Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Newly-Elected Metropolitan of Zahleh: Younan el-Souri

Arabic original here.

Archimandrite Younan (el-Souri) Metropolitan of the Diocese of Zahleh

On the second day of the Holy Synod of Antioch's session held at the patriarchal residence at Balamand, the members of the Synod elected the abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of Bkaftine, Archimandrite Younan (el-Souri) as metropolitan of the Diocese of Zahleh, Baalbek and Their Dependencies.

Who is Metropolitan Younan (el-Souri)?

Antoine el-Souri was born in Mina, Tripoli on June 20, 1970. He studied at the National Orthodox School Mar Elias in Mina.

In 1994, he graduated from the Faculty of Engineering of the Lebanese University, receiving a degree in electrical and electronic engineering.

He studied theology by correspondence with the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris through the Diocese of Mount Lebanon. He graduated from this institute in 2006 with honors.

He worked at various jobs before entering the priesthood. On June 24, 2001, he was ordained subdeacon at the church of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Douma by His Eminence Metropolitan Georges Khodr.

On March 20, 2005, he was ordained deacon at the Cathedral of Saint George in Mina by Metropolitan Elias Kurban of thrice-blessed memory.

On July 24, 2005 he was ordained to the priesthood in the parish of Mina. He was priest for the youth in the Diocese of Tripoli and Koura.

On September 7, 2008 he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite during the service of vespers for the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos at the church of the metropolitan's residence.

A member of the Youth Movement from childhood, he was active in the group under the guidance of Costi Bendaly. He held various positions in the Orthodox Youth Movement, including:

2001-2003: Assistant General Secretary to Raymond Rizk.
2001-2003: Responsible for mentoring programs in the general secretariat.
2002-2004: Head of the Mina branch.
2004-2008: Head of the Tripoli center.

He was vice president of Syndesmos, the international league of Orthodox youth movements. He participated in several local and regional conferences.

He was active in the choir of Mina and was trained by the Protopsaltis of the See of Antioch, Dimitri Coutya.

On June 19, 2011 he became abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of Bkaftine. Since that time, he has conducted significant renovations of its buildings. He prepared a small church dedicated to Saints Anthony the Great, Arsenius the Cappadocian, and Nectarius the Wonder-Worker. About two months ago, he restored the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the monastery.

On June 16, 2012, he received the angelic great schema, taking as his patron the Prophet Jonah, during the divine liturgy celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos.

He collaborated with the publishing house Ta'awwuniyyat el-Nour to publish a documentary entitled "The Monastery of Our Lady of Bkaftine: Holiness and Ancient Roots" about the history of the monastery from its foundation to today and its pastoral and cultural role in the region of Koura.

He is the author of several articles in Majallat el-Nour, including "Youth and Life", "Between Proselytism and Evangelism", "Meditations on Monasticism", "World Orthodox Youth Day", "The Issues of Homosexuals in the Priesthood".

He is the author of theological articles and studies in al-Karma, the bulletin of the Diocese of Tripoli and Koura.

He has taught various subjects, including Old Testament and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul at the department of theological preparation at the Pastoral Center for Orthodox Patristic Heritage in the Diocese of Tripoli.

On October 7, 2015, he was elected by the Holy Synod of Antioch as successor to Metropolitan Spyridon Khoury as metropolitan of the Diocese of Zahleh, Baalbek and Their Dependencies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Met Georges Khodr: Love for All

Arabic original here.

Love for All

Today's Gospel reading speaks to us about our love for all, even our enemies, and makes love something that does not seek anything in return when it says "be merciful even as your Father in heaven is merciful."

 Christianity is merciful. We must realize its essence in order to make use of it, for it not to remain just a slogan, something we brag about in front of people. The question posed to us every day is: what is the source of our love? By what power are we able to love? It is not within us foundationally, since man tends toward ruthlessness and revenge. Man is hostile and hostility is ingrained in us. Man is inclined to antagonize people and the Lord asks of us something beyond nature. He insists that we love and that we love always, the we love our enemies. He tells us that it is possible, but not from the dust from which we were shaped. It is, however, possible from the Holy Spirit if it flows upon us from His bounty.

