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Peacemaking in the Parish: Selected Articles

The Liturgy begins with the exclamation: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” All too often the Christ-revealing peace of the Kingdom of God seems far from parish life. Factions thrive. Group is set against group. We kiss the icons, but there are some in the parish whom we prefer not to greet and whose departure might cause us to quietly rejoice. “What a fine parish this would be if it weren’t for certain people.”Love and forgiveness, even respect, all too often seem to elude us.

We hope this collection of essays from past issues of In Communion will prove helpful in overcoming barriers within our parishes that lock us out of the Kingdom of God.

Jim Forest

editor

(photo credit: Aaron Haney)

CONTENT

Conversations by e-mail: Winter 2007

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 or Jim Forest .

Pacifism: There was a letter last week from a new OPF member who had hesitated to join because she could not call herself a pacifist. “I confess I still have trouble with pacifism,” she wrote, “not so much with an individual being pacifist within his or her own individual circumstances, but with national defense.”

I responded by pointing out that in fact one does not have to be a pacifist to belong to the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. I went on to say that the aspiration to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution is something all sane people have in common, yet few would say that they would never use violent methods to protect the innocent. All we can do is attempt to find ways of responding to injustice that are consistent with the Gospel. Clearly nonviolent methods are to be preferred to violent. In working for peace, I don’t think it helps to describe ourselves as pacifists. It’s enough to say that we are attempting to be Christian peacemakers. Pacifism is a modern word. In the Oxford English Dictionary, which organizes its definitions historically (oldest first, most recent last) and also provides examples of word usage, it is not surprising to find the earliest examples of the words “pacifist” and “pacifism” are from the first decade of the 20th century. Pacifism is defined as “the policy or doctrine of rejecting war and every form of violent action as a means of solving disputes, especially in international affairs.” It is also “the belief in and advocacy of peace- ful methods as feasible and desirable alternatives to war.” A pacifist is a person “who rejects war and violence as a matter of principle” or “advocates a peaceful policy as the first and best resort.”

I find dictionary definitions helpful and use dictionaries almost daily, but people do not hear dictionary definitions. They hear sounds which may suggest very different meanings. The major problem with the word “pacifist” is that it sounds like “passive-ist.” Yet there is nothing passive about peace-making. To work for the healing of a divided society is not just watching with folded hands from a safe distance.

The ideological charge that words ending in “ism” have is also a problem. Christianity is not an ideology. It’s a way of life in which love of God is impossible without love of neighbor.

We need not label ourselves pacifists, but peacemaking is not something optional for Christians.

Jim Forest

[email protected]

Peace in the parish: Our parish’s patron is St. Nicholas of Myra, which means not only that the temple is dedicated to him but that he is literally a patron and protector of it. When I’m aware of any trouble in the parish, I try to remember to pray to St. Nicholas to intercede for our church and to guide and protect us in the conflict we face. All of us, including me, could do more of this.

While “fleeing the situation” sounds cowardly or irresponsible, I believe that there’s a “holy fleeing” too. In every parish, there seem to be some who see the Church and its local manifestation in relatively worldly, political terms. Structural problems, differences between factions in the church, tend to seem very important to them, and they want you to see them as very important too – in brief, to take sides, to have an opinion in whatever the conflict is. It’s difficult not to get sucked into that worldview and that agenda, but in my view it’s worthwhile.

John Brady [email protected]

Global warming film: Tonight we had a public showing of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the film on global warming made by Al Gore. I’m not sure how many the theater holds, but every seat was taken and around 100 people were turned away, and this was in a small suburb of Vancouver. This is the fourth event we have participated in representing the Canadian branch of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and I believe the most successful.

By popular demand, we’ll have a second showing this week. OPF-Canada is also arranging with the David Suzuki Institute for a special program on Global Warming to be held jointly, one session at the Monastery and one at the local University College. This event will take place in February.

+Archbishop Lazar

[email protected] org

The Atlantic Divide: Since living in Europe, I have been impressed by how much more environmentally conscious Europeans are than Americans – that is, more concerned about genetically modified food, more intensive use of public transport, more interest in fair trade, and generally in better physical condition. Oddly, this conscious- ness seems to not apply to smoking. At least here in Romania, it is nearly impossible to find a smoke free restaurant to eat in while in the US, we have whole states where each restaurant is totally non-smoking, yet we pollute the world with our gas guzzlers, eat the most unhealthy of foods, and inject our livestock with synthetic hormones and chemicals. Why the contradiction on both sides? Strange.

Monica Klepac

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Depression: It would be good to remember that the effectiveness of anti-depression drugs is regularly exaggerated or even falsified by their promoters; and that some kinds of “talk therapy” and even exercise programs have been proven to be as effective as drugs for many sufferers.

The depressed person often isn’t in a position to be a “smart shopper,” but his loved ones may be doing him a service by looking up the available interventions and the numbers that support them before automatically filling that prescription. John Brady [email protected]

Failed strategy: I find the question of depression of personal interest, as I have been inclined to depression throughout my life. I have never taken drugs to deal with it. I’ve come to agree wholeheartedly that drug therapy, especially as the first and primary resort, is a failed strategy. It avoids dealing with the real causes, whatever they may be. It is quick, easy, and oh so American. By examining my own life, I’ve found three things that contribute to bouts of depression. First, I think some people are inclined by temperament toward a more melancholy disposition. I am. I tend to slide to the dark side for a number of reasons, some of which I have identified, some not. I have friends who claim, astonishingly, to never have suffered a minute of depression! Second, there are numerous environmental factors that contribute to depression. They may range from what I had for breakfast or how well I slept, to the state of my relation- ships, to what is in the air and how much sunshine I enjoy, all the way to socio-cultural factors that I can’t understand or control. Third, there are spiritual factors. Sin matters. Worship matters. My orientation to God, others, and life all matter. By prioritizing spiritual things, I secondarily affect my depression. Whenever I realize I’m being affected by depression, I try to run down a mental checklist to find if there is something I’m overlooking in one of those three categories.

My tendency toward depression does not obviously involve any kinds of physical or chemical abnormalities that should be treated medically. I have had a great deal of success in “treating” myself through attention to the primary causes of my own depression. Whatever residual depression I suffer from still, I think I’m predisposed to, and I can live with that.

A further insight that may be helpful is that it seems to me from what I’ve learned that we can experience happiness and sadness, joy and grief, and suffering and blessing all at the same time. I’m therefore not sure that the goal is to rid ourselves completely of things like depression. Depression can actually be part of our giftedness and can be made a useful tool in whatever God has given us to accomplish. Accepting that has actually given me some joy – I think the way I’ve experienced God is in large part a function of what I’ve suffered, including from depression. That must be a good thing.

Pieter Dykhorst

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Psychiatric pharmacology: My mother was wrongly diagnosed as depressed for forty years. It was only toward the end of her life that she was correctly diagnosed as bi- polar and appropriately medicated, so her last years were comparatively normal. I doubt she would have had the emotional or even the physical wherewithal to do without her medications. I have great respect for sensitive and appropriate psychiatric pharmacology.

I’d like to share with you a comment made by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, himself a medical doctor and psychiatrist: “A great many mental illnesses could be avoided by a sincere confession early on.” Now, this is true psychiatry, whose etymology yields “healing of the soul.” In my experience, the “talking cure” applied in many schools of non-pharmacological psychotherapy is a first cousin to spiritual direction, since it’s rooted in the affect, or the area of choices we make based on what we think we know.

As such, it could take a longer or shorter time, but I’m always happier with short-term psychotherapy than with any approach which takes more than six months or so, and I think that Freudian psychoanalysis is completely useless.

Generally, I’d rather rely on active-directive psychotherapeutic models with the client’s needs clearly in focus than with any one-size-fits-all theory. We are individuals, each of us reflecting something of the divine image unique to ourselves, and we should appreciate each other as such, no matter the context. And this is exactly how we must do spiritual direction, too.

Monk James Silver

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Drug withdrawal: It is human instinct to alleviate suffering, indeed to escape it, and our culture has certainly taken that to an extreme. After years of struggling with the meaning of my depression, looking for causes, psychological family history, spiritual perspectives, and so on, I finally succumbed to my own weariness and the voice of our medical culture that said it was biochemical and genetic, and started taking anti- depressants. I really wanted a “fix.” All I got over three years was a minor reduction in morbidity and a lot more tiredness. The last year I was getting desperate, trying several different drugs, and finally at my worse moment, I thought: maybe I’m just supposed to bear it. This is my thorn in the flesh, this is my “karma.” It is simply who I am. Was it not possible that all my obvious family history of mental illness (two suicides in my immediate family!) had a spiritual meaning as well, that in fact we can’t separate the spiritual from the physical/psychic? Spiritually, I was simply bearing the sins of my father. (Medically, it was an inherited condition that with the right treatment could be eliminated or at least controlled, like diabetes – so doctors told me). With my spiritual father’s approval (he was psychiatrist as well), I gradually with- drew from drugs and have now been drug free for eight years, apart from one six- month period.

And here is the paradox: That if I really give my assent to this cross of mine (but there is no faking this assent), if I really let it pierce me in all it’s personal horror, then in the long run I’ll “feel better” because I know that I have the incredible privilege of being joined to Christ’s own act of redemption. For only he took on the full weight of the human condition. But because he did it, now we can too, our own personal share of it.

Paul del Junco

[email protected]

Beatitude of mourning: I just spent the whole train ride back from Amsterdam thinking about the Beatitudes, in particular “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (We’re having a series of discussion on the Beatitudes at church, and this is the one I’m going to be discussing.) Could this be what Christ was saying – to assent to the thing that’s causing you pain? Does it have to do with exercising the full extent of one’s personal freedom in Christ, to accept the cross and ride it out to the very end? And that this is the key to “comfort” – the root meaning of which is to be strengthened – in Christ?

Nancy Forest

[email protected]

From Pakistan: I have just received the Fall issue of In Communion. I have gone through Jim Forest’s article, “The Healing of Enmity,” and found it impressive and thoughtful. If you agree, I would like to translate it into our local language for publication in our Christian newspaper, so that our readers may read its beauty and inspirational teaching.

Rev. Fr. Andrew Mushtaq

[email protected]

D. C. Road, Narowal – 51600, Pakistan

Soup kitchen: I do some dishwashing one night a week at the Catholic Neighborhood Center in Wheeling. It serves three meals a day to about thirty to 100 guests. The Wheeling Soup Kitchen, a non-denominational operation a few blocks away, does comparable business.

