorter when we are there. Even though I know that the work I am doing cannot change the situation for people in the long run, I am happy to hear that our work helps to some extent. That is really all I dare hope for.
Hamam is a 16-year-old boy from Abu Dis. When I met him the first time, or rather saw him, he was lying in a bed at the intensive care unit at the Maqased hospital a few blocks from where we live. He was badly injured after he had been shot with rubber bullets by an Israeli soldier at close range because he had stood in the front line in a peaceful demonstration protesting the war in Gaza.

I did not know Hamam before, but our team was asked to go and see him because his family had problems with getting permits to come into Jerusalem. Even if you have a son or brother in the intensive care unit, you do not automatically qualify to get a permit to Jerusalem to visit your family member.
Hamam was lying there, unconscious and connected to all these machines that helped him perform life’s most basic tasks. The doctors did not know if he would survive; and, if he did, whether his speech and understanding might be impaired, or whether he might suffer partial paralysis. Since then we have been going back several times a week and witnessed the miracle of Hamam’s recovery.

When I saw him two days ago, three weeks after he was shot, he had just been moved to a rehabilitation center close to Bethlehem, where his family can easily visit him. He was sitting in a wheelchair, smiling. Even though he couldn’t express more than sounds for yes and no, he understood most of what I said in English. His right arm is paralyzed, but now he can move his right leg a little. Already he is much better than the doctors anticipated.

However he is depressed, realizing what has happened to him and how that will affect his life. I have become so fond of this beautiful boy and his family that it really hurts me to have to leave them to go back home and to know I will not be able to remain close.

If the situation was already bad in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it didn’t get better with the war in Gaza. Every Friday, Jerusalem has been closed for at least 36 hours for people from the West Bank under 50 years of age. There have been thousands of police and military on the streets. Jerusalem looked like a city under siege during those days: roads closed at military check points and the Old City completely closed off at midday, the Muslim prayer time.

Several demonstrations have been held – some with rock-throwing at the police and soldiers, others completely peaceful, although even these were broken up violently by the police. I have been pushed rather brutally by police while accompanying a demonstration.

The war affects everyone – Israelis, Palestinians and, of course, volunteers like me who live and work here. It’s so close, but yet so far away.
Most of the Israelis support the war. When I speak with my Israeli friends about it, I cannot understand why. I cannot understand how you can reach peace by means of war. On both sides, it will only bring only more death and destruction. The consequences stretch far into the future. Palestinians who spoke about peace and reconciliation with the Israelis before the war now express hatred and distrust of all Israelis. It’s so very sad, yet at the same time understandable.

During these difficult times, I am so glad for the churches in this land. I have attended several church services – Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and mixed – that prayed for Gaza. The feeling of belonging and sisterhood with my fellow Christians give me peace.

As an Orthodox Christian, I am proud to know that most Palestinian Christians belong to my church, and I am glad that one of the tasks my project assigns to volunteers is to participate in church services and to stand side by side with Christian Palestinians. I have been to Arabic liturgies in Orthodox churches and felt a deep sense of belonging, even without understanding any of the words.

Soon I go home to Sweden. My experience here is coming to an end. I will leave with very mixed feelings. I both want to stay and to leave. It is not an easy place to be for a long time. Jerusalem – the holy city – is a tense place to live. But I think I have much more to give and to do here. I have become very close to the people I work with and those I have met during these three months.
Yet when I go home, my life will have been greatly enriched. I will have the responsibility to share my experiences and stories with people around me, and I hope they will spread like rings on the water.    ❖

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

Then and Now: Confessions of an Outreach Worker

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Then, when I saw a homeless person, I saw the dishevelment, shuffling, and shopping cart. Now I see a person with a story. Not likely a happy story, but there might be some joy in it. Maybe grace.

Then I saw filth, poor hygiene, beards and thought, go to a shelter. Now I know that the street is safer for some people, and there are not enough beds to go around for the rest.

Then I noticed the skin sores and rashes, hacking coughs, missing teeth. Now I see the bigger problems: the Astructure resistance” keeping a person away from services; the bad receptions at health clinics; the perfunctory dismissals for inability to pay; the lack of dental providers even for those with benefits.

Then I saw the blank stares and the Aoff in their own world” look and thought mental illness. Now I know that it might be a sane defense against the constant stares and comments of others.

Then I thought, get a job. Now I know the devastation of untreated mental illness and substance abuse, the consequences of severe child abuse, the effects of 35 years in jail. I know that the simple lack of a shower and clean clothes can cost a person their job.

Then I asked, Why doesn’t someone solve this problem? Now I ask B what is your name? Do you have somewhere safe to sleep? Are you warm enough? Do you want to talk?