Christianity alone teaches love. You can wander all over the world and read all the books and teachings, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone is what has revealed love in all its great dimensions that we know. It is what made love unconditional-- that is, independent of people's emotions. Jesus says to love people whether they love you or hate you. Your love is not focused on flesh and blood or people's emotions. Love is not from you or from them. It comes from your Father in heaven. Love is possible in Christianity alone. Elsewhere there is compassion and mercy. In the Gospel of Jesus love is perfect, constant, unceasing. Love comes to us from God's heart and it remains in us as long as God is in our hearts.It is what changes the face of the world and that to which the world aspires. It is the end of everything. If someone obtains it, he does not strive for anything else. The development that people talk about, the advancement that they seek, has the goal in the end of people living in love. If we realize love, we have arrived at the goal of human development and advancement and we have no need for anything else.

"Love one another as I have loved you." This is the secret of the entire process: "As I have loved you." That is-- I have loved you unto death. I have revealed to you that God is love and that if you are in Him, then you love. But if He is hidden from you or if your sins have hidden Him from you, then you are not able to love. Love found its perfection in Christ's death. A person who as faith in Christ's death, in His perfect sacrifice, then this is a person who loves because he knows that the other person before him is weak and in need of treatment.

Since Christ is the Physician of humankind, He made those who belong to Him physicians for people. If a sick person is brought to a physician, the physician might not know his name. He might not see his face and ask about his identity, his religion, his race, or his background but he has before him a sick person that he treats. Then another sick person comes and he treats him with the same care and attention. In this way each of us is a sick person. Each of us is spiritually sick and the other person, the person in front of us or near us-- our neighbor, our friend or our enemy-- has been appointed a physician by God to give him attention and care. So it does not matter for us whether or not they spoke ill of us, whether or not they beat us, whether or not they treated us unjustly. The person before us was put there by God for care. Love in Christianity is care.

Christ came to save people but He wants each one of us to follow up on the mission of salvation, to be a savior to those around us. Christ is not only active from heaven: all of us are His hands and His eyes and He has given us the Gospel so that within us and at our hands it will become a glorious reality. In this way, if we love people, then they feel that God loves them. We love so that people may draw near, not only to us but to God. We do not love in order to be loved ourselves. We love so that God may be loved.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Die Welt: Islamists Threaten Christians in German Refugee Centers

German original here.

Islamists Threaten Christians in Refugee Centers

In German asylum centers, Christian refugees are exposed to assaults from fanatical Muslims who live according to Sharia. Fundamentalists are even threatening them with murder.

by Freia Peters

Said from Iran sits below a picture of Jesus on the cross around which is Persian writing. It is a quotation from the Bible: John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness."

Said is a kickboxer. He crossed Turkey on foot. He never would have thought that his problems would only really begin in Germany. "In Iran, the Revolutionary Guards arrested my brother in a house church. I fled from the Iranian secret police because I thought that in Germany I could finally live my religion freely," says Said. "But at the home for asylum-seekers, I cannot openly admit that I am a Christian. If I did, I would feel threatened."

Said lives in a home for asylum-seekers in southern Brandenburg, near the border with Saxony. It is one of the so-called "jungle-homes", without any connection to a bus line. Mainly Syrian refugees live there-- mostly devout Sunni Muslims. "They wake me up before dawn during Ramadan and say that I should eat before the sun comes up. If I refuse, they say that I am 'kuffar', an infidel. They spit on me." Said says that he has called the security service. They were not interested in his problems. "They are also all Muslims."

Pastor Gottfried Martens sits beside Said in the community hall of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berlin-Steglitz, a stack of papers on his lap. They are his letters to the heads of various refugee centers, to the office of social security, to the Berlin State Office for Health and Social Services, which allocates the refugees to temporary shelters. The writings are cries for help, in which Martens asks them to protect members of his community or to move them to another home. "Sometimes the director of the home tries to help. Sometimes I get no answer," says Martens.

Around 600 Afghans and Iranians belong to his church. He baptized most of them himself. Almost all of them have big problems in their homes," says Martens. "Devout Muslims teach the view their that 'where we are, there rules Sharia, there rules our law.'" Christians cannot cook their food in the kitchen. Those who do not pray towards Mecca five times a day are bullied. "Above all, Christians who have converted from Islam have to suffer as a minority," says Martens. "And they ask themselves the question, 'What happens when the devout Muslim refugees leave the home? Must we as Christians in the future hide ourselves in this country?'"

