Sunday, March 16, 2014

St Gregory Palamas as a Model for Christians in our new 'Age of Jihad'

For the Second Sunday of Great Lent, on which the Orthodox Church commemorates St Gregory Palamas, I would like to emphasize St Gregory's abduction by Turkish Muslims in 1354.

As other writers on Islam have repeatedly made clear, the capture of Christians and holding them for ransom, exchanging them as hostages for Muslim prisoners, or simply killing them to terrorize other Christians, dates back to Muhammad himself, and is an established norm in Islamic jihad. It is being more and more used by jihadist groups today to achieve their ends. (See here and here for examples.)

“As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, ‘When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks’ (Qur’an sura 47, verse 4)” — Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance), trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192; as cited on Jihad Watch.

Last year we lamented the abduction by Muslims of Bishop Paul and Bishop John in Syria. The Muslims killed their driver in the ambush. The bishops' whereabouts and condition are still unknown.

Then there is the recent abduction of Mother Pelagia and the nuns from Mar Thecla Monastery in Maloula, Syria. Thankfully they were not harmed, but were released in an exchange for female Muslim prisoners.

St Gregory Palamas was held captive for a year, eventually being ransomed by the Orthodox Serbs. He was severely weakened by the ordeal, but had been able to encourage a number of Orthodox Christian communities who had been struggling as subjugated dhimmis under their Ottoman Muslim overlords. Archbishop Gregory also engaged his Muslim tormentors in several debates, which were transcribed, and present a vivid picture of St Gregory as a fearless Confessor of the Orthodox Faith, in spite of his life hanging in the balance.

I have set up a special post on St Gregory Palamas, which presents much more detail on his year as a prisoner of the Muslims, as well as his defense of the Orthodox faith in his debates with his captors.

In our age of renewed Islamic jihad against Christians all around the globe, St Gregory Palamas, rightly revered for his defense of Orthodoxy during the Hesychast Controversy, should be more widely recognized as a Confessor and Defender of Orthodoxy against the heresy of Islam. His life is a model for all Orthodox believers, hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laity, as to how to present the Orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ against a militant enemy, and how to bravely endure as a true confessor and witness (martyria) of the Lord.