Patristic reflections: Not an eye for an eye but love of enemies

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Matthew 38-46

Do not return evil for evil: A law prescribing an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, has this foundation: Each will spare the other as long as one fears for one’s own limbs. It was thereby imagined that no evil person would be found. But woe to the earth for its failures! For as long as we live in this world, over which the devil rules, slanderers, fighters and persecutors will necessarily abound. If therefore we begin, according to the mandate of the law, to return evil for evil to everyone, we are all made evil, the foundation of the law is dissolved, and what results? While the law wanted to make the evil good, it also made the good evil. If, however, following the mandate of Christ, we do not resist evil, then even if the evil ones are not harmed, still the good will remain good. Thus through the mandate of Christ, the mandate of the law is also filled. For one who fulfills the mandate of the law does not at the same time fulfill that of Christ; but one who fulfills the mandate of Christ at the same time fulfills that of the law. Anonymous. (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 12. The Greek Fathers, 56:699)

Tolerate injury: The Lord wishes that the hope of our faith, extending into eternity, be tested … so that the very toleration of a hidden injury should be a witness of our future judgment. The law used to hold unfaithful Israel within a boundary of fear and contained the desire for injury by the threat of injury returned. Faith, however, does not permit resentment for injuries, nor does it wish for revenge …. There is in the judgment of God a greater consolation for those who have suffered injury and a punishment more dreadful than injuries returned. Therefore the Gospels not only warn us away from iniquities but also drive out the latent desire for vengeance. For if we have received a blow, we ought to offer the other cheek….The Lord who accompanies us on our journey offers his own cheek to slaps and his shoulders to whips, to the increase of his glory. Hilary (On Matthew 4.25)

Resist not evil: For this reason Jesus has also added, “But I say to you, do not resist the evil one.” He did not say “do not resist your brother” but “the evil one”! We are authorized to dare to act in the presence of evil through Christ’s influence. In this way he relaxes and secretly removes most of our anger against the aggressor by transferring the censure to another. “What then?” one asks. “Should we not resist the evil one at all?” Indeed we should, but not in this way. Rather, as Jesus has commanded, we resist by surrendering ourselves to suffer wrongfully. In this way you shall prevail over him. For one fire is not quenched by another, but fire by water. Chrysostom. (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 18.1)

Be removed from every lawsuit: Beyond the tolerance of physical injury, the Lord wants us also to have contempt for things of this world and to be so far removed from every lawsuit or contest of judgment. If by chance a slanderer or tempter comes forward to initiate a lawsuit for the sake of testing our faith and desires to rob us of the things which are ours, the Lord orders us to offer willingly not only the things that the person goes after unjustly but even those not demanded. Chromatius. (Tractate on Matthew 25.2.1)

Joseph’s flight: Just as Joseph lost his cloak in the hand of the prostitute and fled dressed with a better cloak, so throw your cloak into the hands of the slanderer and flee with the better covering of justice. If not, while you want to reclaim the clothes of the body, you may squander the most precious clothing of the soul. If the unbelievers see you, a Christian, repay injuries with worse injuries by worldly means and hammer earthly judgments against a lawless plunderer even to the destruction of your soul, how should they believe in reality of the hope of the heavenly kingdom that Christians preach? For they who hope for heavenly things easily spurn earthly things. Yet I doubt that those who strongly embrace worldly things believe firmly in heavenly promises. Anonymous. (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 12, The Greek Fathers)

The second mile: Do you grasp the excellence of a Christian disposition? After you give your coat and your cloak, even if your enemy should wish to subject your naked body to hardships and labors, not even then, Jesus says, must you forbid him. For he would have us possess all things in common, both our bodies and our goods, as with them that are in need, so with them that insult us. For the latter response comes from a courageous spirit, the former from mercy. Because of this, Jesus said, “If any one shall compel you to go one mile, go with him two.” Again he leads you to higher ground and commands you to manifest the same type of aspiration. For if the lesser things he spoke of at the beginning receive such great blessings, consider what sort of reward awaits those who duly perform these and what they become even before we hear of receiving rewards. You are winning full freedom from unworthy passions in a human and passible body. Chrysostom (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 18.3)

Mission and the second mile: Some believe that this section, “He who is pressed into service for one mile, let him go with that man as far as another two,” is to be understood spiritually in this fashion: If a nonbeliever, or one who has not yet followed the knowledge of the truth, makes mention of the one God the Father, the founder of all things, as if coming to God by the way of the law, go with that one the second mile. That is, after his profession of God the Father, lead this same person, by the way of truth, to the knowledge of the Son and the Holy Spirit, showing that one is to believe not only in the Father but also in the Son and the Holy Spirit. Chromatius (Tractate on Matthew 25.3.2)

Freely give to those who beg: It is folly, it is madness, to fill our wardrobes full of clothes and to regard with indifference a human being, a being made in the image and likeness of God, who is naked, trembling with cold and almost unable to stand. You say: “But the fellow is pretending to tremble and not to have any strength.” So what? If that poor fellow is acting, he is doing it because he is trapped between his own wretchedness and your cruelty. Yes, you are cruel and guilty of inhumanity. You would not have opened your heart to his destitution without his play-acting. If it were not necessity compelling him, why should he behave in such a humiliating way just to get a bit of bread? The made-up tale of a beggar is evidence of your inhumanity. His prayers, his begging, his complaints, his tears, his wandering all day long round the city did not secure for him the smallest amount to live on. That perhaps is the reason why he thought of acting a part. But the shame and the blame for his made-up tale falls less on him than on you. He has in fact a right to be pitied, finding himself in such an abyss of destitution. You, on the other hand, deserve a thousand punishments for having brought him to such humiliation. Chrysostom (On the First Letter to the Corinthians 21, 5; PG61, 177)