The fanatics sound like the murderers of the Islamic State.

Said's story is one of many in recent weeks. In Hemer, Sauerland, Algerian asylum-seekers attacked an Eritrean and his pregnant wife. Both were wearing their baptismal crosses around their necks. One of the Algerians struck the Eritreans with a glass bottle.

A young Syrian in a preliminary refugee center in Giessen reported threats. He is concerned that among the refugees there are followers of the terrorist group the Islamic State. "They shout verses from the Qur'an. They are the words that the Islamic State shouts before they cut off people's heads. I cannot stay here. I am a Christian," he says. In Ellwangen, Baden-Wurttemburg, there was a mass brawl between Christians, Yezidis and Muslims during Ramadan.

The case of an Iraqi Christian family housed in a refugee center in Freising, Bavaria is especially dramatic. The father told a television crew from Beyerische Rundfunk about beatings and threats from Syrian Islamists. "They yelled at my wife and beat by child. They say, 'We will kill you and drink your blood.'" The family lived like prisoners in a room of the home until they were no longer able to bear it and returned to Mosul in Iraq.

However in the meantime, Christians can no longer live in Islamist Mosul. The family was displaced a third time and have moved with two small children to Erbil in Northern Iraq. "They are doing very poorly," says their lawyer, Christian Salek from Munich. "I would have liked to help them and I have written to the Ministry of the Interior, but there is no way to bring them back to Germany." Anyone who applies for asylum and then leaves the country has to sign that they will not ask to be received a second time.

The underreporting of cases is high.

"One might have been able to protect the family," says Simon Jacob of the Central Council of Eastern Christians. Stories like this no longer surprise him. "I know of very many reports of Christian refugees who are under attack. But that's just the tip of the iceberg," says Jacob. "The number of unreported cases is high. We must anticipate further conflicts that refugees bring to Germany from their homeland. Between Christians and Muslims. Between Shiites and Sunnis. Between Kurds and extremists. Between Yezidis and extremists." Jacob argues that refugees should initially be accommodated separately by religion. But this could not be a long-term solution.

Jacob calls for formulating a guiding principle for Germany, in which are anchored the fundamental values of democracy and a pluralistic society. Freedom of religion. Freedom of expression. Equality between men and women. "We need a clear statement as well as orientation for refugees, also to help them differentiate themselves from extremists," says Jacob.

"Of course, refugees bring along their own experiences of conflict, for example between Shiites and Sunnis or Christians and Muslims," says the renowned historian and researcher on migration, Klaus J. Bade. He calls for socio-political vision and future-oriented concepts for the imminent issues of integration. He also calls for an enhanced guiding principle, with which Germans and also the refugees can and must identify. "This is the price that each immigrant who wants to live in Germany must pay. Bade calls for an integration course tied to orientation help, tailored to the respective country of origin.

Christians and Yezidis are most at risk.

"Frequently the aggression comes from Afghans or Pakistanis, who are often even more Islamist than some of the Syrians and Iraqis," says Max Klingberg of the International Society for Human Rights who has been active in caring for refugees for 15 years. He believes that the violence in the refugee centers will continue to increase. "We must rid ourselves of the illusion that all those who arrive here are human rights activists. No small proportion of the current new arrivals are at least at the level of the Muslim Brotherhood in their religious intensity."

The closer people live together, the sooner religious and political conflicts break out. "Reports are being made of threats of decapitation by Sunnis against Shiites, but the hardest hit are Yezidis and Christians," says Klingberg. Among Christian converts who do not conceal their faith, the likelihood of becoming a victim of assault or bullying is about 100 percent."

The only state that is currently trying to accommodate refugees separately by origin is Thuringia. The decision was made by Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) after an outbreak of violence in a refugee center in Suhl last month.

Implementation is difficult. "We pay attention to conflict-sensitive housing and try to distribute people from different countries on different floors," says the Justice and Migration Minister of Thuringia, Dieter Lauinger (Green Party). "In the current crisis situation, this is only possible in a restricted way, but we want to expand it, once the influx once again arranged in an orderly way."

