Recently a lengthy scholarly article by Dr. Sherif Addel Azeem dealing with the conception of woman in the three Abrahamic religions, has appeared under the title of Women in Islam vs. Women in the Judeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth and the Reality. I have relied on such an article in double checking the historical data of the Islamic tradition on its conception and treatment of women. While agreeing with some of its premises and conclusions, I disagree with others as will become apparent further down in this essay. The juxtaposition of those variant views stimulated by Dr. Azeem’s article has yielded some surprising insights which I’d like to share with the reader.
As is commonly known, the Judaeo-Christian conception of the creation of Adam (which in Hebrew means first man) and Eve (which in Hebrew means first woman) is narrated in detail in Genesis 2:4-3:24. God prohibited both of them from eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. The serpent then seduced Eve to eat from it and Eve, in turn, seduced Adam to eat with her. When God rebuked Adam for what he did, Adam tries to place all the blame on Eve. “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” Consequently, God said to Eve: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” To Adam He said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree … Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…”
In this narrative, or myth if you will, both Adam and Eve get punished and held responsible for disobedience. God is not punishing one for the faults of another, which would be unfair; neither does he accept Adam’s rationalization that the woman is exclusively responsible for the deed of disobedience. He holds them both responsible and punishes both. This needs to be kept well in mind: God judges, assigns the blame justly and equally; both Adam and Eve are punished.
On the other hand, the Islamic conception of the first sin, while appearing similar to the Judeo-Christian view at first sight (complete with the act of creation, the idyllic garden where everything is good but where Satan lurks in the form of a serpent, the positing of limits to freedom, the act of disobedience, and a meting out of punishment), it is nevertheless different in its conception of woman and what it implies. Here Eve does not come across as a seducer and temptress. The narrative is found in several places in the Qur’an, for example: “O Adam dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them and he said: ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.’ And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: ‘Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was your avowed enemy?’ They said: ‘Our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (7:19:23).
A careful comparison of the two accounts of the primordial story of the Garden reveals some essential differences. The Qur’an seems to assign equal blame on both Adam and Eve. Nowhere in the Qur’an, try as one may, one will discover the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree or even that she had eaten before him. Here Eve is no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. Moreover, Eve is not punished with the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Qur’an, punishes no one for another’s faults. Both Adam and Eve committed a sin and then asked God for forgiveness and He forgave them both.
Needless to say, the image of Eve as temptress in the Bible, absent in the Qur’an has impacted in a negative way the image of women throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition. All women were believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical Eve, both her guilt and her guile, as part of original sin. Consequently, it is almost logical to think of all of them as untrustworthy and somehow, morally inferior. In the New Testament we read these words by none other than the evangelizer and prime theologian of Christianity, St. Paul: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don’t permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (I Timothy 2:11-14). Also this: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35). It couldn’t be more clear.
And yet a caveat is in order here. As the founder of Christianity, nowhere in the gospels do we discern Jesus teaching and approving any kind of subordination of one of his followers to another. Instead, he expressly forbade it in any Christian relationship. All three Synoptic gospels record Jesus teaching his disciples that any subordination of one to another, both abusive and customary, is a pagan practice—not something to take place among his followers. Having issued his strong prohibition against subordination of others, he prescribed the Christian alternative to subordination as being the exact opposite: profound service to others, extending even to making the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life if necessary: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”
His first phrase, “lord it over”, described the Roman masters who wielded ultimate and unlimited power. His second phrase, “high officials”, referred to lesser Roman officials who, having some limitations of power, “exercised authority” over their citizens. In the nearly identical passages in all three Synoptic gospels, Jesus sternly commanded his disciple that “It shall not be so among you”, clearly forbidding both abusive extreme “lording it over” others, and even more moderate, ordinary “exercise (of) authority” over others. Egalitarian Christians consider that this teaching of Jesus to the men who were the 12 Apostles trumps any subsequent interpretation of the teachings of Paul and Peter that allegedly establishes “Husband-Headship” requiring “Wife-Submission”, or denying women opportunities to serve in any leadership position within the Church. The New Testament of the Bible refers to a number of women in Jesus’ inner circle—notably his Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene who is stated to have discovered the empty tomb of Christ and known as the “apostle to the apostles” since she was the one commissioned by the risen Jesus to go and tell the 11 disciples that he was risen.
According to the New Testament, Christ saved a woman accused of adultery from an angry mob seeking to punish her, by saying: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.