Give so that others need not beg: I have children, one says, and I am afraid [to give] lest I myself be reduced to the extremity of hunger and want and myself stand in need. I am ashamed to beg. For that reason therefore do you cause others to beg? I cannot, you say, endure hunger. For that reason do you expose others to hunger? Do you know what a dreadful thing it is to beg, how dreadful to be perishing by hunger? Spare also your brethren! Are you ashamed, tell me, to be hungry, and are you not ashamed to rob? Are you afraid to perish by hunger, and not afraid to destroy others? And yet to be hungry is neither a disgrace nor a crime; but to cast others into such a state brings not only disgrace, but extreme punishment. Chrysostom (Homilies on 1 Thess. 10)

The rich and the poor: The rich man cannot be tested or proved through physical suffering. No one will likely do him violence. Rather, he is tested and proved by generosity. Anonymous (Incomplete Work on Matthew, The Greek Fathers)

You tear yourself apart by hating: We have seen how murder is born from anger and adultery from desire. In the same way, the hatred of an enemy is destroyed by the love of friendship. Suppose you have viewed a man as an enemy, yet after a while he has been swayed by your benevolence. You will then love him as a friend. I think that Christ ordered these things not so much for our enemies as for us: not because enemies are fit to be loved by others but because we are not fit to hate anyone. For hatred is the prodigy of dark places. Wherever it resides, it sullies the beauty of sound sense. Therefore not only does Christ order us to love our enemies for the sake of cherishing them but also for the sake of driving away from ourselves what is bad for us. The Mosaic law does not speak about physically hurting your enemy but about hating your enemy. But if you merely hate him, you have hurt yourself more in the spirit than you have hurt him in the flesh. Perhaps you don’t harm him at all by hating him. But you surely tear yourself apart. If then you are benevolent to an enemy, you have rather spared yourself than him. And if you do him a kindness, you benefit yourself more than him. Anonymous (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 13, The Greek Fathers)

Pray for those who persecute you: Which [of the pagan philosophers] have so purified their own hearts as to love their enemies instead of hating them; instead of upbraiding those who first insult them (which is certainly more usual), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against them? . With us, on the contrary, you will find unlettered people, tradesmen and old women, who, though unable to express in words the advantages of our teaching, demonstrate by acts the value of their principles. For they do not rehearse speeches, but give evidence with their good deeds. When struck, they do not strike back; when robbed, they do not sue; to those who ask, they give, and they love their neighbors as themselves. We cannot endure to see a man being put to death even justly We see little difference between watching a man being put to death and killing him. Athenagoras of Athens (Legatio 11, 34-35)

Joint heirs with Christ by adoption: “That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven” is to be understood in the sense in which John also speaks when he says, “He gave them the power of becoming children of God.” For there is One who is the Son by nature, and he absolutely knows no sin. But since we have received the power to become sons, we are made sons insofar as we fulfill the precepts that have been given by the Son. “Adoption” is the term used by the apostle to denote the character of our vocation to the eternal inheritance, in order to be joint heirs with Christ. By spiritual regeneration we therefore become sons and are adopted into the kingdom of God, not as aliens but as his creatures and offspring. Augustine (Sermon on the Mount 1.23.78)

The sun and the rain: Since he calls us to adoption as sons through the only begotten Son, he calls us to his own likeness. For, as the Lord at once adds, “He makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” Now, if you would understand the expression “his sun” to mean not the sun that is visible to bodily eyes but his wisdom, to which the following expressions refer “he is the brightness of eternal light” and also “The sun of justice is risen upon me” as well as “But to you that fear the name of the Lord, the sun of justice shall arise” then you must also understand the rain as a watering by the teaching of truth, because that teaching has become manifest to the good and to the evil. But you may prefer to understand it as the sun that is manifest to the bodily eyes of beasts as well as people and to understand the rain as the showers that produce the fruits that God has given us for the perfection of the body. I believe this to be surely the more probable meaning, since the other “sun” does not rise except on the good and the holy, for this is the very thing that the unjust bewail in the book that is called the Wisdom of Solomon: “And the sun [of understanding] has not risen upon us.” And the spiritual rain refreshes only the good, for the vine signifies the bad of whom it is said, “I will command my clouds not to rain upon it.” Augustine (Sermon on the Mount 1.23.79)

The destiny of the just and unjust is linked: He put it carefully when he said “over the just and the unjust,” not “over the unjust as over the just,” because God puts all good things on the earth, not on account of all people but on account of the few holy ones. He is more content that sinners should enjoy the benefits of God against their deserving than that the just should be robbed of his benefits against their deserving. Likewise, when the Lord is irritated by sinners, he sends his punishment not on account of the good but only on account of the sinners. Nevertheless it touches the just in equal measure with the sinners. For as in prosperity he does not separate the sinners from the just, so he does not separate the just from the sinners in hard times. He does not separate the sinners from the just in prosperity, lest, being separated, they should know themselves to be cast down and despair. He does not separate the just from the sinners in hard times, lest, being separated, they should know themselves to be chosen and boast. Above all, prosperity should not benefit the evil but rather hurt them, nor should difficult times harm the good but rather benefit them. Anonymous (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 13, The Greek Fathers)