Some of the clientele look like “street people”; others wouldn’t attract any special attention on the street. I’ve been told that very few are literally homeless – many live in subsidized rooming houses, etc. Quite a few are unemployed families or elderly people whose government checks run out before the next one arrives. It’s painful to see a young couple with kids coming to a soup kitchen.

One of the Neighborhood Center’s services is a small medical and dental clinic staffed by volunteer doctor/dentists. (I wonder how do they get liability coverage?). In this part of the world, missing teeth are pretty much the norm and wouldn’t set someone apart. The Neighborhood Center also has washing machines and showers. Good thinking.

John Brady

[email protected]

Christian disunity: I’ve often thought that Christian disunity is a crime against humanity. If the world will know that the Father has sent Christ by our love for one another, what will the world think about Jesus and the Father by our schism? Probably what so many do think. Sad. More than sad, it’s disgusting, and no reason or excuse is good enough to justify the greatest failure of our history. Good will may not be enough alone, but without enormous good will to start, it will be utterly impossible – probably why it hasn’t happened. God bless the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew as they lead their flocks in the creation and showing of such good will, and may it lead to the hard work required to atone for our great sin of division and bring us back together as one body to show the world that the Father has indeed sent the Son.

Pieter Dykhorst

[email protected]

A tragic wound: The first searing experience I had of this very real and sinful rift was in 1988, when I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for the first time. I felt a tragic wound was being inflicted daily on the Body of Christ by allowing division lines to go straight through that space, the very topos marking His saving sacrifice. In that church one beholds the fruits of separation – a fragmentation of heart and purpose, the implicit violence of derailed loyalty to split traditions…The suspiciousness and absence of love are palpable for any visitor.

To this day, when I think of that Church I am overwhelmed with a tragic sorrow for our having alienated our own brothers and I want to repent for the sin of fratricidal rejection among those bearing the Name of Christ.

Ioana Novac

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Barred at the border: When I returned to Canada from my year of study in Lebanon, one of the first things I did was get a new passport. In addition to my time in Lebanon, I also had the opportunity to visit Egypt, Turkey, and Syria. In November, I was invited to give a guest lecture at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY. A friend of mine teaches a course in world religions there. He thought I’d be a good person to talk about eastern Christianity. Since I’m working midnights now, my brother offered to come along with me to drive so that I could sleep in the car.

Those who have met my family know that my brother is a different race than I am, since my parents adopted him when he was a newborn. The last time we did a road trip to the States was in early November. The immigration officer we spoke with on that trip was satisfied with the explanation. (Perhaps it helped that she seemed to have been the same race as my brother.)

On our most recent trip, however, we were told to park the car and report to the immigration office. When we walked in, we both noticed that I was the only white person on the wrong side of the counter. Everyone else waiting to speak with an immigration officer was “a person of color.”

For reasons known only to himself, the officer we spoke with decided that he did not believe me and my brother. Apparently his view was that the whole thing was simply a ruse to allow my brother to stay illegally in America. We were held at the border for over two hours. We were insulted and berated. We were threatened with arrest and huge fines. We were fingerprinted and photographed. Our rental car was searched. Finally we were sent back to Canada.

My brother was mortified, since he had only come along to help me out. My friend was mortified, since his extension of hospitality had been so brutally trampled upon. I was infuriated that my brother had been accused of being a liar and a person of poor moral character in front of me, and I didn’t dare open my mouth to defend him.

I contacted the US Consulate in Toronto two days after our return, and after wading through the automated voice mail system was finally instructed to call the Toronto airport branch of US Customs. I have yet to reach a human being at that number. For now, the monasteries that my friends and I visit in America are off-limits to me. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend this year’s graduation ceremony at St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Any church conferences are similarly off-limits to me unless they are being held in Canada. It’s really a shame to see what America is becoming.

Peter Brubacher

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Thinking about war: Attitudes toward war and peacemaking are quite varied, even in the Orthodox community, in this country, at least. Our church community here in Alaska has been together for many years, yet the Orthodox canonical development with respect to war has never been discussed. I know that the priests and deacons have considered it, but the laity has never thought about it until the past year, to my knowledge. That is sad; it would have been nice had we considered it before the country found itself at war and some of our children have gone off to serve for the most honorable reasons.

Still, we grow as we grow. We are ignorant of our blind spots. We stay under the influence of the biases we have known as we have matured.

Abortion and euthanasia have been considered already. At some point, because of God’s love, some of us begin to question the matter of war. For me this came because of an increasing awareness of what our country is doing and how very dramatically it is at odds with what God shows me in the Liturgy, as I bow to others in mutual love, respect, forgiveness; and with what He shows me in the scriptures and the homilies.

Sally Eckert

[email protected]

Violence against women: Today is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, in which a deranged misogynist shot dead a number of female university students. This anniversary will be commemorated across Canada with vigils and workshops on domestic violence.

Violence against women remains a serious problem, not only in “third world” nations, but in Canada as well. We have all read of the attempts of some cultural groups to justify “honor killings” of women who marry without parental consent, who divorce abusive husbands or marry “beneath the families status,” and for other reasons. At the same time the savage and cruel practice of female circumcision continues in many parts of Africa, and the sexual torture of women in Darfur, the Congo and other places rages unabated.

The fact that most domestic violence is carried out by men against women is certainly not comforting. Indeed, it would seem that men should be in the forefront of striving to bring an end to all these acts of brutality. We should be deeply offended that our gender is being defined in some part, in so many places, by acts of cruelty and violence against women.

I would like to respectfully suggest that it might be a good subject for clergy to discuss with young people in their parishes. Those who are inclined to, might also in some small way, observe this day, which has become a semi-official memorial day for women who have lost their lives in domestic violence and in the violation of the humanity of women.

+Archbishop Lazar

[email protected]

Execution in Iraq: My heart was heavy yesterday with the news of Saddam’s hanging and what it might mean for the continued cycling of violence here. What I hadn’t realized was the significance of where I’ve been living for the past few months. I was walking with Colonel T and he mentioned being in “Saddam’s hometown.” “Tikrit is his hometown?” I asked. “Yes, haven’t you heard his full name, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti? ” I had not been aware of that. I subsequently was told that all movement to and from our base had been canceled for the next few days because of the anticipation of increased attacks.

This information became particularly pertinent today at the chapel. I was up with the choir and we were standing in the front of the congregation, facing them, off to one side. Father K stood behind the congregation at the back entrance where he signals the choir to start the service so that he can walk down the center aisle to the altar as we sing. Today he waved at us to begin with his trademark big smile and… BOOM!!! The building shuddered. Everyone froze. The choir did not begin singing. Faces all around were wide-eyed and some looked frightened. I looked back again to Father K and he seemed uncertain of what to do. There was dead silence for several seconds that seemed like several minutes. He reached over to a small basin of holy water, dipped his fingers into it, and crossed himself. A few more moments of silence and then Father K smiled sheepishly and waved at us to begin again. Captain H snapped out of her own reverie after a few seconds and announced the song. After the service we all agreed it must have been a controlled detonation somewhere in the vicinity, otherwise an alert would have gone out. Regardless, as I came out of the chapel I half expected to see a smoldering crater nearby. I was struck by just how focused I’d been in those timeless moments. Priorities were clear, all things superfluous were instantly burned away. The unspoken challenge to myself seemed to be one of “how do I get that back?” and “how does one maintain such a state?” How is it that I so seldom feel the realness of what is real? I think I must be amassing questions here that I’ll have the rest of my life to try and answer.

Aaron Haney

[email protected]

Eternal memory: George Zarifis, 80, a longtime member of our Minnesota Chapter of Orthodox Peace Fellowship, died in his sleep on January 12, 2007. Despite his age, it was unexpected – just like George himself.

George was a founding member and our secretary, recording the notes for our OPF meetings each month. I have the notebook in which he kept track of the life of our little group. I’m glad we have them now, not just to remember what our group has discussed and done, but to remember George.

More than just our secretary, George was a guiding light and tireless worker in our chapter as we have pursued our desire to open an Orthodox house of hospitality in the Twin Cities area. He has had a hand in every event and project we have sponsored or supported, sharing his time, money, talent and generous love in so many ways.

The last time I visited with him was shortly before Christmas at a prayer retreat sponsored by his parish, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. He was involved in many ways in the life of the Church, including being an usher and greeter with a warm smile and kind heart.

It grieves me that George did not live to see the day that our Orthodox house of hospitality for the poor will open in Minnesota. He truly believed in this shared vision of our small chapter. Frequently he would ask in a bewildered way, “Why don’t more people join us?” I was never able to answer that question. Would that the words “peace” and “hospitality” would draw a crowd. Perhaps George, with his background in the military and his own life of outreach, had a deeper sense of the essence and interconnectedness of these two words, and the need for them to be lived out in concrete ways.

In my tears I draw hope from the sense that George has gone to be with the Lord. I pray that he is interceding for us who still struggle on earth for peace, justice and salvation.

The thoughts, prayers and compassion of all of us in the Minnesota OPF chapter go out to George, his wife Cleo and his family. It will be awhile before we again see his smile, feel his warm hug, his gentle laugh and words of wisdom.

Memory Eternal, dearest George. You are missed. Pray for us as we pray for you.

Rene Zitzloff

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In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

News: Winter 2007

An Orthodox Appeal Against New Nuclear Weapons

In December Dn. John Chryssavgis, representing Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, presented testimony before a hearing at the US Department of Energy, the agency responsible for nuclear weapons. He opposed development and production of a “new generation” of nuclear weapons. Extracts from his statement follow:

“As theological advisor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, I have observed how environmental protection and peaceful coexistence among nations define his worldwide ministry, as witnessed most recently by his joint declaration with Pope Benedict during the Papal visit to Turkey.

“Why is increasing nuclear armament still uncritically considered a viable option when the sheer costs are exorbitant: human, financial, environmental and moral? … If taxpayers continue subsidizing weapons development, nuclear waste disposal, insurance against accidents (human and ecological), and the decommissioning of older facilities, then the financial expense alone of nuclear arms removes them from contention.