Unusually for his epoch, Jesus is said to have provided religious instruction to women. The Gospel of John provides an account of Jesus directly dealing with an issue of morality and women. The passage describes a confrontation between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees over whether a woman, caught in an act of adultery, ought to be stoned. Jesus shames the crowd into dispersing, and averts the execution with the words: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” According to the passage, “They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last,” leaving Jesus to turn to the woman and say, “Go, and sin no more.”
Another Gospel story concerns Jesus at the house of Martha and Mary where the woman Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as he preaches, while her sister toils in the kitchen preparing a meal. When Martha complains to Mary that she should instead be helping in the kitchen, Jesus says that in fact, “Mary has chosen what is better”
The story of Mark 5:23–34, in which Jesus heals a woman who had bled for 12 year suggests not only that Jesus could cleanse his followers, but this story also challenges Jewish cultural conventions of the time. In Jewish law, women who were menstruating or had given birth were excluded from society. Therefore, the woman in Mark was ostracized for 12 years. Jesus healing her is not only a miracle, but by interacting with an unclean woman, he broke from the accepted practices of the time and embraced women.
So, Jesus treated women with compassion, grace and dignity. The gospels of the New Testament, especially Luke, mention Jesus speaking to or helping women publicly and openly. Martha’s sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet being taught, a privilege reserved for men in Judaism. Jesus had female followers who were his sponsors, and he stopped to express concern for the women of Jerusalem on his way to be crucified. Mary Magdalene is stated in the Gospels to be the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. In the narratives, Jesus charged her to tell others of what she had seen, even though the testimony of a woman at that time was not considered valid.
The historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that women were more influential during the period of Jesus’ brief ministry than they were in the next thousand years of Christianity. Blainey points to Gospel accounts of Jesus imparting teachings to women, as with a Samaritan woman at a well, and Mary of Bethany, who rubbed his hair in precious ointment; of Jesus curing sick women and publicly expressing admiration for a poor widow who donated some copper coins to the Temple in Jerusalem, his stepping to the aid of the woman accused of adultery, and to the presence of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ side as he was crucified. Blainey concludes: “As the standing of women was not high in Palestine, Jesus’ kindnesses towards them were not always approved by those who strictly upheld tradition. According to Blainey, women were probably the majority of Christians in the first century after Christ. Jesus always showed the greatest esteem and the greatest respect for woman, for every woman, and in particular He was sensitive to female suffering. Going beyond the social and religious barriers of the time, Jesus reestablished woman in her full dignity as a human person before God and before men … Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.
Comparing to Paul’s traditional standing towards women to Jesus’ attitude toward them, what becomes immediately apparent is that somehow his example was not imitated after his death and resurrection. Paul seems eager to put women in their proper place. To be sure, this is not unusual in many religions: the founder establishes certain innovative ideals which at times may even go against well established and revered traditions and customs, but after his death the initial enthusiasm and zeal begins to cool. The attitude toward women in Christianity seems to have been a retrogressive phenomena hardly representing the example of its founder. We shall see further down that something like that also happened to Islam: at a certain point in time a downward movement began and the religion begins to gradually lose its pristine impetus. To be sure, the theory and the ideal remain but the practice leaves much to be desired
Let’s in turn have the Qur’an speak for itself on this issue: “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise– For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward” (33:35). “The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise” (9:71). “And their Lord answered them: Truly I will never cause to be lost the work of any of you, Be you a male or female, you are members one of another” (3:195). “Whoever works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof, and whoever works a righteous deed -whether man or woman- and is a believer- such will enter the Garden of bliss” (40:40). “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him/her we will give a new life that is good and pure, and we will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions” (16:97).
It should be clear from the above passage that the Qur’anic view of women is no different than that of men. They, both, are God’s creatures whose sublime goal on earth is to worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and they, both, will be assessed accordingly. The Qur’an never mentions that the woman is the devil’s gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. Moreover, it never mentions that man is God’s image; all men and all women are his creatures, that is all. According to the Qur’an, a woman’s role on earth is not limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many good deeds as any other man is required to do. The Qur’an never says that no upright women have ever existed. To the contrary, the Qur’an has instructed all the believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those ideal women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharaoh’s wife: “And Allah sets forth, As an example to those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: ‘O my lord build for me, in nearness to you, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings and save me from those who do wrong.’ And Mary the daughter of Imran who guarded her chastity and We breathed into her body of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His revelations and was one of the devout” (66:11-13).