The perfection of loving the enemy: He who loves his friends loves them for his own sake, not on account of God, and therefore he has no treasure. The loving itself delights him. However, he who loves his enemy loves not for his own sake but on account of God. Hence he has great treasure, because he goes against his own instincts. For where labor sows the seed, there it reaps the fruit. “Be ye therefore perfect, just as your Father is perfect.” He who loves his friend does not in fact sin but does not work justice. It is half a good that one depart from evil and not pursue good. It is perfect, however, that one not only flee evil but also accomplish good. So he said, “Be perfect,” so that you might both love your friends on account of shunning evil and love your enemies on account of possessing justice. The former frees us from punishment; the latter leads us into glory. For a representative of God is not perfect who does not resemble God through his or her works. Anonymous (Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 13)

All things are perfected by goodness: The law used to demand that your neighbor be loved and allowed hatred against an enemy. Faith, rather, requires that enemies be cherished. It breaks the tendency we have to be peevish and urges us to bear life’s difficulties calmly. Faith not only deters anger from turning into revenge but even softens it into love for the injurer. It is merely human to love those who love you, and it is common to cherish those who cherish you. Therefore Christ calls us into the life of heirs of God and to be models for the just and the unjust of the imitation of Christ. He distributes the sun and the rain through his coming in baptism and by the sacraments of the Spirit. Thus he has prepared us for the perfect life through this concord of public goodness, because we must imitate our perfect Father in heaven. Hilary (On Matthew 4.27)

The law of gospel love: The Lord has shown that we cannot have the good work of perfect love if we love only those from whom in turn we know the return of mutual love will be paid in kind. For we know that love of this sort is common even to nonbelievers and sinners. Hence the Lord wishes us to overcome the common law of human love by the law of gospel love, so that we may show the affection of our love not only toward those who love us but even toward our enemies. Thus we may imitate the example of true piety and our Father’s goodness. Chromatius (Tractate on Matthew 21.2.1)

The authors

Athenagoras (+176/180) was an early Christian philosopher and apologist from Athens, who wrote “A Plea Regarding Christians” that was addressed to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodius. In it, Athenagoras defended Christians from the common accusations of atheism, incest and cannibalism.

St. Augustine (354-430) was a pivotal figure in the development of Christianity in the West. Born in North Africa, he went to Carthage at age 17 to continue his education and later taught in the same city. In 383 he moved to Rome, and the following year to Milan to teach in the imperial court. The influence of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, plus the impact of reading a life of St. Anthony, brought him to baptism in 387. He quit his teaching position in Milan and devoted himself to serving God. In 388 he returned to Africa, sold his patrimony, giving the money to the poor, keeping only enough to convert his family house into a monastery. In 396 he became bishop of Hippo.

Anonymous: Not all the names of the authors of ancient New Testament commentaries have survived. However, recognizing the value of their writings, surviving fragments have been preserved in collections of the writings of the Greek and Latin Fathers.

St. Chromatius of Aquileia (+406/407), one of the most celebrated prelates of his time, was in frequent correspondence with his illustrious contemporaries, St. Ambrose and St. Jerome. Himself a scholarly theologian, he urged his friends to the composition of learned works, St. Ambrose to write exegetical works and St. Jerome to undertake translations and commentaries. In the bitter quarrel between Jerome and Rufinus, Chromatius sought to make peace between the disputants. Chromatius opposed the Arian heresy with zeal and gave loyal support to St. John Chrysostom when he was suffering oppression from the imperial court.

St. Hilary of Arles (+449) came from a notable family of Northern Gaul but, at the urging of St. Honoratus of Arles, abandoned honors and riches and embraced the ascetic life. After the death of St. Honoratus, the people of Arles drafted Hilary as their new archbishop. He assisted at church councils held at Riez, Orange, Vaison, and Arles.

St. John Chrysostom, born in Antioch in 347, was famous for eloquence in public speaking and his denunciations of abuse of authority in the Church and in government. He was nicknamed chrysostomos, Greek for “golden mouthed.” Baptized in 370, he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. In 398 he was called, against his will, to be the bishop in Constantinople. Concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor, in his sermons he emphasized almsgiving and living modestly. He often spoke out against the abuse of wealth and refused to host lavish entertainments. An irritant both to the imperial court as well as to worldly prelates, he died in exile in 407. His final words were “Glory be to God for all things!” He is regarded as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian.

Note: All but one of these commentaries are taken from Matthew 1-13, edited by Manlio Simonetti, in the series The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press).

Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54

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Dear In Communion reader, June 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Dear In Communion reader,

It always surprises me, for a journal of so modest a size, how much we

manage to get into it. It’s a bit like Holland, small but densely populated.

Walking home this morning, having left the paper edition of In Communion

with the printer, I thought about the longest piece in this issue, a

selection of short commentaries from the Church Fathers about the eight

Beatitudes. It struck me that the life of the peacemaker is essentially to

live the Beatitudes. Not just one of them is about peacemaking. They all

are, and none of the eight can be crossed off the list as being less

important.

In one way or another, each of the longer pieces in this issue has something

to do with the Beatitudes. Two dramatic examples are given in the accounts

of how two bishops acted in a way that saved many lives and changed for the

better the direction of the nations in which they lived: Metropolitan Kirill

in Bulgaria, who in 1943 was able to stop a train that would have carried

Jews to a death camp; and Patriarch Aleksy of Moscow, who in 1991 called on

soldiers not to obey orders to open fire on unarmed people surrounding the

Parliament and in the process helped prevent a KGB-led coup.