“Nuclear weaponry absorbs enormous intellectual and physical resources, directing scientific research away from the promotion of authentic human values toward the production of destructive devices…

“Submitting to the temptation of nuclear solutions betrays the moral fabric of the soul that directs us to solutions that benefit the whole world (environmentally) in the long-term, not the few (economically) in the short-term…

“Not only is nuclear weaponry unsustainable; it is primarily destabilizing. With the increasing danger of international terrorism – and with the US’s rightful insistence against the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran – the sheer vulnerability of nuclear facilities and weapons, combined with their leverage in the acquisition of further nuclear weapons, ought not simply to encourage the reduction, but also to oblige the elimination of nuclear arms. Nuclear dissuasion (based on the logic of fear) is no longer a valid policy or strategy.

“At the level of security, it is time to move beyond refinement to reduction of arms; and to move beyond mere deterrence to elimination of nuclear weapons. How can we ever imagine a future of peace when interests and investments increase in production of nuclear weapons and the development of facilities? Simply put, security based on force is no more legitimate than peace based on terror…

“It is not only a matter of adhering to religious principles of peace, which is justifiably the primary focus of religious institutions. It is a matter of common sense. Our world has received glimpses of the threat of nuclear destruction. Yet, we continue to blunder along the present path with all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. A ‘Reliable Replacement Warhead’ program can be neither reliable nor responsible. What will it take for us to realize that it is not … ‘modernization’ but a return to outdated politics of fear and power. It does not simply affect specific regions or states, but ultimately threatens the security of the nation as a whole and indeed the entire planet.

“The question is … how serious we are as a nation to lead the world with an alternative vision, which interprets power differently and promotes peaceful coexistence globally. And the US surely has a unique and historical role to play for the sake of the planet’s survival and the life of future generations. At our present moral and strategic crossroads, the world needs to see the US enforce a step-by-step … reduction and even prohibition of nuclear facilities and weapons – not their replacement or refurbishment. It needs to see the US initiate cooperative security measures, not increasingly military security policies. Instead, what do they see? They see an unrestrained drive to impose absolute global superiority in weaponry. Yet, US action will invariably encourage and invite reaction from other nations. Perhaps it is time for self-reflection, for reconsideration of our grave political and moral responsibility on a global level.

“In spite of any skepticism regarding the efficacy of international institutions and instruments, building peace presupposes trust and cooperation. It implies perceiving the other as a partner and not as a threat, committing jointly to constraint and regulation. I have to wonder sometimes if the US cannot itself restore authority to international agencies and agreements. Have these agencies and agreements lost their credibility, or have we undermined this credibility?…

“Progressive and concerted decommissioning is the only viable pledge for long-term, moral, and courageous leadership.”

Iraqi Death Toll Exceeded 34,000 in 2006

The United Nations reported in January that more than 34,000 Iraqis were killed in violence last year, a figure that represents the first comprehensive annual count of civilian deaths and a vivid measure of the failure of the Iraqi government and American military to provide security.

The report was the first attempt at hand- counting individual deaths for an entire year. It was compiled using reports from morgues, hospitals and municipal authorities across Iraq, and was nearly three times higher than an estimate for 2006 compiled from Iraqi ministry tallies by The Associated Press earlier this month.

Numbers of civilian deaths have become the central indicator for the trajectory of the war, and are extremely delicate for both Iraqi and American officials. Both follow the tallies, but neither will release them. The UN said it used only official sources, most of which relied on counts of death certificates. A vast majority of Iraqi deaths are registered, at least to local authorities, so that Iraqis can prove inheritance and receive government compensation. Some deaths still go unreported, however, and the United Nations tally may in fact be lower than the true number of deaths nationwide.

About Face: Soldiers Call for Iraq Withdrawal

For the first time since Vietnam, a robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved are petitioning Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. Sixty percent of the signers have served in the Iraq war. Their statement is brief: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

The appeal’s initiators are Jonathan Hutto and David Rogers. Hutto, 29, works in communications on an aircraft carrier. Rogers, 34, is quartermaster on a frigate. They’ve been friends since boot camp three years ago.

The petition was presented in January to Congressman Dennis Kucinich in January. “Just because you joined the military doesn’t mean your constitutional rights are suspended,” said Hutto, a petty officer third class and 1999 Howard University graduate. “True patriotism is having a questioning attitude about the government.”

The idea for the within-the-ranks antiwar group came after Hutto read Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War by David Cartwright. Hutto showed the book to Rogers. They invited Cartwright to come to Norfolk.

“I was so impressed by the seriousness of the discussion,” said Cartwright, who teach- es at the University of Notre Dame. He said “it takes guts for active military members to speak out, but they do it respectfully.”

Signers include:

Kevin Torres, 23, from Brooklyn, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne who has served two tours in Iraq. “I felt like with our being there, we were making more enemies,” he said. “The people hated us. They wanted us out of the city.”

Liam Madden, 22, a Marine sergeant from Vermont, spent seven months on the ground in Iraq. “I saw Iraq struggling to get on its feet and failing to do so – despite the best efforts of American military,” he said. “I have nothing against the military or my experience. It’s the policy I oppose.” One of the signers, Navy Lieut. Commander Mark Deaden of San Diego, enlisted in 1997 and is still considering the possibility of a Navy career. “So this was a very difficult decision for me to come to. I don’t take this decision lightly,” he says, but after two deployments in Iraq, he said that signing the Appeal was not only the right thing to do but also gave him personal closure. “I’m expressing a right of people in the military to contact their elected representatives, and I have done nothing illegal or disrespectful.”

Pope, Ecumenical Patriarch unite in Istanbul on “Christian Europe”

On a visit to Istanbul, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that progress would be made in overcoming ancient divisions.

“The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel,” said Benedict at a service on 30 November with Bartholomew. They met in the Church of St George on the feast of St. Andrew, the apostle and brother of St. Peter who preached after the death of Jesus in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul. Benedict and Bartholomew signed a joint declaration in which both noted the need to “preserve Christian roots” in European culture while remaining “open to other religions and their cultural contributions.”

In his homily, Bartholomew said, “We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity.” Pope Benedict said his four-day trip to Turkey was aimed at resuming the process to full unity between the two oldest paths for Christianity, which remained divided, particularly over the degree of papal authority. The Ecumenical Patriarch has a special role among Orthodox bishops, though other Orthodox churches note his title in Latin is “primus inter pares” – first among equals. Part of their declaration was posted on the web site of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (www.patriarchate.org). In it, the Pope and Bartholomew said, “We evaluated positively the path towards the shaping of the European Union. The key players in this huge endeavor will surely take into account all … non-negotiable rights, especially religious freedom, which is proof and assurance of respect for all other freedoms…

“In every initiative for union, minorities, with their cultural rights and religious distinctiveness, should be protected. In Europe, both Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics, while remaining open to other religions and their contribution to culture, should unite their efforts to safeguard Christian roots, traditions and values, in order to preserve respect for history and to also contribute to the culture of a future Europe.”

Pope, Greek Orthodox Leader Forge Anti-Secular Alliance

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, agreed in December to join forces in defending Christian values against growing secularism in Europe.

In a joint declaration signed at the Vatican, the two leaders called for “constructive theological dialogue” on the road to Christian unity, appealed for an end to religious violence and reaffirmed the Churches’ opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

“We come,” Archbishop Christodoulos said, “to visit the eminent theologian and university professor, the assiduous researcher of ancient Greek thought and of the Greek Fathers of the East; but also the visionary of Christian unity and cooperation of religions to ensure the peace of the whole world.”

He said his visit offered the opportunity “to undertake a new stage on the common path of our Churches to address the problems of the present-day world.”

He expressed his commitment to “overcome the dogmatic obstacles that hinder the journey of unity in faith” until Orthodox and Catholics attain “full unity,” and can “commune in the precious Body and Blood of the Lord in the same Chalice of Life.”

“Europe,” Pope Benedict said, “cannot be an exclusively economic reality. Catholics and Orthodox are called to offer their cultural, and above all spiritual, contribution. It is necessary to develop cooperation between Christians in each country of the European Union, so as to face the new risks that confront the Christian faith, namely growing secularism, relativism and nihilism.”

The meeting was the first at the Vatican between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and Greece’s most senior cleric. Pope Benedict gave Archbishop Christodoulos two links of the chain with which Apostle Paul was held as a prisoner.

Met. Kirill Urges Orthodox to Stay with World Council of Churches

A senior Russian Orthodox bishop said in November that it was important for the Church to continue its participation in the World Council of Churches. Self-isolation would not serve the Church, he said in a radio interview in Moscow.

Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Department of External Church Affairs, told Radio Mayak that the World Council of Churches is the best forum for the Russian Orthodox Church to bear witness and understand the state of contemporary Christianity. “On that platform,” he said, “we have the opportunity to immediately, instantaneously, see what is happening in the Christian world … to form a clear understanding of where contemporary Christianity is heading, to bear witness to our position and convince others.” He was responding to a listener’s question during a call-in as part of the broadcast. Kirill spoke of the dangers of cutting ties with the world, both in the religious arena and beyond.

“If you take it further, then Russia should go into isolation, withdraw from the UN, from regional organizations,” he said. “Can we live in isolation in the modern world? This is suicide.”

Kirill described in Biblical terms the only acceptable reason for withdrawal from the WCC: “When we understand that the World Council of Church is ‘the council of the wicked’, then we will leave, but for now one doesn’t get this impression,” he said. [Sonia Kishkovsky/ENI]

British Christians, Muslims Unite to Keep Religion in Christmas

Britain’s Christian-Muslim Forum has strongly criticized moves to take the religious message out of Christmas in the country on the grounds that offence might be caused to members of other faiths. The forum, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to promote interfaith relations, draws half its membership for the Muslim community.

It warned that attempts to remove religion from the Christmas festival acted to encourage right-wing extremism. Some local governments have tried to excise references to Christianity from Christmas. One renamed their municipal celebrations “Winterval”. The statement was signed by forum leaders including the Anglican Bishop of Bolton, David Gillett and Ataullah Siddiqui, director of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education. It noted that some local authorities had decided that Christmas should be called by another non-religious name. “As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the retention of specific religious recognition for Christian festivals,” their statement said, “Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of the country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is offensive to both communities.”

“Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianize British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda they do not hold.”

Some church leaders have criticized the British Post Office for issuing Christmas stamps with no Christian theme.

Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, the second highest person in the Church of England hierarchy, attacked “illiberal atheists, who under the cloak of secularism, insist that religion must be a private matter.”

Catholic and Orthodox Leaders Jointly Bless Icon

Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in San Francisco came together in late November to bless an icon, and, in the process, help bridge a millennium-old divide. The two hierarchs together blessed a mosaic icon depicting the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Prior to the event, no Catholic archbishop of San Francisco is known to have participated in a service exclusively with a Greek Orthodox metropolitan, the equivalent of an archbishop. Both churches have been working for years to remedy their longtime tensions.

“We’re the spiritual children of our mother churches,” said Fr. Michael Pappas, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco, where the event was held. Speaking before the service, Pappas said the local leaders’ actions were “a reflection of what is happening in Constantinople” (where Pope Benedict was visiting Patriarch Bartholomew).

“This is, after all, what Jesus instructed his disciples to do at the last supper,” Archbishop George Niederauer said in an interview before the service.

“That his followers be one, just as he and the father are one. We are trying to respond to that from our own perspective.”

Christian Population Shrinking in Holy Land

The death threat came on simple white fliers blowing down the streets at dawn. A group calling itself “Friends of Muhammad” accused a local Palestinian Christian of selling mobile phones carrying offensive sketches of the Muslim prophet.

While neighbors defended the merchant saying the charges in the flier were bogus, the frightened phone dealer went into hiding. Now he is thinking of going abroad.

The steady flight of the tiny Palestinian Christian minority that could lead to the faith being virtually extinct in its birthplace within several generations – a trend mirrored in many dwindling pockets of Christianity across the Islamic world.

But Christian populations are in decline nearly everywhere in Muslim lands, most notably in the Holy Land.

For decades, it was mostly economic pressures pushing Palestinian Christians to emigrate, using family ties in the West. The Palestinian uprisings – and the separation barrier started by Israel in 2002 – accelerated the departures by turning once-bustling pilgrimage sites such as Bethlehem into relative ghost towns.

The growing strength of radical Islamic movements has added distinct new worries. During the protests after the pope’s remarks in September, some of the worst violence was in Palestinian areas with churches fire- bombed and hit by gunfire.

“Most of the Christians here are either in the process of leaving, planning to leave or thinking of leaving,” said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based peace group. “Insecurity is deep and getting worse.”

The native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from at least 15 percent in 1950. The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land said Christians could become “extinct” in the region within 60 years. “It certainly doesn’t look good for us,” said Mike Salman, a Palestinian Christian who has conducted studies on demographic trends.

“Here is where Jesus was born and over there, across the hill in Jerusalem, is where he was crucified,” a Christian restaurant owner, Ibrahim Shomali, said. “We Christians now feel like we are on the cross.” Some are trying to change the momentum. Groups dedicated to Muslim-Christian cooperation are active.

During the protests over Benedict’s remarks, militiamen from Islamic Jihad vowed to protect a West Bank church. A poll released Oct. 18 by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found 91 percent of respondents opposed attacking churches to protest Benedict’s comments.

These days Palestinian Christians – dominated by Greek Orthodox and Latin rite churches – face questions about whether their hearts lie in their homeland or in the West. It gets even more complicated because of the strong support for Israel and Jewish settlers from American evangelical Christians.

“We are stuck in no man’s land,” said a leading Palestinian Christian activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of reported death threats.

“In the eyes of the West, we are Arabs. In the eyes of Arabs, we are a fifth column.” At the St. Theodosius Monastery, a site with a Christian history dating to the fifth century, the Greek Orthodox caretaker, Father Ierotheos, said he mostly remains behind the walls. He claims he was harassed by “Muslim fanatics” for speaking about Christian fears on a local television show. “It’s a jungle for us now,” he said.

US Prison Population Sets Record

In the USA, a record 7 million people – one in every 32 U.S. adults – were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to a Justice Department report released in Decameter.

Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to the report. More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.

Men still far outnumber women, but the female prison population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent and the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year’s end, 7 percent of inmates were women.

The study found that racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men – about one in 13 – are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men.

The figures are similar among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and more than three times as likely as white women to be in prison.

From 1995 to 2003, inmates incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.

OCA “Stunned” by Extent of Financial Abuse

Leaders of the Orthodox Church in America, who had long resisted calls for an investigation, acknowledged in December a history of financial abuse at church headquarters in Syosset, NY.

“Large amounts of church funds were used to improperly pay for personal expenses,” said a statement issued by the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council, a governing body of clergy and laity.

Church leaders heard from attorneys and accountants hired in March to investigate allegations raised by a former church treasurer and others. Their statement said they were “stunned by the magnitude of today’s revelations.”

“The severity of some of the problems could not be fully determined due to a lack of documentation. However, these abuses of church trust were determined to be centered on and around one individual and were not found to be widespread among the employees of the church,” the statement said. The report said financial controls had been circumvented since at least 1998. It cited “numerous unsubstantiated cash withdrawals.”

It said credit cards were abused, trips were reimbursed without proper documentation, there were attempts to divert money from charities and financial reports were poorly documented, untimely and sometimes even falsified.

“The Metropolitan Council will oversee the implementation of appropriate accounting procedures in the OCA’s accounting office, which will include the replacement of antiquated accounting systems,” the statement said.

“But the new direction is clear – changes need to be made in order to bring the church to the high level of accountability that is expected of it.”

The investigation will continue under a special committee led by Archbishop Job of Chicago. It will include Greg Nescott, a Pittsburgh attorney.

Mark Stokoe, a layman from Dayton, Ohio, whose Orthodox Christians for Ac- countability had documented the allegations on its Web site, was jubilant. He said he expected more details when the investigating committee reports next year.

“It’s a great day for the OCA,” he said. “It’s beginning to restore integrity to the institutions that have really been challenged. A lot of people had been losing hope that things could be changed. This shows they can be.”

Survey: 744,000 People Homeless in US in 2005

There were 744,000 homeless people in the United States in 2005, according to the an estimate issued in January by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

A little more than half were living in shelters, and nearly a quarter were chronically homeless. A majority of the homeless were single adults, but about 41 percent were in families.

The group compiled data collected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development from service providers through- out the country. It is the first national study on the number of homeless people since 1996.

Counting people without permanent addresses, especially those living on the street, is an inexact process. But the new study provides a baseline to help measure progress on the issue.

In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg:

Early in her long life Xenia had been married to an army colonel who drank himself to death and who may have been an abusive, violent husband. Soon after his funeral, she began giving away the family fortune to the poor, a simple act of obedience to Christ’s teaching: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor … and come, follow me.” In order to prevent Xenia from impoverishing herself, relatives sought to have her declared insane. However the doctor who examined her concluded Xenia was the sanest person he had ever met.

Having given away her wealth, for some years Xenia disappeared, becoming one of Russia’s many pilgrims walking from shrine to shrine while reciting the Jesus Prayer. Some- where along the way during those hidden years, she became a Fool for Christ. When Xenia finally returned to St. Petersburg, she was wearing the threadbare remnants of her late husband’s military uniform – these are usually shown in the icons of her – and would answer only to his name, not her own. One can only guess her motives. In taking upon herself his name and clothing, she may have been attempting to do penance for his sins. Her home became the Smolensk cemetery on the city’s edge where she slept rough year-round and where finally she was buried. Xenia became known for her clairvoyant gift of telling people what to expect and what they should do, though what shesaid often made sense only in the light of later events. She might say to certain persons she singled out, “Go home and make blini [Russian pancakes].” As blini are served after funerals, the person she addressed would understand that a member of the family would soon die. She never begged. Money was given to her but she kept only an occasional kopek for herself; everything else was passed on to others.

When she died, age 71, at the end of the 18th century, her grave became a place of pilgrimage and remained so even through the Soviet period, though for several decades the political authorities closed the chapel at her grave site. The official canonization of this Fool for Christ and the re-opening of the chapel over her grave in 1988 were vivid gestures in the Gorbachev years that the war against religion was truly over in Russia.

Why does the Church occasionally canonize people whose lives are not only completely at odds with civil society but who often hardly fit ecclesiastical society either? The answer must be that Holy Fools dramatize something about God that most Christians find embarrassing, but which we vaguely recognize is crucial information.

It is the special vocation of Holy Fools to live out in a rough, literal, breath-taking way the “hard sayings” of Jesus. Like the Son of Man, they have no place to lay their heads, and, again like him, they live without money in their pockets (thus Jesus, in responding to a question about paying taxes, had no coin of his own with which to display Caesar’s image). While never harming anyone, Holy Fools raise their voices against those who lie and cheat and do violence to others, but at the same time they are always ready to embrace these same greedy and ruthless people. They take everyone seriously. No one, absolutely no one, is unimportant. In fact the only thing always important for them, apart from God and angels, are the people around them, whoever they are, no matter how limited they are. Their dramatic gestures, however shocking, always have to do with revealing the person of Christ and his mercy.

-Extract from the Holy Fools chapter of Praying with Icons (Jim Forest, Orbis Books)
In Communion number 44 / Winter 2007

Pro-Life Resources

From the early days of Christianity, the protection of human life — from the womb to old age — has been a major priority for the Church. Safeguarding unborn children is a topic that has often been addressed in the pages of In Communion. A partial list of articles and essays on this topic follows. (For a complete listing, use the site’s search engine, inserting the word “abortion”.)

Abortion and the Early Church

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

Changing a Society Which has De-Valued Women and De-Humanized the Unborn

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

Pro-Life Resources

From the early days of Christianity, the protection of human life — from the womb to old age — has been a major priority for the Church. Safeguarding unborn children is a topic that has often been addressed in the pages of In Communion. A partial list of articles and essays on this topic follows. (For a complete listing, use the site’s search engine, inserting the word “abortion”.)

Abortion and the Early Church

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

Changing a Society Which has De-Valued Women and De-Humanized the Unborn

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

Pro-Life Resources

From the early days of Christianity, the protection of human life — from the womb to old age — has been a major priority for the Church. Safeguarding unborn children is a topic that has often been addressed in the pages of In Communion. A partial list of articles and essays on this topic follows. (For a complete listing, use the site’s search engine, inserting the word “abortion”.)

