Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bishop Mark of Berlin: A Voice in the Wilderness

Orthodox Bishop Mark (Arndt) is that rare example of a Christian hierarch speaking the truth about Islam.

by Ralph H. Sidway

Islam is at its core anti-human... Reading the Quran, you will see that all of this [extremism] lies at the foundation of Islam. One must look truth in the eye: this is all anti-human, it is directed against humanity...  
Yes, there were times when Muslims tried to live in peace with their neighbors, they even acknowledged that we Christians are people, too. But for many, those times have passed, and now they reveal who they really are.   
— Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, ROCOR (Full interview below.)

Some readers may be familiar with the refusal of Roman Catholic bishops to address the global issue of Muslim persecution of Christians and Jews (and other non-Muslims) and its grounding in the Quran and the example of Muhammad. The prime example may be that of Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester Mass., whose infamous quote reads more like a parody from the Onion every day:

Talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims.

Pope Francis of course leads this disturbing trend, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium including the emphatic affirmation that authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

It seems many Muslims have failed to read that particular epistle.

Sadly, things are not much different in the Orthodox Church. The world's second largest Christian communion, comprising between 225 and 300 million members (source), retains a dwindling remnant in the Middle East, the "cradle of Christianity," and is one of the main bodies suffering most from the resurgent global jihad.

Perhaps because of this suffering Levantine presence, there exists in world Orthodoxy what I would call a "latent dhimmitude," a deep-seated aversion to criticizing the religion of Muhammad, no doubt out of fear of causing outbursts of mob violence by Muslims against Christians due to the concept of "communal guilt" explicit in the dhimma contract and the Conditions of Omar, the seventh century pact which set the standard for Muslim treatment of conquered Christians. 

Under the Pact of Omar, if any Christian violated the terms — and they are many and demeaning, not just payment of the crippling jizya tax —the entire Christian population became subject to harsh persecution and punishment. This open threat served, and still serves, to keep Christians docile and subservient under Islamic rule, which, according to classical Muslim jurists, is the purpose of the dhimma:

“This is why the Leader of the faithful ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” — renowned Muslim jurist Ibn Kathir

Because of this long historical memory — this "latent dhimmitude" —  and the global threat to Christians today from their Muslim neighbors, Orthodox Christian leaders, from priests, professors and theologians to bishops and patriarchs, almost to a man shy away from ever openly ascribing the motivation behind Muslim terrorism and persecution of Christians to Islam.

Instead, they all too often issue false, pious platitudes, such as these from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has written of a “dialogue of loving truth” with Islam, of Orthodoxy having for centuries “coexisted peacefully” with Islam, and of an “interfaith commitment... still felt and lived by Greeks [and] Turks.” ( Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Encountering the Mystery, Doubleday, 2008, pp xxxvii, 196, 174.) 

Yet he writes this in spite of:

  • Turkish Muslim genocide against Orthodox Christians from 1894 to 1922, in which over 4 million Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and others were killed; 
  • Turkish Muslim pogroms against the Greek Orthodox (e.g., Istanbul, 1955) up through the present day, which includes the conversion of the great Hagia Sophia Church of Constantinople into a mosque, together with numerous other 'Hagia Sophia' churches throughout Turkey. 

Here’s another whopper:
“Christians and Muslims are two lungs of one Eastern body,” the Greek Orthodox Patriarch said, “and we condemn anything that harms the reputation of the forgiving Islamic religion, with which we have experienced the peace and fraternity.” (Daily Star)

I am not familiar with any "forgiving Islamic religion."  I am familiar with the supremacist and militant Islamic religion, whose holy book and prophet have set forth commands which determine its reputation:

Fight against those who believe not in Allah…  (Quran 9:29) 
Kill the mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them…  (Quran 9:5) 
I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes. (Quran 8:12) 
I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah...” (Hadith from Sahih Bukhari, cited in Reliance of the Traveller, Entry on Jihad, o9.0, o9.1, o9.8, o9.9.)

Here is an especially scandalous statement from a few decades ago: 
“The Prophet Muhammad is an apostle, He is a man of God, who worked for the Kingdom of God... When I speak against Islam, then I am not found in agreement with God.” — Patriarch Parthenius of Alexandria (Orthodoxos Typos 854, May 1982)

ANAXIOS!  Blatant apostasy for any Christian to say such a thing! By affirming Muhammad, one explicitly denies Jesus Christ — because Muhammad denied Christ — which would justify a Synod in deposing and defrocking Patriarch Parthenius, for in making such a statement, he excommunicated himself from Christ and the Church!

But how many hierarchs and clergy might secretly agree with Parthenius? How many secretly subscribe to the "many paths to God" fantasy and the pan-ecumenist heresy that "all religions meet at the top of the mountain?" I once heard an Antiochian bishop teach exactly these heresies from the amvon in an Orthodox Church. I wish I had walked out, but I was still young, and didn't know what to do.