Peacemaking is rarely that dramatic. Often it’s almost invisible a parish

member who quietly works to defuse a situation which, left unattended to,

could destroy the unity of the parish; or someone who manages to talk about

a controversial issue (war, abortion, capital punishment) in such a way that

ears are opened instead of closed.

Peacemaking is rooted in our spiritual life. Without prayer, including

prayer for our enemies and opponents, how can we hope to come closer to God

and to each other? Here too there is much in this issue that we hope you

will find helpful.

*We appeal to you to help us continue the work of the Orthodox Peace

Fellowship.*

If you are not yet a member, consider joining. See this web page for

details:

http://incommunion.org/articles/introduction/what-is-the-opf

What about giving some one you care about a subscription to In Communion?

Your parish priest or to a friend?

Another way is to make a donation to OPF. Just click the donation button.

Thank you for whatever help you can manage.

In Christ’s peace,

Jim Forest

editor and OPF co-secretary

Recommended Reading Spring 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

A Palestinian Christian

Cry for Reconciliation

By Naim Stifan Ateek

Orbis Books, 224 pp, $24

Fr. Naim Ateek has played a major role in promoting Palestinian nonviolent resistance. Rejecting the misuse of scripture by both Jewish and Christian Zionists, his book offers helpful insights to biblical texts that help sustain Palestinian Christians, descendants of the first Christians.

The book may be even more important for Christians in the West, however, who often have little knowledge of scripture’s rejection of domination and the violence of empires.

The author applies his knowledge of history and culture to stories and parables with such simplicity that they can be told to children. Writing about the Book of Jonah, for example, he shows how literalism and the lack of historical knowledge robs great literature of its power and meaning. He asks if readers today understand the revolutionary nature of the story or its implications for modern-day Israel and its relationship with Palestinians?”

Ateek founded of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem as a means of taking the Gospel beyond scholarship to discipleship and witness, to checkpoints, demolished houses, refugee camps, barrier walls and prisons.

Franz Jäggerstätter:

Letters and Writings from Prison

edited by Erna Putz

Orbis Books, $25, 260 pages

Franz Jäggerstätter, an Austrian farmer, devoted husband and father, was executed in 1943 for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. Before taking this stand, Jäggerstätter had consulted both his pastor and his local bishop, who instructed him to do his duty and to obey the law.

For years Jäggerstätter’s solitary witness was honored by the Christian peace movement, while viewed with discomfort by many of his fellow Austrians. Now, with his beatification by the Catholic Church in 2007, he has become better known a martyr as challenging to Orthodox Christians as he has been to Catholics.

Here is an extract from his last letter: “Dearest wife and mother, it was not possible for me to free both of you from the sorrows that you have suffered for me. How hard it must have been for our dear Lord that he had given his dear mother such great sorrow through his suffering and death! And she suffered everything out of love for us sinners. I thank our Savior that I could suffer for him, and may die for him. I trust in his infinite compassion. I trust that God forgives me everything, and will not abandon me in the last hour. … And now all my loved ones, be well. And do not forget me in your prayers. Keep the Commandments, and we shall see each other again soon in heaven!”

How could a humble farmer imagine he had a clearer conscience than those who led the Church in his homeland? We find in Franz Jägerstätter a living answer to such questions.

Jim Forest

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Synaxis Press, 135 pages

In The Evidence of Things Not Seen, Archbishop Lazar moves with ease from specific topics in Orthodox theology to corresponding topics in physics, demonstrating that (in contrast to fundamentalist Christian religions) the Orthodox faith and modern physics are compatible.

Lazar distinguishes between facts and meaning. In a physical experiment, one can take very accurate measurements, but without interpretation they have no meaning. Lazar points out that an early astronomer, Brahe, took accurate astronomical measurements, but still ended up with an incorrect theory of cosmology. His facts were useless until they were correctly interpreted after his death by Kepler, his assistant.

Similarly the creation narrative, from the beginning up to the time of Abraham and Sarah, condenses enormous time and vast prehistoric oral tradition into a simple narrative. This narrative is about meaning, not historical or scientific detail. We are reminded that we derive our theology from meaning, not from supposed “facts.”

In comparing modern microphysics to Orthodox theology, Lazar points out that there is no separation between the observer and the observed. The observer in both instances is not extraneous to the observed, but is a participant at different levels of experience, being part of the process by seeking to understand and quantify it. In theology, the observer has intentionally involved himself, hoping to become part of it the living theology of Orthodoxy whereas in quantum physics the observer unavoidably impacts directly on the observation, becoming a part of the process being observed.

One of Lazar’s key points is that almost all apparent conflict between science and faith is the result of “models of reality” rather than of reality itself. When we become rigid and frozen in our models by, for example, using a journalistic understanding of scripture, we deprive ourselves of reality itself. As an historical example, Lazar goes to the year 1500 when the general model of reality for our universe placed a stationary earth at the center of the universe, around which the sun and other heavenly bodies were rotating. The great philosophers as well as the Scripture agreed that this was reality rather than a model of reality, so concrete as to be a dogma of faith.