However, Lauinger believes that a separation according to religion is wrong: particularly intensely religious Muslims must learn to live with other religions. "It is a balancing act between providing separate accommodation to prevent conflicts and the clear requirement to tolerate other cultures and religions."

Ali Reza Rahmani from Iran wears his baptismal cross around his neck and a multicolored ribbon around his wrist. Because he no longer feels safe in the home, Pastor Martens has given him shelter in the church. "I can no longer hide the fact that I am a Christian," says Rahmani, who in the church is called by his baptismal name Elia. "As a Christian, I'm not safe in the asylum center."

The hostility toward Said and Elia are not isolated cases, says Martens. "It has long been a problem nationwide." In the church, the refugees feel safe. But this cannot be a permanent situation. Nevertheless, Martens has bought new mattresses on sale.


Jean-François Colosimo on the Russian Church and Russia's Intervention in Syria

French original here. A brief but fascinating discussion of just war theory in the Russian philosophical tradition can  be found here. Jean-François Colosimo is most recently author of  Les hommes en trop : La malédiction des chrétiens d'Orient.

For the Russian Orthodox Church, the intervention in Syria is a "holy war". 

The spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church describes Russia's military engagement in Syria as a "holy war". 

Reacting to these remarks, the Orthodox philosopher Jean-François Colosimo recalls Russia's role as protector of the Orthodox Christians of the Middle East.

What statements?

"The fight against terrorism is a holy war and today our country is perhaps the one that most actively fights against it," declared the spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, Vsevolod Chaplin, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.

In passing, he also described the Russian military intervention in Syria as "in accordance with international law, with the mindset of our people and the particular role that our country has always played in the Middle East."

For his part, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in a statement also expressed his support for the Russian strikes in Syria. "Russia has made a responsible decision in using its armed forces to defend the Syrian people who are beset with misfortune," he declared.

But the patriarch assured that he is praying "that this local conflict does not become a great war, that the use of force does not cause the death of civilians, and that all the Russian troops return home alive."

What context?

"Chaplin is prone to making outrageous statements!" The warning of Jean-François Colosimo, Orthodox theologian and philosopher and director of Editions du Cerf, regarding the remarks of the Russian Orthodox Church's spokesman is clear.

This expert familiar with the Russian Church regrets the use of the concept of "holy war" by the Church. According to him, it is a "motif of identity", suggesting that the Russian Church has not learned from its experience of martyrdom. "This is a theological disaster, a fundamental error," he sighs.

In his view, the statement is nevertheless in line with the "symbiosis" between the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate in the domain of foreign affairs.

"Patriarch Kirill was himself the minister of foreign affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate before 1990," says Colosimo, stressing that he dedicated himself at that time to uniting the Russian Orthodox communities abroad, creating an extensive cultural network abroad, a network that the Russian state does not possess.

The director of Editions du Cerf explains this support in terms of history. "Since the 19th century, all Russian foreign policy has been based on access to warm water. And this requires the protection of the Greek Christians of the Middle East, that is the Orthodox," the Latin Christians of the Middle East traditionally being under the protection of France.

What future?

Putin's Russia has kept strong contacts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria which is home to the largest Greek Orthodox community in the Middle East, unlike Iraq, where the Christians are mostly Chaldeans and so Catholics. "The current Patriarch of Antioch who lives in Damascus has made several trips to Russia in recent months," explains Jean-François Colosimo.

Moreover, if Russia is defending the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis,  it is in order to oppose Saudi Arabia: first of all because Wahhabism (and therefore Salafism, the basis for jihadism) is infiltrating more and more into the Caucasus and secondly, because Saudi Arabia is supported by the United States.

"Russia is the enemy of the friends of the United States, and vice-versa," Jean-François Colosimo continues. Defending this axis is even more important at a time when thousands of young Russians are signing up for jihad in Syria and Iraq, and not only from the Muslim republics."

"The challenges and interests of Putin's Kremlin and those of the Orthodox Church are distinct but inseparable," says Colosimo.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Christianity will not Disappear from its Country

Arabic original here.