In fact, according to Dr. Azeem, the difference between the Biblical and the Qur’anic attitude towards the female sex starts as soon as a female is born. For example, the Bible states that the period of the mother’s ritual impurity is twice as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Lev. 12:2-5). The Catholic Bible states explicitly that: “The birth of a daughter is a loss” (Ecclesiasticus 22:3). It was this very same idea of treating daughters as sources of shame that led the pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice female infanticide. The Qur’an severely condemned this heinous practice: “When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?” (16:59). The Qur’an makes no distinction between boys and girls. It considers the birth of a female as a gift and a blessing from God, the same as the birth of a male. The Qur’an even mentions the gift of the female birth first:” To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female children to whomever He wills and bestows male children to whomever He wills” (42:49).
In order to wipe out all the traces of female infanticide in the nascent Muslim society, Prophet Muhammad promised those who were blessed with daughters of a great reward if they would bring them up kindly: “He who is involved in bringing up daughters, and accords benevolent treatment towards them, they will be protection for him against Hell-Fire”. “Whoever maintains two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Resurrection Day like this; and he joined his fingers”.
Now, to be fair, we should ask: is the Qur’anic position any different? One short story narrated in the Qur’an sums its position up concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws pronounced this statement at a moment of anger: “You are to me as the back of my mother.” This was held by pagan Arabs to be a statement of divorce which freed the husband from any conjugal responsibility but did not leave the wife free to leave the husband’s home or to marry another man. Having heard these words from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went straight to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The Prophet was of the opinion that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out. Khawla kept arguing with the Prophet in an attempt to save her suspended marriage. Shortly, the Qur’an intervened; Khawla’s plea was accepted. The divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter (Chapter 58) of the Qur’an whose title is “Almujadilah” or “The woman who is arguing” was named after this incident: “Allah has heard and accepted the statement of the woman who pleads with you (the Prophet) concerning her husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the arguments between both of you for Allah hears and sees all things….” (58:1). A woman in the Qur’anic conception has the right to argue even with the Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her to be silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and only reference in matters of law and religion.
According to the Bible, a man must fulfill any vows he might make to God. He must not break his word. On the other hand, a woman’s vow is not necessarily binding on her. It has to be approved by her father, if she is living in his house, or by her husband, if she is married. If a father/husband does not endorse his daughter’s/wife’s vows, all pledges made by her become null and void: “But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand ….Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself” (Num. 30:2-15). In Islam, the vow of every Muslim, male or female, is binding on him/her. No one has the power to repudiate the pledges of anyone else. Failure to keep a solemn oath, made by a man or a woman, has to be expiated as indicated in the Qur’an: “He [God] will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; Or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. But keep your oaths” (5:89). Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, men and women, used to present their oath of allegiance to him personally. Women, as well as men, would independently come to him and pledge their oaths: “O Prophet, When believing women come to you to make a covenant with you that they will not associate in worship anything with God, nor steal, nor fornicate, nor kill their own children, nor slander anyone, nor disobey you in any just matter, then make a covenant with them and pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins. Indeed God is Forgiving and most Merciful” (60:12).
In Islam, the honor, respect, and esteem attached to motherhood are unparalleled. The Qur’an places the importance of kindness to parents as second only to worshipping God Almighty: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, And that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, Say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, But address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, Lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! bestow on them Your Mercy as they Cherished me in childhood’ ” (17:23-24). The Qur’an in several other places puts special emphasis on the mother’s great role in giving birth and nursing: “And We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents: In travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents” (31:14).
The very special place of mothers in Islam has been eloquently described by Prophet Muhammad: “A man asked the Prophet: ‘Whom should I honor most?’ The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother!’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your father'”. Among the few precepts of Islam which Muslims still faithfully observe to the present day is the considerate treatment of mothers. The honor that Muslim mothers receive from their sons and daughters is exemplary. The intensely warm relations between Muslim mothers and their children and the deep respect with which Muslim men approach their mothers usually amaze Westerners.
The one question all the non-Muslims, who had read an earlier version of this study, had in common was: do Muslim women in the Muslim world today receive this noble treatment described here? The answer, unfortunately, is: No. Since this question is inevitable in any discussion concerning the status of women in Islam, we have to elaborate on the answer in order to provide the reader with the complete picture.