But the observations of the heavens by Galileo proved the old model was wrong. Galileo came up with the more accurate model of reality in which the earth and the planets rotate around the stationary sun, which caused a conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church. Galileo’s doctrine was condemned by Rome and Galileo was forced to recant. But even Galileo’s model of reality was not the last word. The sun is no longer seen as a stationary object but a star racing through space as part of a spiral arm of a galaxy a better model, but one which may need to be modified as more discoveries are made.

“Orthodox Christianity is not an arbiter of facts,” writes Archbishop Lazar, “but the healer of humanity, the source of meaning, the path to the authenticity of life and the doorway to eternity and immortality.”

Dr. John Mavroides

The Healing Word

by Bishop Basil of Amphipolis

Darton, Longman & Todd, 13

It is not just the case that much of the universe is not seen; it cannot be seen. This was well known in patristic times, and it is consonant with biblical revelation and the tradition of the Church. In his sensitive and illuminating reading of scripture and the Fathers, Bishop Basil encourages us to look afresh at the creation by acquiring the mind of Christ through word and sacrament and membership of the Church. He is concerned to show that “the universe is ultimately a single integrated whole and in God each part of it is linked with every other.”

In “Healing in the Life of the Individual,” Basil helps us to see new truths in familiar texts by a kind of running exegesis, which assumes without laboring the insights of modern scholarship.

There follow chapters on baptism, forgiveness, the mystery of the Church and the Eucharist, ecumenism and the royal priesthood of the Church.

Bishop Basil breaks new ground in the third section, “Becoming a Healing Presence in the World,” in his use of the work of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite and of Maximus the Confessor.

Here are real treasures. I found myself putting ticks against every illuminating quotation from Maximus, just as I was putting question marks against much of Dionysius. But then so does Bishop Basil, who frequently has to fill out gaps in the Dionysian arguments himself.

“We cannot today ignore the development of science,” writes Bishop Basil, “if we are to present our case as Christians in the world in which we live.”

Dr. John ArnoldOne day, a man who was visiting Mount Athos asked several wise elders the following question: “What is the most important thing in your life?” Each time he was answered like this: “It is divine love; to love God and to love one’s neighbor.” He said: “I don’t have love, either for prayer, or for God, or for other people. What must I do?” And then he decided by himself: “I will act as if I had this love.” Thirty years later, the Holy Spirit gave him the grace of love.

Archimandrite Sophrony

Spring 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 53

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Conversations by email: Spring 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

These are extracts from recent postings to the OPF’s e-mail discussion list. If you are an OPF member and wish to take part, contact Mark Pearson <[email protected]> or Jim Forest <[email protected]>.

Fear of the other: Thomas Merton wrote that fear is the root of war. If fear becomes our primary way of looking at things, if we look at everything and everyone through the lens of suspicion and fear, then we blind and cripple ourselves.

Fear of the “the other” appears to me to arise in part from recognition. We fear the “ourselves” that we see in “the other.” We hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves. Reconciliation with our own “self” is part of overcoming our fear and hatred of “the other.”

Archbishop Lazar

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On giving: The latest New Yorker has a piece on the Wittgenstein family, whose best-known member is Ludwig the philosopher. The family was quite wealthy, and he had a large inheritance. At one point in his career he decided to renounce the world, give away his money and live a simple, rural life. He decided to give the money to his already-wealthy siblings, reasoning that more money wouldn’t corrupt them any further. A novel approach.

John Brady

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Render unto Caesar: In an exchange recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (22:17), Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Given the fact that the Roman army was an unwelcome occupying force and that there was widespread resistance to their presence, it was a controversial question. Jesus’ response was to ask the questioner for a coin (making clear in the process that he had no such coin himself). Drawing attention to Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Arthur Waskow, an American rabbi, comments that an older passage from Jewish Torah commentary mentions that the difference between Caesar (who called himself a god) and God is that, when Caesar makes coins in his own image, they all come out looking the same, but when God makes persons in His own image, each is unique. In this context, Jesus may have been saying, “render unto Caesar what is his” the currency of the realm stamped with Caesar’s his own face and leave to God what is His: humankind.

Jim Forest

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Dying of sorrow: I was interested to read a newspaper article on the many health problems that result from eating too much red meat. But one point was neglected. Most people die from sorrow, broken hearts and a lack of understanding of God’s desires for them. This effects our bodies in ways hard to quantify.

Renee Zitzloff

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Who would Jesus bomb? One of our recent visitors was Steve Jacobs, who arrived at out house wearing a t-shirt with the question: “Who would Jesus bomb?” Steve is one of the founders of St. Francis House of Hospitality in Columbia, Missouri.

One of the things we talked about is how best to respond to an annual military welcome-house at a Missouri military base. The event features a big tent in which kids are invited to play computer war games. It’s very popular.

An idea that emerged in our conversations was the possibility of setting up a “peace games tent” outside the base where, using borrowed laptop computers, kids (and parents too) could play peace games. Even if no peace game sells as well as war games do, we found there are a lot of peace games out there. Searching this string computer games peacemaking pulls up many hits.

We got to thinking about making a hand-out to give to families visiting the base, but also one that could be adapted for use at stores selling war games. A possible headline: “Not all computer games are about killing.”