Christianity will not Disappear from its Country

The Christians in my country-- or at least most of them-- think that their existence in this Middle East will not last without the support of the rulers and strongmen of this world or without dispensing with Christian "beatitude". However, if we go back through Christian history, we find that the persistence of Christianity has been fundamentally based on sincerity and faithfulness to the teachings of Christ the Lord, those teachings that reached their culmination on the cross. It is a mistake to think that the Christian presence in the Middle East has persisted thanks to their own power.

At the end of the second Christian century, an unnamed Christian sent a letter to a pagan named Diognetus in defense of Christianity in which he said, "Do you not see how they throw Christians to wild beasts in order to compel them to deny the Lord, but they are not defeated? Do you not see that the more martyrs there are, the more Christians there are?" The writer of the letter adds that, even if they are a small group of people, it is not right for Christians to isolate themselves in ghettos, since they are in the midst of the world, enriching it like the power that the soul radiates through the body.

This letter, which was composed at the height of the persecution that the Roman Empire waged against Christians, is the best expression of a Christian mentality rooted in the Gospel. Persecution did not deter Christians from the faith, but rather increased their numbers. Fear did not reign over those approaching persecution and it did not dampen their resolve. Rather, it increased their insistence on the correctness of their belief and their hope of eternal life. They approached martyrdom as ones approaching true life. This is why this era is called the golden age of Christianity. Christians did not join forces with emperors, governors or rulers and they did not make truces with Nero, Marcus Aurelius or Diocletian. They did not cooperate with them and they did not submit to their authority. Some men at the Roman court, some officers and soldiers, declared their Christianity by renouncing their positions and livelihoods in order not to serve an unjust state. They went forth to martyrdom after having cast aside the weapons that they could have used to fight, in order to bear witness to the Lord and His Church. In this way the Apostles Peter, the fisherman, and Paul were victorious over Nero and his entourage. In this way the Church was victorious over the Empire.

In his "Treatise on the Existence of God and the True Religion", the Orthodox Bishop of Harran Theodore Abu Qurrah (d. ca. 830) offers numerous proofs for the truth of Christianity and its divine origin on the basis of its miraculous spread. He says, "Christ's disciples were twelve men from among the Jews. And for the nations, the Jews were the lowliest and most hated nation in the world. They were the lowliest of their nation. They had no worldly regard and no lineage with which to attract people or guide people to themselves. Nor did they have possessions, a home, shelter, clothing, two days' food or saddle-bags by which people might be drawn to them seeking gifts from them. Nor did they have a king, a ruler or any cause or strength in this world so that some might be drawn to them by coercion, fear or power-seeking. Indeed, they were the opposite of this, with everyone oppressing and insulting them. Nor was there anyone among them who understood books or knew any of the wisdom of the world, through which people might be drawn to them. They called people to the Christian religion and did not allow them to indulge in the lusts of this world, in the abundance of its women, in its pride and its pleasures, so that people might be drawn to them. Instead, just the opposite of this, they teach abandoning it all immediately."

Theodore then gives proofs connected to the changes that Christianity brought to the morals of the nations and peoples that adopted it. He says, "The nations were in luxury, with the food, drink and drunkenness of the world and [Christianity] required them to fast strictly and limit themselves to bread and water. The nations persisted in marrying women and taking slave-girls like horses with obsence, unmentionable fornication. [Christianity] put an end to that for them, requiring chastity of them and limiting those who want worldly life to one wife, down to our own day. The nations raged and looted everyone's money, dominating everyone in this way. [Christianity] stopped them from this and caused them to distribute their wealth and belongings to the poor and needy."

Abu Qurrah follows his proofs for the truth of Orthodox Christianity by recalling the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. He says, "The nations were insatiable, ravenous beasts that  devoured people, crushing their bones and eating their flesh without mercy or compunction. [Christianity] turned them away from this and made them like sheep among wolves. They are cursed and they bear it. They are beaten and they forgive. They are struck on the right cheek and they turn the left cheek. Their robes are taken and they give their cloaks. They are made to go a mile and they go two miles. They are asked to give and they give. They are asked to lend and they do not withhold. They are cursed and they bless. They are hated and they love, and many other such things."

There are other writings, which there is not room in this article to mention, that follow in precisely the same direction as the Epistle to Diognetus and Theodore Abu Qurra. Christianity has persisted, even though it adopted the way that is faithful to Christ's teachings, this way that some of those who speak in the name of Christianity claim will lead to the disappearance of Christianity.