Abortion and the Early Church

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/abortion-and-the-early-church

The Sacredness of Newborn Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-sacredness-of-newborn-life

The Bitter Price of Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-bitter-price-of-choice

Many Offering Death

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/many-offering-death

Treehouse: Saving Lives One by One

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/the-treehouse

True Free Choice

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/true-free-choice

Zoe Means Life

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/zoe-means-life

On Homicide

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-homicide

The Troublesome Word “Murder”

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-32/the-troublesome-word-murder

Victims and Heroes

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/victims-and-heroes

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us

Changing a Society Which has De-Valued Women and De-Humanized the Unborn

http://incommunion.org/articles/resources/changing-a-society

On Abortion and Over-Population

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/on-abortion-and-over-population

Learning to Be Peacemakers

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/learning-to-be-peacemakers

The Other As Icon

http://incommunion.org/articles/conferences-lectures/the-other-as-icon

The Great Human Rights Issue of Our Time

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/the-great-human-rights-issue-of-our-time

On Behalf of Unborn Children

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-31/on-behalf-of-unborn-children

Cleansing By Tears

http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/cleansing-by-tears

Recommended Reading Fall 2006

Christian Faith and Same Sex Attraction:

Thomas Hopko

Conciliar Press, 126 pp, $13

Writing with compassion, clarity and humility, Fr. Thomas Hopko (Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and a retired professor of dogmatic theology) draws on the wisdom of the Orthodox Church, the Bible, Patristic sources and many years of experience of giving counsel. His book helps readers better understand same-sex attraction and, for those living with such attractions, not despair.

Through the perspective of Orthodox theology, Hopko analyses the nature of gender identity and sexuality, pointing out that, in our damaged world, inevitably many people will have sinful passions of every sort. He argues that platonic same-sex love is normal, but that same-sex genital activity joins a pantheon of other sinful desires as something we may have urges towards but must struggle not to succumb to. Christian living, he says, quoting Fr. Alexan- der Schmemann, is “how you deal with what you’ve been dealt.”

“All men and women,” Hopko writes, “whatever their sexual feelings … are human beings who cannot be essentially defined in their God-given humanity by their feelings and desires – feelings and desires that have been produced in them by their biological, psychological, and cultural inheritance, and by the way they have been treated by others, particularly family members, within the corrupted conditions of the fallen world.”

Hopko passionately defends the civil rights of those in same-sex unions while chastising those who are too judgmental. He calls on those who counsel those who have same-sex attractions “to identify with them, to respect them, to listen to them, to put themselves in their place, feel their pain, and advocate for them before God.” Counselors “must abandon all stereotypes … and see each person as the unique person he or she is … They must never forget that God alone knows the culpability of every person’s thoughts, words, feelings and actions.”

This is a book that will be useful to those who experience same-sex desires, pastors, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the nature of identity and sexuality. The emphasis is on overcoming the passions through the traditional Christian ascetic struggle, an issue each person must face no matter what his or her sexual orientation.

The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer

Frederica Mathews-Green

Paraclete Press, 166 pp, $17

When traveling in a foreign country, it is helpful to have a guide who has visited your own land and can offer keen observations, appropriate context and lively translation. Frederica Mathewes-Green serves as such a guide, welcoming the reader to an imaginary Orthodox church filled with icons. The result is an examination of the role of icons in public devotion as well as private prayer, leading the reader to the edge of the sanctuary. Theological debates and historical explanations that might in other hands seem academic are in this work compelling and vivid.

Dividing her book into two sections, Mathewes-Green writes first on the major icons of the iconostasis and then on icons of feasts and saints that appear elsewhere in the church. She approaches each icon from a perspective of prayerful reflection and belief.

The Culture of Fear

Barry Glassner

Basic Books, $16

Thomas Merton once observed that “the root of war is fear.” Fears are occasionally well founded but many are manipulated by the political powers and the mass media. Glassner’s book, published six years ago in a less fearful period, has become more timely in the post 9-11 world.

“Culture of fear” refers to a dominance of fear and anxiety in public discourse and relationships between people. Barry Glassner, a sociologist, argues that fear is being intentionally promoted as a means for increased social control. Through the manipulation of words and news, fears are carefully and repeatedly created and fed by those who benefit from a culture of fear. The results influence personal behavior and justify governmental actions or policies both at home and abroad. Such a culture helps elect demagogic politicians and serves to distract public attention from such social issues as poverty, health care, unemployment, crime and environmental damage.

Glassner analyzes many commonly held beliefs about the threats of the modern world and exposes the media’s role in keeping citizens in a state of unnecessary fear.

Frightened citizens, he argues, make better consumers and more easily swayed voters. Glassner raises a series of public safety threats – for example, road rage, middle-class heroin addiction and domestic abuse – and then systematically strikes them down with statistics. Glassner has a sharp eye for what causes unnecessary goose bumps: “The use of poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, the christening of isolated incidents as trends, depictions of entire categories of people as innately dangerous,” and unknown scholars who masquerade as “experts.” While Glassner rejects the notion that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, he clearly shows that we have much less to fear than we think.

Sweeter Than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma And Truth

Peter Bouteneff

St. Vladimir’s Press, 213 pp, $16

Peter Bouteneff’s book confronts difficult questions that accompany professing Orthodox faith in the contemporary world. How can we assert that Jesus Christ is the only Truth in a culture that relativizes all truths to personal preferences? In addressing these questions, Bouteneff rejects both the relativism of contemporary culture as well as the triumphalism of an unthinking absolutism.

The reader is given an expression of traditional Orthodox teaching on how Jesus Christ is the Truth, and the only Truth, and how the Orthodox Church is the bearer of that Truth, but always with an eye to responding to the particular questions of the present age. There are discussions of creeds, of scripture, of saints, of church hierarchs, icons, and even the myth-structure underlying the Harry Potter novels, but all of them are geared toward the core question of how the Orthodox Church defends the Truth of the Gospel.

There is a pressing need for such a book, for these are questions that confront people on a daily basis. This is an excellent introduction to the Orthodoxfaith, written in a unique fashion, and with a view toward contemporary debates.

The author is Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Vladimir’s

Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Sergius Bulgakov: On Love

The God of Love created man for love. The human heart thirsts to love and to be loved. It suffers if it does not give or receive love. It longs to expand, to embrace in its own life other lives, many lives, all lives; it goes out and seeks to lose itself in another ; to become itself the other one, to be drowned in a sea of universal love. To lose one’s life that one may save it – that is the law of love as shown by the Word Himself, who gave it to us.

Man lives only according to what and how much he loves; he dies according to what and how much he fails to love. He who loves is rich; for God, who is Love, is richness itself. And man, formed in the image of God who creates and holds all things in love, is called to take all men and all things into his love. Here on earth he only begins his first lessons in love; but before him lie the life of the age to come and all eternity, waiting to be filled with love alone — for there is no life and no eternity where thereis no love.

The power of love is the capacity to become other to oneself, to include the other one in oneself, to be filled with universal life. This, however, is but one form of love; and if it were to exhaust the power of love, personality would dissolve and in the end be completely absorbed in cosmic love. Yet man cannot and should not be depersonalized in loving; he must lose his life that he may regain it and he should love his neighbor as himself. There must, therefore, be some measure of valid divinely-ordained self-love.

Egotism is, of course, a wholly unnatural condition for man. Indeed, in its extreme manifestations it verges upon delusion, and most commonly on moral immaturity. But normal self-love in the true sense of the word has its expression in personal love, in the irrepressible longing to love and to be loved by a particular person or persons.

– Fr. Sergius Bulkakov an extract from Jacob’s Ladder from Sobornost, no 33, June 1946 translated by Katharine Lampert

IN COMMUNION / FALL 2006

Conversations by e-mail: Fall 2006

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 or Jim Forest .

St. Constantine:

OPF received a letter yesterday in which a questionwas raised as to why St. Constantine is not on the calendar of saints in the Catholic Church, although he is in the Orthodox Church. “Does it concern you that this ‘man of war’ is honored in our tradition?” I responded by saying that my impression is that there are quite a few pre-Schism. No doubt a factor in his canonization was his decision to end all persecution of Christians and the influence Christianity had in encouraging him to reshape many laws in a more merciful direction. Many saints have taken part in war – none has been canonized for being a soldier. The calendar of the saints cension of the Lord. I think the timing of this feast was, consciously or uncon- sciously, a decision of great wisdom. Our Lord has gone up to rule over heaven and earth from the right hand of the Father. Part of His rule includes the kingdoms of this earth. Constantine was among the very first rulers to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over the State and to begin the process of transforming the laws and customs of this world to conform to the law and wisdom of the Lord.

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We celebrate what the Lord has in fact accomplished; but we also celebrate what has begun. Constantine was not in fact the first Christian king (a king of Armenia preceded him). His sins were many and some of them serious; some of his accomplishments were not long-lasting; and some of his achievements were not even appropriate – the Constantinian union of church and state was in fact an unholy matrimony that has caused endless problems to the message and integrity of the Church. Even so, his accomplishments were great indeed. Perhaps more than any other saint of the ancient Church, he represents the task that Niebuhr called the transformation of culture. From that point of view, oddly enough, in light of his being chief commander of the Roman armies, he is close to the spirit of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

David Holden [email protected]

Byzantium:

The Byzantine Empire was culturally Byzantine, unique in all the ways cultures always are, with Hellenistic culture being but one influence. It is customary to refer to Byzantine culture as Greek, but that didn’t mean the same thing in pre-modern times that it does now. The marriage of blood, culture, and religion to create the modern conception of Greek ethnicity as something pure and inherent began in the eighteenth century. Byzantines didn’t think of themselves as Hellenes; neither Byzantines nor Hellenes ever being thought of themselves as an ethnic group. Hellenism was always a cultural phenomenon. It was the post-Byzantine culture under the Ottomans that recovered for themselves, from the pre-Byzantine past, their Hellenic identity. Prior to the development of nationalism in the 18th century, there was never any such idea as a Greek, or any other, ethnicity.

The migrations that led to large amounts of today’s mainland Greece being Slav took place between the 6th and 7th centuries, dates and extent of settlement being uncertain and debated by historians. Most of the cities remained Greek, and there was much intermixing of the populations. The peninsula was recovered and once more largely Greek by the 9th century. There is no evidence that there was anything like a large-scale population exchange, though Imperial policy was influential.