A draft opening to the text: “Today our kids are being invited by the military to play war games games that make killing people seem like a fun thing to do. The truth is every act of killing is a tragedy, not only to victims and their families, but for all the soldiers who come home burdened with memories of killing real people. In many cases the hidden scars left by war never heal. That’s a big part of the reason why so many returning soldiers can’t hold down jobs, keep their families together, become homeless, turn to drugs, and even take their own lives.

“Do we want war to look like a game to our kids?

“Did you know that there are computer games that challenge kids and their parents to learn the skills of peacemaking?”

Jim Forest

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OPF in Los Angeles: In the spring of 2008, we received word from an OPF member, Chris Apostal, that he wished to create a local OPF presence in his area, starting at his home parish, Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles, California.

Chris developed a one-page proposal, outlining what he intended and informing his parish priest and the congregation about OPF. His initial agenda included voluntary participation by interested individuals in a monthly discussion, potential formation of committees to address different concerns, and of chapter activities related to them. He carefully drew a distinction between the chapter and the parish and also expressed a hope that this initiative would “allow enough freedom for each parish member to find what their conscience and the Holy Spirit leads them to, and to express that in constructive Christian service and efforts at reconciliation.”

A first OPF meeting was held at Holy Virgin Mary in June. Now there are twice-monthly meeting after liturgy. Those taking part have had animated discussions about issues of war, peace, capital punishment, forgiveness, and the relationship of peace to the environment. We saw a film entitled Forgiveness, a fictional story set against the backdrop of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and later the documentary, Soldiers of Conscience. At one meeting a parish member who is a poet read a poem about war, which served as a basis for discussion. Members prayed and send clemency appeals on behalf of a death row inmate who had recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Chris writes: “Our discussions usually come down to an impasse: The ‘pacifist approach’ contends that Christians have historically relied too readily on ‘carnal weapons,’ which betrays a relatively weak faith in the way Christ showed us the way of the cross. If we had enough faith, lived closer to the Lord, and worked at developing the “spiritual weapons” (faith, prayer, fasting, patient suffering, returning good for evil, etc.), we could disarm their foes without inflicting harm. The ‘lesser evil’ approach sees that view as naive and unrealistic, given the realities of the fallen world. It contends that there may be times when killing is a lesser evil than the alternative of refraining from violence. It holds that even if we decide to renounce violence in the defense of ourselves, that it is our duty to utilize violence when we have a responsibility (i.e., familial, governmental, to protect the ‘other’ who may be innocent and defenseless, or who may be depending on us.”

Although average attendance rarely exceeds a dozen, the chapter is now a year old.

We often say “all politics is local.” In the Church, we say that the Body of Christ is “catholic” meaning that in each local situation, even that of “two or three” gathered in His holy name, the fullness of the Church is present. Its very locality, though, acts to ensure that individual Christians learn to recognize the face of Christ in each other individual; they can exchange a Kiss of Peace, can take conciliar decisions, and can act in Christian solidarity with persons who know each other person-to-person. Such is the role of a chapter of OPF. The Los Angeles group has now blazed a trail and provided an example for anyone who might wish to follow their lead. May God bless their efforts and grant them many years!

Alex Patico

Note: For more information about the Los Angeles OPF chapter, contact Chris Apostal <[email protected]>.

Calling oil companies to account: Yesterday I participated in a protest at the oil company Chevron’s world headquarters in San Ramon, California, while the annual meeting of shareholders was going on inside. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups working together to support communities across the world being destroyed by Chevron.

The devastation caused by oil refineries to local communities is incredible: higher rates of asthma, cancer and miscarriages, ecological devastation, and, in many cases, support for military dictatorships.

Acting as proxies for shareholders in Chevron, folks from Burma, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ecuador were able to speak, in the face of ridicule, to the Chevron board of directors and to present an alternative Chevron annual report chronicling the many ways Chevron hurts people and the earth.

Outside the meeting speakers took turns highlighting the damage caused by Chevron and other oil companies, highlighting the hypocrisy of the oil industries’ “green-washing” ad campaigns.

At an opportune moment six of us with lock-boxes took charge of Chevron main entrance. For several hours we remained sitting, locked down, while others occupied the street, create a media spectacle. (To minimize negative publicity, Chevron decided not to have the police arrest us.)

A lawsuit is being filed in Ecuador that, if it’s won, will impose a multi-billion dollar fine on Chevron.

Want to know more?

Visit www.truecostofchevron.com to download the alternative annual report.

David Costas

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A change in direction: A recent Gallup survey found that 51 percent of those questioned call themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42 percent “pro-choice.” It was the first time a majority of US adults have identified themselves as “pro-life” since Gallup began asking this question in 1995. (Last year, Gallup found that 50 percent termed themselves “pro-choice” while 44 percent described their beliefs as “pro-life.”) Gallup said shifting opinions lay almost entirely with Republicans, or independents who lean Republican, with opposition among those groups rising over the past year from 60 percent to 70 percent.

What this says to me is that the battle has essentially been won among conservatives. What is needed now is an educational campaign that is expressly tailored to appeal to and persuade progressives those who advocate social equality and fair and favorable treatment of minorities and who are more ready to believe that government can be helpful in people’s lives. Otherwise, we are looking at continuing polarization and demonization of each side by the other, and very little actual change in minds and hearts.