It is a grave error for Christians to tie their survival to the survival of a regime that protects them or to a foreign intervention that will defend them. The most dangerous thing is for Christians to abandon their mission and their witness, which can be summed up as bearing the cross, for the sake of their survival. Therefore, Christians must hold fast to faith, hope, love and patience until these black days have passed. As for Christianity, it will not disappear so long as Christians want that it does not disappear.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

as-Safir Interviews Met Silouan Oner

Arabic original here.

The Bishop of Britain to as-Safir: The Christians of the Middle East will not Melt Away

by Bilal Slaytin

In calm and confident language, the Bishop of Ireland and the British Isles Silouan Oner responds to as-Safir's questions in his first interview with the press following his consecration. He does not hesitate to say what he wants and he does not like secrecy or shying away from reality in his responses about issues that are sensitive for Christians, especially those that preoccupy public opinion, chief of which is the issue of Christian emigration from the Middle East.

The first bishop of the Diocese of Britain, newly created by a patriarchal decision, does not deny that the emigration of Christians from the Middle East played a fundamental role in Britain becoming independent from the Diocese of Europe. The number of parishes there has grown "and we must as a church do good by them, follow up on them, and be attentive to their spiritual needs," says Oner. The new situation and the geographic breadth of the Diocese of Europe means that there are two new dioceses, Germany and Britain, alongside the Diocese of France, while Sweden remains a vicarate dependent on the Patriarchate in Damascus.

The decrease in the number of Christians in the Middle East saddens Oner, but he does not fear for their existence. He says, "They are decreasing but they will not melt away from the Middle East," affirming that "they remain and remain and remain." He then looks at the walls of the bishopric in Lattakia, which is 1400 years old and adds, "Christians will not disappear from the Middle East. Nothing overcomes the Church. She remains forever. Christianity is like the leaven that leavens the place. Christ is present and He will not allow the Christians to melt away." The former vicar of the bishop in Lattakia responds to questions about the role of clergy in reducing emigration by saying that their hands are tied in the face of this thorny issue and they are incapable of preventing it. If they tell a person not to go, he might come back a few days later and blame them for the killing of his child in the war and if they tell him to go, then they are helping to reduce the number of Christians in the Middle East. Therefore they keep silent in response to the question of emigration, even as they hope that all will remain and no one will live.

Many in the Middle East see Bishop Oner as possessing an open mind, which will help him in his new responsibilities. He is going from a sentimental Christian community to a rationalist, materialist Christian community and this is the great gamble that awaits him from the moment of his arrival. He also sees the West as thinking in a different manner than the Middle East, recalling the events that happened centuries ago when the Eastern Church split from the Western Church, explaining that, "the West, in its mentality, was the cause of the schism."

In Oner's view, the Christian mentality in the Middle East is different from that in the West. At the same time, however, he believes that the Orthodox community to which he belongs exists in every corner of the world with one mindset and one creed and so he is going to pastor Orthodox of the same mindset. If they have westernized a little from the proper Orthodox mindset in his estimation, he will work to return them to authenticity. He puts an emphasis on the phrase "if they have westernized" as a large proportion of his diocese's flock are Orthodox from a British background who joined the Antiochian Church during the time of the late Patriarch Hazim.

During the conversation, Oner stresses that "atheism is is the result of the Western mindset which relies only on the mind and excludes the heart, including that which has spread to a certain degree in the Middle East, where the Western mindset has started to invade the younger generations because of emigration and contact." Taking pride in his Easternness, he adds, "Our problem in the Middle East is a lack of trust in what we possess and the ease with which we lap up what others possess and so become influenced by them, thinking that in doing so we have become civilized, instead of us civilizing the West with the Eastern mindset. Westerners do not feel God's presence in their hearts and Easterners arrive at atheism when they estrange God from their hearts."

However, the bishop who is heading to Europe goes back and says that the Church is one throughout the world and it cannot be limited in a place, referring to the call for the unity of the Church.

Oner dismisses the objection that he is creating a conflict between the mind and the heart in the human person, using himself as an example, as he holds a doctorate in engineering. He says, "Here I relied on the mind, but in my relationship with God, I combined mind and heart and I placed God in my heart," adding that he "will carry with himself to Britain the love of God, the warmth of a relationship with Him, the mindset of the Antiochian fathers, chief among them John of Damascus, and he will convey the pain and suffering of the Middle East in order to be a witness to all those who are suffering."