Constantine was certainly neither Serb or British, as neither of those ethnicities even existed then, Slavs being a completely unknown people to the Romans at that time. Slavs migrated into the Balkans in the 6th century as raiders and didn’t begin to settle in significant numbers until the 7th. They never supplanted native populations (assimilation, over time, may be more accurate, but such processes were so bi-directional that we can never say that the cultural end product was the same as at the beginning of the process). While there was a cultural influence in both directions, by the time the Greeks recovered dominance, the settled Slavs had been thoroughly “Grecified.”

Pieter Dykhorst [email protected]

Conciliar model:

Constantine’s significance in the East has largely to do with the importance we place on Ecumenical Councils, as distinct from a Roman-style Magisterium. His moving of the capital to Byzantium/Constantinople, the effect he had on establishing the emperor as the vital link between Church and State, the significance of the Nicene Creed from the Council over which he presided, his leadership in the Donatist struggle: all of this political influence – coupled with the fact that he was St. Helena’s son (is holiness genetic?) and introduced an impressive number of ethical and social changes into the life of the Empire, from tax relief and charitable works to endowing churches in the Holy Land and elsewhere – certainly contributed to the growth of popular veneration of his person. We are called to emulate Constantine’s virtues, not his vices – but that’s true with any saint, who, by the simple fact of being human, is also a sinner.

Fr. John Breck

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Byzantines and war:

Thinking a little bit about history, I was wondering, if one compared the Orthodox Byzantine Empire with other great world powers in history, is it the case that the Byzantines engaged in war mostly from a defensive and protectionist stance, to consolidate their position, rather than engaging in expansionist wars?

Certainly Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire of an earlier age, the Muslim Arabs, Genghis Khan, the Turks, all engaged in imperial expansionism.

The crusades too might fall in this category. But the Byzantines after Constantine seem rarely to have gone on wars of expansion. They did fight against the Persians, Arabs, Turks, Bulgars, but these were mostly attacks upon them.

After Constantine, the empire goes into a pattern of land lost by attrition and war. Pretty much the Byzantines lose interest in the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century. In the 7th Century, the Arab Muslims gobble up huge portions of the empire. The Bulgars carve out their own empire. The Turks further diminish Byzantium until they conquer it.

The Byzantines seem to have engaged in some diplomatic efforts with the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Bulgars, and eventually with the Crusaders. But their war efforts were defensive rather than expansionist, except at times to regain lost territories.

I wonder if anyone is aware if any research has been done on the attitude of the Byzantine Empire toward war itself. After Constantine, did Christianity have an impact on the imperial attitudes toward war? Did this lead to the Empire being more defensive than expansionist?

For example, here is the Theotokian from Matins Canticle Nine for the Be-heading of John the Baptist:

Son of the Theotokos:

Go forth, ride prosperously and reign. Place the forces of Ishmael that fight against us, beneath our feet, and grant victory to the Orthodox

Christians over their adversaries by the intercessions of her who bore You, O Word of God.

It is interesting that Monk John, who wrote this hymn, does not call for the armies to go forth and conquer Arab territories, but only that Jesus would grant victories over those who are attacking the Byzantine lands.

Even the “Protection of the Theotokos” is more defensive than offensive.

It is a call to protection from aggressors, and not a call for the Orthodox to become aggressors. So though the Constantinian legend was that he would conquer beneath the Sign of the Cross, the later Byzantines seem to have relied more upon God as a protector than as an aggressor conqueror God. Is this perhaps part of the peace tradition in the Byzantine legacy?

Fr. Ted Bobosh [email protected]

Byzantines and War:

There is a recent book by John Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World (London, 1999). My guess is that the Byzantines mostly engaged in defensive wars, because they had little option for anything else. But under Basil II, there was expansionist warfare (though he probably thought of it as regaining lost Byzantine territory).

Fr. Andrew Louth

Lebanon:

Just to let you know I’m unharmed. I left Lebanon twenty days before Hezbollah crossed the border, killed the soldiers, and took the captives. My biggest hassle in leaving the country was the fact that I was over my weight allowance. My priest told me not to buy books while I was there, but I didn’t take his advice. At this point, I’m unspeakably grateful that I decided against staying in Lebanon until September.

I have been in contact with many of my friends in Lebanon. I have spoken with Fr. Symeon by phone twice now. His apartment has what used to be a beautiful view of Beirut across the harbor. They’re far enough out of town and away from any potential targets that they’re as safe as anyone can be in Lebanon about now, but his wife and children are staying with her parents in a mountain village for the time being.

What grieves me even more than the scenes of devastation and death is the thought of yet another generation of scarred survivors. Fr. Symeon’s oldest child is three. One of my other friends from Canada who returned to serve the

Church in Lebanon has a young son.

Lord, have mercy!

Peter Brubacher [email protected]

Orthodox prison ministry:

Fr. David Ogan, who heads Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, has been doing a tremendous job by filling a void in the area of prison ministry. Sad to say, but few institutions in the United States provide religious services for Orthodox Christians, though there are exceptions. The jail where I serve as Supervising Chaplain provides 32 religious services each week to the inmate population, including Orthodox Christian liturgy and catechism. Prisoners who become Orthodox believers in our jail are connected with a local parish when they are released. However, at least 30 percent of the inmates are sentenced to penitentiaries where they will spend many years of their lives. Most US penitentiaries do not provide Orthodox Christian religious worship services simply because there has not been a voice from the Orthodox

Christian community calling for such service, and not enough clergy to provide the services. Therefore, the new Orthodox Christian believers behind bars have been relying on Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry and local parishes to keep them connected to their new faith without any formal worship experience.

I am not sure what we would do without that ministry. Thank you, Fr. David.

The need is so great and the door is wide open for Orthodoxy in our jails and prisons. I am in a position of influence in the state of Pennsylvania. I have been praying and trying to think of a way to enlist more Orthodox Christians in ministry to prisoners. Is this something that OPF might be interested in exploring?

Patrick Tutlella [email protected]

Inequality:

Inequality has been on my mind a lot recently. First, I read Tracy Kidder’s superb Mountains beyond Mountains, a profile of Paul Farmer, an American doctor who has established a health-care system in central Haiti. One small anecdote struck me especially. His clinic arranged to fly a boy with a rare

but treatable cancer to the US, and ended up having to pay $20,000 to fly him out (they’d meant to take him on a commercial flight, but his condition deteriorated). Some people in the organization wondered whether that money couldn’t have been better spent to serve more people – a legitimate question. Farmer recognized the issue, then pointed out that a first-year doctor in the US makes about $100,000 – but no one asks if that money might be “better spent” on other healthcare needs. A mere tithe on American doctors’ incomes would pay for a lot of medevac flights…

Then I read an issue of The Atlantic Monthly with two pieces on growing inequality in the US. One was mostly on why the average person’s pay hasn’t gone up, even while productivity has been climbing for decades. The other was a profile of the rapidly-growing business of providing services to the super-rich. Its concluding paragraph is haunting:

“Then, out of the blue during one of our later conversations, Natasha Pearl [head of one of the cater-to-the-rich companies] said something surprising:

‘If the income inequality persists, we could end up with real armed camps, like in South Africa.’ She said she was increasingly aware of the tension between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and she described a surge in demand among the ultrarich for real estate in out-of-the-way places such as New Zealand and rural Argentina – expensive insurance policies in case things go haywire for some reason at home. ‘The wise ones are thinking about it now,’ Pearl said. Indeed it might be worth planning ahead; I wonder what the going salary will be for a spot in an oligarch’s private army.”

John Brady [email protected]

On Power:

John Brady raises a key point. The question is that often for people, equality of goods is not per se the issue but the ends they want to pursue. I don’t care that many people have lots more money than I do since all I’m interested in is having the resources I need to pursue the ends that interest me. I’m bothered by the fact that many – too many – people have lots, lots less than me not simply because they have less but because they are thwarted in pursuing the sorts of ends that seem to be part of a minimally decent life. On the other hand, many people are quite content with living very simple lives that require few material possessions – I know people that don’t have a television since they have no interest in watching one. But a “simple” life is not the same as one that is materially impoverished. Some saints and ascetics have so renounced the ends of ordinary life that they have virtually no interest in any material possessions except those required for bare survival and their religious devotion.

Such people don’t care that other people have a lot more. Once again, we are back to the questions of the ends that we pursue for ourselves and with reference to others. Most of the “goods” that we consider in terms of equality/inequality are merely means to those ends and they get their value and moral worth from those ends.

Christianity seems ambivalent on this score. On the one hand, there are the injunctions for a radical renunciation of the world leading to a life of extreme poverty (on any definitions of poverty) and, on the other, the legitimacy of engaging in the world (even if one isn’t “of the world”) and thus “acquiring” and using the wealth and goods which makes such engagement possible.

John Jones

On being downsized:

This past year, since I was “downsized” out of a job, has been a very positive experience for me, and I try to analyze just why it has been so. Clearly, it might have been more trying if our general financial situation had been more precarious; we had beenprudent (and, in some ways, just lucky) in setting ourselves up for retirement time, although we didn’t think it would come quite so soon. But, there are other elements that are even more important.

The loss of control: It is a good thing to be reminded that we are not in charge in this life, that the vagaries of fortune or providence can change things in a twinkling.

Free time: Time was suddenly available to help with family crises. One daughter had a problem pregnancy. Another needed to move to Atlanta with her toddler while her husband was doing research in Japan.

Time to give: I have been able to commit time to pro bono projects related to war and peace in which I could much more readily invest my deepest feelings than in any paying job I ever had.

Freedom: Suddenly I had freedom to look for what God really wanted me to be doing, rather than what “made the most sense” in some job-counselor/personnel office way.

Living on less: The realization that our (relative) “poverty” – regular pay-checks stopping – did not make our lives worse – and most days made them better. There has been more time to spend with my wife, more time to play the piano, more time to tend my flower garden, etc.

I am currently a candidate for a job that I am truly enthusiastic about. It is quite freeing to be able to go into my upcoming key interview with a sense that it is all about doing God’s work, not ensuring that we will have the income to take fancy vacations, add on to our house or give lots of gifts at Christmas time. God is good! I had to go on unemployment to realize how good!

Alex Patico [email protected]

Riches and poverty:

A friend of mine here in Romania who is also interested in living out the Gospels has been reading Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. She was chuckling at his list of suggestions of things you could do to live more simply. There were things like “use fans instead of air conditioning,” etc. She said, “Well, we do almost all these things already whether we want to or not.” Air conditioning is rare in Romania!