It has to be made clear first that the vast differences among Muslim societies make most generalizations too simplistic. There is a wide spectrum of attitudes towards women in the Muslim world today. These attitudes differ from one society to another and within each individual society. Nevertheless, certain general trends are discernible. Almost all Muslim societies have, to one degree or another, deviated from the ideals of Islam with respect to the status of women. These deviations have, for the most part, been in one of two opposite directions. The first direction is more conservative, restrictive, and traditions-oriented, while the second is more liberal and Western-oriented.
The societies that have digressed in the first direction treat women according to the customs and traditions inherited from their forebears. These traditions usually deprive women of many rights granted to them by Islam. Besides, women are treated according to standards far different from those applied to men. This discrimination pervades the life of any female: she is received with less joy at birth than a boy; she is less likely to go to school; she might be deprived any share of her family’s inheritance; she is under continuous surveillance in order not to behave immodestly while her brother’s immodest acts are tolerated; she might even be killed for committing what her male family members usually boast of doing; she has very little say in family affairs or community interests; she might not have full control over her property and her marriage gifts; and finally as a mother she herself would prefer to produce boys so that she can attain a higher status in her community.
On the other hand, there are Muslim societies (or certain classes within some societies) that have been swept over by the Western culture and way of life. These societies often imitate unthinkingly whatever they receive from the West and usually end up adopting the worst and most superficial (often called “progressive”) practices of Western civilization, the worst perhaps being the dispatching or religion per se as passé and unprogressive and not very modern and “enlightened.” In these societies, a typical “modern” woman’s top priority in life is to enhance her physical beauty. Therefore, she is often obsessed with her body’s shape, size, and weight. She tends to care more about her body than her mind and more about her charms than her intellect. Her ability to charm, attract, and excite is more valued in the society than her educational achievements, intellectual pursuits, and social work. One is not expected to find a copy of the Qur’an in her purse since it is full of cosmetics that accompany her wherever she goes. Her spirituality has no room in a society preoccupied with her attractiveness. Therefore, she ends up spending her life striving more in realizing her femininity than in fulfilling her humanity. The cartoon below brilliantly makes the point. But there must exist a more nuanced and harmonious view of women. Paradoxically, it turns out that the more balanced, harmonious view is the traditional one, often forgotten or discarded.
Why did Muslim societies deviate from the ideals of Islam? There is no easy answer. The ineluctable fact remains that Muslim societies have deviated from Islamic precepts concerning so many aspects of their lives for a long time now. There is a wide gap between what Muslims are supposed to believe in and what they actually practice, as indeed there is also one in Judaism and one in Christianity. The gap has been there for centuries and has been widening. Terrorism and ideological fanaticism is not and never was an Islamic phenomenon. Perhaps it is this ever widening gap that can be blamed for disastrous consequences on the Muslim world: political tyranny and fragmentation, economic backwardness, social injustice, scientific bankruptcy, intellectual stagnation, etc. The non-Islamic status of women in the Muslim world today is merely a symptom of a deeper malady. The cartoon of the two women carrying AK47, one Moslem and one Western, makes the point in this regard. Any reform in the current status of Muslim women is not expected to be fruitful if not accompanied with more comprehensive reforms of the Muslim societies’ whole way of life. Irshad Manji has recently shown us a possible way to analyze the situation and begin the reform process with her book titled The Trouble with Islam Today. The subject will be dealt in part II of this essay. Indeed, the Muslim world is in need for a renaissance that will bring it closer to the ideals of Islam. To sum up, the notion that the poor status of Muslim women today is due to Islam itself is an utter misconception. The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, rather, they may well be due to a long and deep detachment from it.
The Evolving Orthodox Triangle Constantinople – Kiev – Moscow
Churches think in centuries and are not bound to short-term political mandates. On January 5, 2018 the Patriarch of Constantinople implemented his decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a move that upset Moscow. To understand the current developments, it is worth looking back at this centuries-long history of fluid relationship between Constantinople, Kiev and Moscow.
In 882, Oleg of Novgorod moved his capital to Kiev and continued the work of Rurik to unite Slavic tribes, setting the stage for the history of Kievan Rus. The prediction of Saint Andrew was unfolding. It is said that during the first century, when Andrew the Apostle traveled to what is now Kyiv, he climbed onto a hilltop overseeing the Dnepr River. There he planted a cross, prophesizing the future of the great Christian city and the role it would play.