Throughout the conversation, Bishop Oner, who is proud of his Syrianness, speaks classical Arabic, but suddenly he switches to a spontaneous, colloquial Arabic when the conversation turns to Syria. He says, "I have great faith in her... Love will be victorious there." He explains that he is departing Syria but that she will continue to live in him. He finds in his new responsibilities an opportunity to communicate with the West and to tell them that they erred in forming their opinions about Syria. He then expresses doubt that they will listen or that they will want to listen, particularly the politicians.

Oner continues to speak with emotion, saying, "I will speak of the suffering that the Middle East is experiencing, part of which could be stopped by a position or decision on the part of the West. I will give them an inside picture of what is happening in my country and I will not cease to speak about it. I will explain to them precisely that if they desire the good of Syria and of the Christians, then they must work to secure for them ways to remain and not help them to emigrate."

The operator of the Orthodox website al-Manara, a clergyman steeped in Middle Eastern thought and known for tendency to make eye contact and touch when speaking, closes by saying, "we must not shy away from the generations that have become closely tied to technology," and calls for investing in what he metaphorically refers to as a Pentecost in transmitting the word of the Gospel to the entire world. Working with technology is not a mistake. Rather, the mistake lies in avoiding it because that leads to avoiding the generations that are the extension of the Church.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fr Georges Massouh: Claiming to Speak in the Name of Christians

Arabic original here.

Claiming to Speak in the Name of Christians

In his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul mentions two currents that tug at Christians when he makes a distinction between those who boast in the flesh and those who boast in the cross: "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ... for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:13-14, 17). Christianity, according to the Apostle Paul, is not measured by the number of those belonging to it through baptism, but by the number of those who bear in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. Therefore the Apostle warns Christians about falling into playing a numbers game, as Christianity has a qualitative value, not a quantity of  bodies that can be enumerated. Thus we realize why Christ did not call Christians to brag about their numbers, but rather spoke about the "little flock", calling on it to not fear the world.

The Apostle Paul warns Christians not to fall into the trap of those who are only concerned with boasting about their numbers. He speaks clearly about those who "do not keep the Law" but despite this want Christians to practice the Law so that they can boast in their numbers. He once again points out that the true Christian is not the one who has only performed the Law, but the one who bears the cross without interruption, the one for whom the cross has become a part of his body.

The Apostle Paul did not bost of the number of those who were baptized at his hand, although they were many. Instead, he reminds his audience that the sole thing that causes him to boast is "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." For Paul, what is meant by the cross is not an object made of gold, silver or wood... but rather the heavenly things that the cross symbolizes, chief of which are love, martyrdom, self-sacrifice and unlimited giving...

Paul closes his discourse about the cross by eloquently pointing out that he himself bears "the marks of the Lord Jesus" in his body. By mentioning this, he means to once more recall the words of the Lord Jesus: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). No one can be a disciple of Jesus if he does not deny himself. The precondition for speaking in the name of Jesus is that a person must renounce himself and his deadly ego. The true disciple of Jesus is the one who crucifies himself for the sake of the world, not the one who wants to crucify the world for the sake of pleasing himself and his lusts.

Many are those, clergymen and politicians, who claim to speak in the name of the Christians. Many are those who want to boast in the Christians' numbers and not boast in Christianity. What a difference there is between those two things! Those who boast in the Christians' numbers are not concerned with the holiness or moral corruption of the Christians. Boasting in Christianity is boasting in the living saints who still struggle upon this earth against sin, greed and corruption.

Those living saints are not concerned with what religious leaders or political leaders say and they are not concerned with demanding "the rights of Christians" and their shares of corruption, deals and appointments... This is because they have realized that the Christians' true weight is not defined by the weight of the blood, flesh and bones of their bodies, but rather by the love that they bear in their hearts toward their brothers in faith, citizenship and humanity. No one can claim to speak in the name of true Christians. Truth alone speaks in their name.

The entirety of what concerns these saints is that they have born the cross and that they have loved to the end.  They wait with a true longing for martyrdom. Anything else is worthless.