“Simplicity” is often a thinly veiled disguise for figuring out how to save in one place just to spend it on something else. I wonder if the “wherewithal” does not come from a change in perspective where we see the contemplative and relational fruit from voluntary simplicity whatever degree it may take, rather than the supposed cost to our material abundance.

I think it was Wendle Berry who said something about what a shame it was that we now feel comfortable giving money instead of ourselves.

Joel Klepac

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In the military:

At times I can’t help but feel that I’m being judged by those who all but say that there is no place for an Orthodox Christian in the armed forces.

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The circumstances that have brought me to this place are complex and pre-date my becoming Orthodox. No doubt my decision to incur a commitment to the armed forces would have been different if I had been Orthodox at the time, but God has put me here for a reason and I have to honor that.

There is no doubt that the military is a tough place to be an Orthodox Christian, but I feel the Church helps me navigate these things by maintaining a tension that encourages humility and respect for the image of God in others and does not allow me to participate in the glorification of violence.

The work I do is oftentimes mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting, but soldiers are real people with real problems and they do not need the “easy wisdom” of those who simply tell them to get out of the military at any cost even if it means being dishonest or somehow misrepresenting themselves and their circumstances. They need prayers, not man’s judgment.

Aaron Haney, MD

CPT/USA/MC

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Ex-Army:

I am a seven-year Orthodox Christian, converted after twenty-four years as a non-denominational Protestant. I got out of the Army after nine years in 1985 as a conscientious objector. I have traveled a long and difficult road in search of what is true and right and good, as I trust we all are doing. I have come to the conclusion that honest dialogue between Christians does not always lead to agreement, regardless of the experience, wisdom, and maturity of the individuals.

Though I am convinced of my conscientious objector beliefs, rooted in Christian faith and practice, I honor my brothers and sisters who disagree with me and serve in the military for honorable reasons. I can’t wait till we can sit before God and sort this all out so that it makes sense.

Pieter Dykhorst

[email protected]

Questions, not judgments:

The questions we raise about war are not an oblique way of putting people in uniform on the spot. Whatever we do in life, we are all implicated in the activities of the society to which we belong, but when we look at how individuals respond in their own lives, we may find some of those who best reveal the peace of Christ happen to be people in the military.

I recall the executive officer of the unit I was part of while in the US Navy who stayed up much of a night reading a book he borrowed from me – War and Christianity Today – and afterward decided to give me his public support in my application for a special discharge as a conscientious objector. What he did, in my opinion, required more courage than anything I had done.

He was a career officer who probably sacrificed promotion from commander to captain by his efforts on my behalf. I’ve always been grateful that my interest in peace issues initially took shape while I was in the military – the period of my life in which I found my way to Christian faith. The experience was a blessing in many ways and ever since has protected me from dehumaniz- ing people wearing military uniforms.

Jim Forest [email protected]

Houses of Hospitality:

According to books I’ve been reading, Peter Maurin (Dorothy Day’s inspiration in many things) quoted a “fifth-century church council” that required bishops to set up houses of hospitality in all their parishes. (These would provide food, shelter and probably medical care for the poor).

I’ve tried to find out what council this was, and what it said, but haven’t

been successful. Does anyone know?

John Brady

[email protected] com

Canons:

A canonist I am not, but I look- ed a little and here is what I found. I found a list of the Captions of Arabic Canons that are attributed to the Council of Nicaea (which is, of course, actually 4th Cent.). The caption of Arabic Canon 70 is: “Of the hospital to be established in every city, and of the choice of a superintendent and concerning his duties.” I also found incidental reference to a poor house (ptocheion) in Canon 8 and to a hospice (xenodocheia) in Canon 10 of the Council of Chalecedon (5th Cent.). These canons do not specifically command that such facilities be constructed, but assume that they exist; the point of these canons is that bishops should govern them and that clergy who have moved from one place to another should not meddle in the affairs of institutions they have left.

David Holden

[email protected]

Peace, Islam and Christianity:

I know that there is not only no unity on the teaching of nonviolence which Christ gave us in the Gospel, but there are many who see nothing amiss in the current war in Iraq. I do not feel the Orthodox are especially blessed with true under- standing about nonviolence, but I know that it is what we are called to be as Christians.

In a recent sermon I heard, our priest said that for all intents and purposes Christianity in Europe is dead while Christianity in the US is now a political distortion. The responsibility for this situation lies in the unfortunate decision to align ourselves with political power, beginning with Constantine. To make ourselves comfortable in this world, we were quite willing to abandon the Kingdom of Heaven. We have no message of salvation, we have no Resurrection to reveal to our fellow humans. Wherever and whenever Christ through the Holy Spirit reveals that we have not succeeded in burying Him, we rush with planks and nails to entomb Him again.

Unless we begin to state the truth as baldly as this, we can expect no more of the Middle Eastern Muslims. Why should they lead the way to peace? And where would they begin to find it? Since Christ is our Peace and the Peace of the entire universe, if we bury Him how will the Muslims find Him?

It is because we live in a “post-Christian world” that the Orthodox Peace Fellowship has the task of exhuming the theology of the Gospel left to us by the Councils and Church Fathers, but buried by our eras-long alliance with military and government power.

Orthodox Christians who see nonviolence as unpatriotic are still living within the romantic delusion of Christian imperialism. How hard the Gospel is on that refuge of the deluded! Why shouldn’t the devout and fanatical Muslims continue their war against the “west”? They really believe in theocracy and practice it as well. As long as we see the Gospel as compatible with war and violence, why should we call the Koran into question?

Alice Carter

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War on terror:

The news report “Washington losing ‘war on terror'” (In Communion, Summer 2006) left me dissatisfied. The remarks by Alain Chouet, formerly of France’s foreign intelligence service, do not go far enough.

Chouet says that we should not be attacking the effects of terrorism but its causes, a remark with which it is difficult not to agree. But when I read that he attributes the causes of terrorism to Wahhabite ideology, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim brotherhood, alarm bells began to ring in my head.

To be fair, he went on (in a passage In Communion omitted) to say that: “US policy in the Middle East, which had turned Iraq into a new Afghanistan,’ was acting as a powerful recruiting agent for a generation of Islamic radicals.” He also said that “the continued US presence in Iraq, the atrocities committed by a campaigning army, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq and the grotesque US detention center at Guantanamo in Cuba all ‘provide excuses’ for violent radicals.”

It is good to see widespread recognition that the USA is its own worst enemy. It is also hard not to agree with the main thrust of Chouet’s remarks. But what about the things he and the other people in the report omit to say? What about Arab/Muslim anger at the appalling way the Palestinians have been treated by Israel year after year, Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, the USA’s unqualified support for Israel over several decades, the fact that jets and missiles made in the USA fall almost daily on Palestine, killing and maiming men, women and children in larger numbers than the Israelis who are killed by Hezbollah rockets?

What about US hypocrisy and double standards, confronting Iran over nuclear weapons it does not have while refusing to condemn Israel for its nuclear weapons program? Chouet mentions Wahhabite ideology, but what about the neo- conservative ideology emanating from Washington? Here Chouet appears to be buying into the US extreme-right ideology based on the “clash of civilizations,” in which “they” are portrayed as out to wreck “our” way of life and the values “we” hold dear.

His criticisms suggest US incompetence and stupidity while downplaying the extent to which the USA is in fact guilty of more serious, deliberate and premeditated crimes against humanity, in Israel, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Perhaps this is why he mentions only “the continued US presence in Iraq,” omitting to mention that the US invasion of the country in the first place was a war crime.

There is a temptation to see all politicians in Western democratic countries as fundamentally well-intentioned but prone to blunders and apt to fly off the handle. Unfortunately I think the reality is more somber, and the prophecy about the “hearts of men growing cold” is being fulfilled in our time by cynical, hollow politicians among others.

Not only Hezbollah rockets and Islamist suicide bombers, but also bombs, bullets and torture made in the USA, have cheapened life and defaced the image of God that is printed on each one us.

What is the most appropriate Christian response to all this? As I say, I find it hard to keep up!

James Chater

[email protected]

Meeting President Bush:

I had my picture taken last week with the President of the United States. For some this means I had my picture taken with one of the greatest men alive, to others it means being frozen in time with a war criminal. When my father-in-law first invited my husband and me to attend a fundraiser compliments of him, my first response was negative. I am not a sup-

porter of George Bush Jr.

I ran the idea past some of my friends at the homeless shelter where I volunteer.

These people are the poorest of the poor and would never have the chance to go to anything like this. “What would you say to the president of the United States,” I asked, “if you had a few seconds with him?” Suggestions ranged from asking him to resign to asking for money to telling him gently that we are all humans and make mistakes and perhaps he should take responsibility for the ones he has made.

Although the luncheon itself was not set until 11:30, we had to be at the hotel by 9 a.m. because they would be closing the roads for security reasons. We were greeted by cheerful volunteers, given name tags, and ushered into a room towait. After being taken through a metal detector, we were taken to another area where there were breakfast rolls, fruit, coffee and tea. We milled around while a buffet was set up.

At last we were told the president would be there soon and we should get into the velvet-roped line. Various Republicans ascended a platform and gave speeches in support of the Republican candidate, Mark Kennedy. The priorities of the Republican Party became clear to me. First it was the war (brave and noble), second it was the economy (getting better), and third it was family (bright and shiny). A vote for Mark Kennedy was not only a vote for security and continued wealth, but a vote for family. As my attention turned from the speakers, I looked around the room and a thought slipped into my consciousness.

There were only one African-American in the room. No Hispanics or Asians. We were as white as the snow outside. I noticed the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, not far from me. “Governor,” I said, “look around. There are only white people here. Except for one person, I don’t see any people of color.” The Governor’s eyes moved around the room. He nodded. “It’s a little disturbing isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, a bit hesitantly. “I am a volunteer at a homeless shelter in Minneapolis,” I went on. “We have diversity there, but here I see only one color. Do you think there is anything we can do about that?” The governor was vague, told me about a homeless initiative of his administration, then asked me a few questions about Peace House. I invited him to come and visit, writing down our phone number and address for him. “God bless you,” I said, as I moved away, “He has,” he replied, almost defensively.

Finally the moment arrived. We were in an area divided by long blue velvet curtains. On the other side we heard applause. The president had arrived.

