Sunday, April 27, 2014

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops issues Statement on Anniversary of the Bishops Abducted in Syria

Misses Opportunity for Outreach to Muslims with the Orthodox Gospel.

This is a good statement, as far as it goes. But I consider it a missed opportunity and a failure to stand for truth, instruct the faithful, and preach the Gospel. Most significant is the nearly complete lack of any reference to Islam.

The only mention of Islam is in paragraph 4, where it states that Metropolitan Boulos and Archbishop Yoanna "were kidnapped by Islamist extremists."

Nine of the top 10 countries in which Christians are most heavily persecuted are Muslim. Over forty of the top fifty are Muslim. Muslim persecution of Christians is rooted in Islam's sacred texts and teachings.

With Muslim persecution of Christians — not only in the Middle East but throughout the entire Islamic world — being assessed by scholars, historians, human rights activists, and even by global political figures as "apocalyptic," "genocide," a "Christian Holocaust," and of "biblical proportions," to not mention the religious ideology behind this global persecution of Christians is weak and ineffectual.

Even more concerning: instead of condemning the murderous ideology of (radical) Islam, the Canonical Assembly inserted this misleading sentence:

Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria have peacefully coexisted with people of all faiths in the region for two thousand years.

This is the position held by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who used almost the exact same words in reference to Islam in his book, Encountering the Mystery, on page 196. Yet any "peaceful coexistence" with Muslims has been forced on Christians by the sword for much of the past fourteen hundred years.

The First Jihad: The Arab Muslim Wave

The first wave of Islamic jihad in the mid-seventh century saw Arab Muslims sweep up out of the Arabian peninsula, conquering Syria and the Levant, what is now modern-day Israel, Jerusalem, the Sinai, Egypt and all of North Africa, eventually crossing over to Spain and almost seizing France. The formerly Christian world was racked by centuries of Islamic desecration of churches, institution of the crippling dhimma contract and the subjugation of Christians as a second-class caste forbidden from openly practicing their faith.

The Second Jihad: The Turkish-Muslim Wave

The Muslim forces laid siege to Constantinople twice in the hundred years following Muhammad's death, and continued to attack and expand into the Anatolian plain, the Balkans, and Asia Minor, until finally conquering Constantinople herself in 1453. This precipitated another four hundred years of Muslim domination, which could hardly be termed a "peaceful coexistence."

The Martyrdom of Bishop Teodor of Vrsac.
Christians lived in fear, their children abducted and enslaved into service of the Ottoman overlords, and untold numbers martyred for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ and convert to the false religion of Muhammad. Several of the Holy Neomartyrs under the Turkish Muslims were Ecumenical Patriarchs. The Muslims' methods of torture and execution of Christians were varied and brutal, even including impalement, dismemberment, skinning alive, and crucifixion, not to mention Islam's favored method: beheading.

Our bishops know all this, and may God bless them, for they no doubt discussed at length the specific wording of their statement. Perhaps they feared that any open denunciation of Islam would lead to increased hostilities against local Christian communities. But when Muslim persecution of Christians is exploding all around and only getting worse, isn't it well past the time for passing over in silence the murderous commands in the Quran itself which Muslim preachers spew forth in their Friday sermons to whip up the zealots to go out and kill their Christian neighbors?

Rather, isn't it time for our bishops to challenge so-called "moderate" Muslims to take an active, vocal, physical stand against their co-religionists who are murdering Christians all around the globe? "Silence implies assent," the old legal maxim goes. Thus one could be forgiven for concluding that the vast majority of Muslims are doing an awful lot of assenting to Muslim persecution of Christians.

Lastly, the global Muslim persecution of Christians should sicken any person with a normal, healthy human conscience. Our bishops should make this their pivot point in inviting all Muslims of good conscience to abandon Islam, that they may come to know Jesus Christ in and through the Holy Orthodox Church.

The Church is supposed to be evangelical. That is, she exists, per the command of the Risen Lord, to "preach the Gospel in season and out,"  to "make disciples of all nations." The Church has the Truth, and should be joyful, energetic and fearless in inviting even our temporal enemies to repent of their error and come to know Him who was crucified and raised for them as well as for us.

To miss this opportunity to call Muslims to Jesus Christ is to withhold salvation from them. But they too were created in the image of God!

I appeal to our hierarchs to boldly proclaim to our Muslim neighbors the Orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to adapt the sanctified prayer of St Silouan the Athonite to our litanies:

For our Muslim neighbors, that they may repent of their error, and come to know You, Jesus Christ, the True God, through the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord. 

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America issues Statement on the One-Year Anniversary of the Bishops Abducted in Syria
Pravmir — April 26, 2014

NEW YORK – The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America issued the following statement on April 22, 2014 for the one-year anniversary of the Bishops abducted in Syria.


1. We, the Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, representing millions of Orthodox Christians, express our grave concern over the escalation of unrest and ongoing violence in countries throughout the Middle East, especially in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

2. Our Assembly denounces any and all attacks—whether by means of violence, kidnapping, torture or killing—on all fellow human beings, irrespective of their race, ethnic origin, and religion. Moreover, we deplore the destruction of all places of worship or their forced conversion from their original intent.

3. We are especially disheartened at the inexcusable indifference and unjustifiable inaction of local and national governments, which have failed to protect the Christian population in these regions. We are also gravely troubled that representatives of the ancient Christian communities in Syria are not included in the peace and reconciliation process. Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria have peacefully coexisted with people of all faiths in the region for two thousand years. As such, they must be respected and included in all decisions toward social and political justice.

4. One year ago, on April 22, 2013, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi (brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch) and the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria, were kidnapped by Islamist extremists during a joint philanthropic mission in the region. With sorrowful hearts we recognize a growing lack of interest on the part of civil authorities to assist in the recovery of the two Christian leaders. We encourage all people of good conscience to communicate with their elected officials and ask them to assist in the effort to find and retrieve the two bishops. We implore the Holy Great-Martyr Saint George, the patron of Christians of the Middle East and upon the eve of whose Feast the Hierarchs were kidnapped, to intercede for their salvation and safe return.

Moreover, we appeal to the world’s 2.2 billion Christians, as well as to all people of faith and good will, and ask them to keep the two bishops in their daily thoughts and prayers. We also ask the Orthodox Christian faithful of our Assembly’s region to offer a special petition during the Great Litany of all divine services during this 40-day Season of Pascha. Before the petition commemorating the Most Holy Mother of God, we ask that the following petition be included:

For the safety of Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop John and for their return to their communities, let us pray to the Lord.

The Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops
of the United States of America