I believe that for most who favor women’s “right to choose,” the displaying of graphic photos of abortions is not persuasive. Similarly, for many the sanctity-of-life argument is not compelling either because they are not particularly religious or because they see a real tension between the loss of (fetal) life and the anticipated loss of quality of life and come down on the side of letting each person figure it out for themselves.

What could be tried is this: to have a debate, informed by science, faith, secular ethics and economics, which asks the question of how best to protect both life in an absolute sense, and quality of life as it is lived in various situations of parental age, family make-up, economic stratum, ethnicity, etc. Unless and until folks are willing to have such a difficult (and no doubt lengthy) joint examination of these things, we are doomed to firing mortars from one trench to the other and waiting for the cries from the opposing ranks to let us know we “scored.” It is incumbent upon those who feel that the unborn child should be protected to make this happen there is little impetus on the other side to have such a process, except for those who are extraordinarily driven by intellectual curiosity and moral humility.

I doubt that it will happen anywhere near the political arena (within parties and such) because everyone sees the issue either as a vote-getter or as a hot potato. Either way, there’s no incentive to open that can of worms when you don’t know how it will come out in the end.

As to the gender factor, I would love to see more men who assert their parental rights (to have the baby who is in utero allowed to be born), as long as they are also willing to take on the responsibilities of rearing the child to adulthood. Too often, the male is something of a bystander in the whole thing. When it comes to career choices, if an employer cannot see the value of having not only a happier, less-stressed employee, but a healthy, well-adjusted next generation, then other collectivities, such as church or government, should.

If it takes subsidies or tax breaks to balance out the salary differential and lost promotions of the child-bearer, so be it. I’m ready to pay higher taxes if it means that fewer children are aborted, fewer kids are forced to fend for themselves without supervision, are fast-tracked into the criminal justice system and eventually are either supported by the state or left homeless on the street or stuck in dead-end jobs.

A new wave of the young and independent-minded may make this a very different landscape than the one we have been seeing the past 20-30 years.

If protecting the environment can rise to respectability, who knows? Maybe life in general will gain some measure of popular esteem! I look forward to the day when Time Magazine has a cover emblazoned: “Life is the new wealth.”

Alex Patico

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Ethics: One of the reasons discussion on the abortion issue is so complicated is because the discipline of ethics, both in philosophy and in theology, is something of a swamp. There is no fundamental agreement on how to do ethics. The teleological camp (e.g., Aristotle and the ancient Christian tradition) is a minority and its ontological-anthropological fundamentals are not granted by the majority in the academy. The deontological camp (e.g. Kant and much of the contemporary Western tradition) reigns supreme, but it lacks the ability to give reasons for ethical obligations; it actually posits that there is an unbridgeable gap between Is and Ought we should do right just because it is right, or maybe because God said so.

This is unconvincing to people without strict superegos. So the result is that a discussion of what is right in areas about which people disagree becomes virtually impossible (think not only of abortion but also of whether the rich should be taxed more, whether animals have rights, whether euthanasia is ever O.K., etc.).

C.S. Lewis remarks in one of the Narnia books, “Don’t they teach logic in schools any more?” There is no doubt that ethics has not been taught in an intellectually satisfactory way in a couple of centuries.

David Holden

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Pornography: While pornography has become available new ways cable, the internet, satellite TV other cultures in other times were awash in pornography in their own ways.

Visitors to the ruins of Pompeii will recall seeing vivid sexual imagery everywhere brothel walls covered with paintings illustrating the kinds of sex acts customers could purchase.

Historians of the Roman world as it was at the time of Christ show a culture in which sexual violence and coercion was normal. Slaves were required by law to submit to any sexual act on the part of their masters. Death was the penalty for resisting. Those of higher social rank could demand sex with anyone man, women or child of lesser social rank. Upper class outranked lower class, men outranked women and children. Slaves were subject to every kind of degradation.

It may be that St. Paul reacted so strongly to sexual immorality because, in the ancient world, sexual acts were so often imposed a system profoundly repugnant both to Jews and Christians. Perhaps the reason monasticism and celibacy emerged as an idealized way to follow Christ was that the ancients could not even imagine a world in which sex could be pure or an expression of God’s love. Seeing sex as belonging to a fallen world, Christians in that world increasingly saw the rejection of sex as the only way to perfectly follow Christ.

Fr. Ted Bobosh

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Co-suffering love: On the issue of pornography, it seems to me that there are two things to consider, and both have value. One is morality, or ethics, as they are expressed in the law, which has a protective value when it comes to pornography and sex-trafficking through prosecution by power.

The other is the morality in Christianity that grows out of love the healing kind found in co-suffering love of which Christ is the supreme model.

It also appears among His followers who, in relationship with Him, begin to act and speak out of love. Perfected, it leaves judgment and condescension behind and instead heals releases the sufferer from bondage to passions. The healer facilitates the work of the Holy Spirit, who helps the sinner see he or she has sinned against love and strengthens the desire for re-creation.

The weakness of power is that it draws strength or enforcement from the systems of this world that are passing away (or from Satan) and is easily corrupted (moving beyond jurisdiction or detection, false witness, etc.).

So law may have a preventive and even a prescriptive value, but not the healing value of re-creation that morality rooted exclusively in co-suffering love has.

Sally Eckert

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Summer 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 53

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