Just for clarity, the Quran explicitly denies the Holy Trinity (even confusing the Trinity as God, Mary and Jesus - Sura 5:73-75, 116), explicitly denies that Jesus Christ was crucified, and therefore denies the Resurrection, denying also that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Not content to deny the Truth, the Quran pronounces "curses" and a "grievous penalty" on Christians, which many devout Muslims take quite seriously: 

Say not “Trinity”: desist: It will be better for you: For God is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. . . . (Sura 4:173)

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. (Sura 5:19)

They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary . . .” They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:75,78)

The Jews call 'Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Sura 9:30)

In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him — they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him. (Sura 4:157)

I could go on, but you get the idea. A false book from the false prophet of a false religion, calling down curses on Christians, and commanding Muslims to "fight," "kill," "strike terror," and "smite".  (For a thorough examination of all this and much more, order my book, Facing Islam.)

Patriarchs and bishops who seek to cover over the anti-human bloodlust inherent in Islam do not help, they merely confuse, frustrate and demoralize the faithful. The faithful need clear Christian teaching and inspiring examples of confessors and martyrs, to help them stand firm in their own trials, when the challenge comes to their doors. 

This is why it is essential to extol those rare Christian hierarchs, like Bishop Mark of Berlin, who choose to ignore the politically correct climate of the day, and instead pattern their statements after fearless Church teachers of every age, such as Sophronius of Jerusalem (7th c.), John of Damascus (8th c.), Gregory Palamas, (14th c.), Kosmas of Aitolia (18th c.), Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov (19th c.), Fr. Seraphim Rose (20th c.), and New-Martyr Fr. Daniil Sysoev (21st c.).

The below article, which I originally posted a year ago, is worth revisiting in the hopes that other Christian leaders — whether Orthodox, Catholic, Coptic or Protestant — will take courage and find again that authentic Christian voice in this titanic struggle against the temporal and spiritual tyranny of Islamic jihad.

Interview with Archbishop Mark (Arndt)
Excerpted from Pravmir — July 31, 2014

Q - How should Christians react to the terrible epidemic of the genocide of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Syria, Metochia, Kosovo and Serbia? Is this active Islamization or the actions of radical extremists, bandits who only assume the mantle of Islam? His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, during a Liturgy in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow read to his Russian flock the epistle of the Antiochian Patriarch, in which he painfully called to the whole world for help, stressing that the situation is at such a horrifying stage that help is needed not only through prayers to God, but in action. But in Christian society the reigning opinion is that we can help exclusively by prayer.

A - I reject the expression “help exclusively by prayer.” That we Christians are only capable of prayer is a false notion. Of course, prayer is our foundation and greatest strength. But if we think that all we can do is pray, we will go astray. Yes, we must pray, but we must also understand that people are often forced by circumstances to soften one’s language. If the Antiochian Patriarch says this, he bases it on the experience of his own nation, where Christians and Muslims always lived in peace. I think that it is incorrect to say that there are only extremists at work there. 

Reading the Quran, you will see that all of this lies at the foundation of Islam. Extremism exists, of course. Other Eastern hierarchs openly state that they have known about this particular aspect of Islam all their lives. I often serve in Jerusalem. There, for instance, on the feast of the Holy Trinity, right next to the church a muezzin cries from his tower that they believe in the One God Who has no children, no Son and Holy Spirit, etc. He has no compunction to do so, though these people are not really extremists. What is this? Open, unabashed propaganda against Christianity! They know full well what they do, spewing these slogans during the main Christian holiday of the Pentecost, the celebration of the birth of the Church Herself.

Islam is at its core anti-human. Look at Ramadan—this is the mortification of the human being, of the human body. I saw how people were taken to hospitals during their observance of Ramadan. All day they eat nothing, drink nothing even during baking heat, and at night the cram there stomachs to the point of losing consciousness—it is madness! One must look truth in the eye: this is all anti-human, it is directed against humanity.

Yes, there were times when Muslims tried to live in peace with their neighbors, they even acknowledged that we Christians are people, too. But for many, those times have passed, and now they reveal who they really are.

Q - In other words, when some say that what is happening in Syria and other fundamentally Christian nations, it is only political, not a religious war against Christianity, it is untrue? Regardless, can we say that the Christians who are murdered for their faith today are martyrs.

A - There is an intentional war being waged against Christians. Kosovo was the first in the list of such genocide from Christian territory. Then Chechnya. Understand what happened, a Christian nation was simply given away to the Muslims. The destruction of churches continues, tortures, wild fanaticism, murder. Kosovo, Chechnya, Syria, Egypt…

Q - The next goal for these people, whether they are extremists or not, is to declare Russia Muslim. What are we to do, strengthen our prayers?

A - The most important thing is to be real Christians. This means constant participation in the Mysteries of the Church. If the Lord grants someone the crown of martyrdom, it means the person earned it and must accept it with dignity.