Then things went quickly. Suddenly my husband and I were next in line. We walked toward the president standing in front of the bright lights of the photographer. I felt the president’s hand in mine.

We smiled. Camera flash.

I turned and sought the president’s eyes, and took his hand again. “Please,” I pleaded, “don’t forget the poor and the homeless.” His eyes seemed worried, he appeared to have braced himself. “I won’t,” he said staunchly. He looked like a brave little boy.

Rene Zitzloff [email protected]

News Fall 2006

Soldier who said no: Resistance an act of penitence

soldierwhosaidno

A soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq surrendered October 4 to military officials. Specialist Darrell Anderson, 24, said he deserted the Army last year rather than fight in what he believes is an illegal war. “I feel that by resisting I made up for the sins I committed in Iraq,” Anderson said during a press briefing shortly before he turned himself in at nearby Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anderson risked facing a charge of desertion, but it is anticipated that he will be given a discharge other than honorable. At that point, he should be free from his military commitment and face no other charges, according to one source.

Anderson joined the Army in January 2003 and went to Iraq a year later with the 1st Armored Division. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in A large majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their departure would make Iraq more secure and de- crease sectarian violence, according to polls commissioned by the State Depart-ment and independent researchers. The results were released by The Washington Post.

In Baghdad, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if US and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout. Another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the US government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.

“Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq should withdraw immediately, adding that the [military] departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,” concludes the 20-page State Department report. The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews.

“I really don’t like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away,” said a young boy as he swept up hair in a barber shop. “But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!”

Lebanese Christians took in Muslims

lebanese father

The word went out that there was refuge in a Christian village and thousands came. In a pilgrimage of fear, Shiite Muslims from the most ravaged towns along the Lebanese border fled for Rmeish, a hilltop hamlet along a road where Israeli shells were steadily falling, at times every 15 seconds. Once in Rmeish, they escaped to a church, and at the church, a basement lit by soft shafts of sunlight.

In it were the wretched of this war: children with dirty feet and a pregnant woman who feared giving birth in squalor, an 85-year-old man whose donkey, his sole possession, was killed by a bomb, and hundreds of others among the at least 10,000 who arrived in Rmeish, some drinking from a fetid pool and walking the streets in search of food and goodwill. “The safety of God,” said Heidar Issa, one of those here. “That’s what we were counting on.”

In a country fractured by faith, torn asunder by 15 years of civil war, they found refuge among the Lebanese Christians they once fought. Their politics often diverged, but they shared a plight. And in a common misery wrought by war, less than a mile from the Israeli border, there was fleeting coexistence rather than talk of strife. “Everyone is opening their doors to anyone who comes,” said Tannous Alem, a 43-year-old Christian resident of Rmeish, who had brought 120 people into his home over 12 days. “We’re all the same in times like these.” “They welcomed us with 100 hellos,” said Issa, who arrived 10 days ago with 26 people in his truck. “Bless them.” His friend, Hussein Rahmi, nodded. “It’s safer with the Christians,” he said.

Metropolitan Philip decries Israel’s methods in Lebanon

On July 31, Metropolitan Philip, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, issued a statement opposing Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. “Indiscriminate killing is against the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter and all laws of civilized nations,” he said. “This savage war is between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanon has no air force, no navy and no large military force. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese army is not involved in this war at all….

“Why is Israel bombing Lebanese cities, villages, bridges, roads and killing innocent men, women and children – in the south and north, east and west of Lebanon? According to UN statistics, more than 800 civilians have been killed, many of them children, and more then 800,000 Lebanese have been made refugees in their own country. Israel knows “We deplore the kill- ing and destruction on both sides. We know that Hezbollah has weapons which are causing some unfortunate killing and destruction in Israel. But Hezbollah does not have American weapons such as F-16s, F-15s, Apaches and smart bombs, etc. “When I saw the Leb- anese Red Cross retrieving the tender dead bodies of little children from underneath the rubble and I looked at their innocent faces and iconic eyes, I wept. I was indeed ashamed to see the extent of the cruelty and barbarism of our world. This morning, when the Lebanese Broadcasting Company showed pictures of the city of B’int-Jbeil which was completely leveled by the Israeli air force, I was reminded of the destruction of Stalingrad and Berlin during the Second World War. We and the whole world, with the exception of the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, are calling for an immediate cease fire. If we allow the law of the jungle to prevail, and if we allow our moral principles to be trodden on by barbarian feet, what will be left of our civilization?”

Russian Orthodox relations with Rome improving

The Russian Orthodox Church leader in charge of inter-denominational contacts has said relations with the Roman Catholic Church have steadily improved sincethe ascent of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the election of Pope Benedict XVI our dialogue became more intensive,” Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said in August. “And that’s why I have a much more positive attitude to the level of Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing Orthodox-Catholic relations than previously,” Kirill said. Kirill met Pope Benedict at the Vatican in May and spoke warmly of the pontiff in July at the World Summit of

Religious Leaders in Moscow. Pope Benedict did not attend that event, but Cardinal Walter Kasper led a large Vatican delegation. Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, spoke repeatedly of his dream to visit Russia, but met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which accused the Vatican of seeking converts and infringing on its jurisdiction by creating Roman

Catholic dioceses in Russia. Kirill said the two churches had much in common in counteracting “the policy of pushing religion out of public life.” But he appeared restrained about prospects for a speedy meeting between the church’s leaders, despite the improved relations. “We will develop them and see what this realistically will bring to our churches, and then we’ll decide when, where and how the primates of our churches should meet.”

Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics

An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing relations between the two traditions but also showcased intra-Orthodox tension between Moscow and Constantinople, participants at the gathering report. The Orthodox and Catholic leaders gathered in Serbia from 18 to 25 September to restart a dialogue that broke off in 2000 because of post-communist tensions in Eastern Europe over “uniatism,” or the role of Greek-Catholic churches that are in communion with Rome.

While no major breakthroughs were reported, the 30 leaders from each side discussed a document on the nature of the Church dating back to 1990, which was “carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity,” a joint statement on the web site of the Serbian Orthodox Church noted. A committee was set up to bring a revised text back to another meeting in 2007.

The joint commission was established in 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited Istanbul, once the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople, and which is the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomeos.

But after the collapse of communism, meetings of the commission were marked by tensions between Orthodox and Catholics in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.

Those conflicts are said to have eased markedly under Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate, which oversees the world’s largest Orthodox population, now emphasize common goals. Still, the meeting was marked by tension between the Orthodox patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople, which are in an increasing tug-of-war for dominance in the post-Soviet Orthodox world.

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged an official complaint to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top official for church unity who is the commission’s Catholic co-president, the Interfax news agency reported.

Hilarion objected to the document’s definition of the status of Rome and the of Constantinople. He also rejected an amended text that had been suggested to try and take account of his objections. But when Cardinal Kasper proposed that an amended text be put to the vote, most Orthodox churches sided against Moscow and voted for the amendment.

[Sonia Kishkovsky/ENI]

ROCOR clergyman backs communion with Moscow.

The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion will ensure the future of the self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and place it on “a solidcanonical foundation,” according to Fr. Rev. Alexander Lebedev, secretary of the ROCOR Commission on the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate. In an article published in November on the ROCOR website, he noted that the earlier grounds for the ROCOR inde- pendent existence can no longer be justified, now that the Church in Russia is free.

Rejection of the Act, he said, “would mean the total break of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with all the Local Orthodox Churches, which will then have every reason to deem us schismatics.”

If this occurs, he continued, “the Serbian Orthodox Church, our last link with the fullness of canonical Orthodoxy, will doubtless refuse communion with us,” while the Church of Jerusalem may withdraw the blessing for our bishops and priests to serve in the Holy Land. Rejecting the Act would make us, in the eyes of the Russian OrthodoxChurch, schismatics, “and will exclude the possibility of participating inthe church life of our homeland.” If the act is not signed, he said, “not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but the entire Orthodox world would thereby be convinced that we cannot be dealt with seriously, that we ourselves prefer to be essentially sectarians, torn from the fullness of universal Orthodoxy, and do not wish to be united with our much-suffering Church in the Fatherland and with canonical Orthodoxy.”

“Adoption of the Act will serve to end the sorrowful division of the Russian Orthodox people.

“The participation of our clergymen and faithful in the work of the spiritual rebirth of the Russian people will rise to an entirely new level.”

One in eight Americans living in poverty

In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty in 2005, the US Census Bureau said in August, a figure virtually unchanged from 2004. The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and the fifth increase in a row. It was the first year since President Bush took office that the poverty rate did not increase. As in past years, the figures showed poverty especially concentrated among blacks and Hispanics. an entirely new level. In all, some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income below around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four.

Patriarch Bartholomew welcomes Pope’s visit to Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will help calm recent tensions with Islam and advance his church’s struggle for religious rights, predicts Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Speaking to reporters in Istanbul in October, Bartholomew said the visit alsowould underline the pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue at a time when Catholic-Orthodox theological talks are resuming. “It’s an opportunity to cultivate dialogue and to remove misunderstandings. The circumstances at this moment make this visit more interesting, more necessary and more important than at any other moment,” he said. “The pope always underlines the principles of religious freedom and human rights … which are valid principles for democratic societies. So I think the pope in his sermon here will speak not only in favor of Catholics but in favor of all religious minorities,”

Russia: take the afternoon off and make a baby

The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country’s growing depopulation crisis. Politicians have been dreaming up imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia’s demographic crisis, caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism, as the country’s biggest threat.

But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga. In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his “give birth to a patriot” campaign, launched in September, offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has. President Putin has promised to give €5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.

Ten-year window to act on climate warming

A leading US climate researcher said in September that the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert a weather catastrophe. NASA scientist James Hansen, as dean of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.8 degrees F.

“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change… no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento, California. If the world continues with a “business as usual” scenario, he said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and “we will be producing a different planet.”

On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan and many other cities and towns under water.

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species

If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global col- lapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findngs today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say.

But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.” The researchers drew their conclusion after analyzing dozens of studies, along with fishing data collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organiza- tion and other sources. They acknowledge that much of what they are report-ing amounts to correlation, rather than proven cause and effect. And the F.A.O. data have come under criticism from researchers who doubt the reliability of some nations’ reporting practices, Dr. Worm said.

Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today. “We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.”