The Slavs were a loose union of tribes, whilst Constantinople was flourishing. In 980, Vladimir the Great ruled in Kiev and endeavored to consolidate and expand further his territories. In 988, he conquered the city of Kherson, in Crimea, where a bishop see had been established since the fourth century. Although accounts vary on the conversion of Vladimir, what is clear is that the Byzantine emperor sent his sister Anna to marry Vladimir, uniting Kiev and Constantinople. When Anna arrived, Vladimir converted to Christianity, restored Kherson to Constantinople, and returned to Kiev with Crimean ecclesiastics. It is undeniable that economic and political reasons influenced his choice to convert as his agenda leaned toward the Christian world.
Although the Byzantine emperor appointed the head of the clergy in Kiev, he faced opposition from the Kievan princes who did not endorse a filiation of churches from Constantinople, nor did they submit to the emperor’s authority to make Kievan Rus a colony of the Byzantine Empire. Relations with the empire were complicated: Constantinople did not mingle directly in Kiev’s internal affairs but would not let the princes interfere in religious matters. In other words, the authority of Constantinople over Kiev was exerted through the clergy, who enjoyed considerable powers in Kievan Rus. As a consequence, the first inclination toward creating an independent church appeared. Yaroslav the Wise proclaimed Hilarion of Kiev the first non-Greek metropolitan in 1049. Nonetheless, Constantinople regained control over the appointment of the head of the church in Kiev. Constantinople never bestowed upon Kiev the right to appoint its own Slavic metropolitan, establishing a red line that would trigger immediate action from Constantinople. For centuries to come, the position would mostly be held by Greeks, who remained outside of internal Kievan politics. As Kiev had grown to be a major economic center, it was in Constantinople’s interest to stay on good terms with its Slavic neighbor, gaining importance on the international scene.
Yaroslav the Wise passed away in 1054, a key date as it is the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople.
Kiev choses Constantinople over Rome
Opinions on rites and theological elements diverged over time between Rome and Constantinople, in part because of linguistic differences. Latin became dominant in the West while Greek was the language of choice in the East. Because of the status of language as a major cultural vehicle, the use of different languages impacted religious rites. Gradually, Rome imposed the closure of churches following the rites as practiced in Constantinople and Constantinople did the same to churches following the practices of the Western Church. Eventually, the Roman pope Leo IX and Michael Cerularius of Constantinople excommunicated each other in 1054.
Humbert of Silva Candida, the papal legate who delivered the excommunication to Patriarch Michael Cerularius, decided to stop by in Kiev on his way back to Rome from Constantinople. The newly converted Kievan Rus represented an attractive potential ally for Rome, especially given that the young federation of Slavs was expanding in size and importance on the international scene. Since integrating with this new community of Christians would strengthen their hand against Byzantium, Rome’s envoy visited the Grand Prince of Kiev with the aim of convincing him to join Rome. Yet Yazislav, the new Grand Prince of Kiev, refused any allegiance to Rome. The clergy in Kiev would remain on the Orthodox side with Constantinople in the great East-West schism.
But rivalries amongst Slavs were fierce. In 1169, the pious Grand Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal Andrey Bogolyubsky sacked Kiev and took many religious pieces, including a highly revered Byzantine icon of the Mother of God of Odigitriya, one of the holiest in Russian Orthodoxy. He initiated the construction of many churches in Vladimir-Suzdal, near today’s Moscow and converted more Slavic tribes. He is also renowned for having made the first attempt to set up a new eparchy to compete with Kiev. Around the year 1170, he bypassed the Kiev Patriarchate and directly requested of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Luka Khrizovergus, that he established an eparchy in Vladimir. He also asked for the new metropolitan to have the same rank as the one in Kiev. The patriarch declined his request, but the competition with Kiev had begun.
Moscow enters the scene
The Mongol invasion spread quickly from east to west and reached Kiev in 1240. The city was destroyed and almost its entire population was dispersed. Kiev, the beautiful jewel of a city was shattered. Some sixty years after the destruction of Kiev, the city was still not recovering. So, the metropolitan Maksim moved his residence from Kiev further east to Vladimirin 1299. Nonetheless, he kept his title of Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus. The transfer of the religious center from Kiev was a major move, the consequences of which greatly affected the future of Orthodoxy and lay power as well. At that time, the Mongol dominated the region. The first union of Slavs, the Kievan Rus had disappeared and new states had not formed yet.
In a short span of three decades, major events shaped the face of the new power that emerged in Moscow, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscovy.
Under the relative religious tolerance of the Mongols, the church consolidated its power and the metropolitan Piotr moved to Moscow in 1325, giving the sign that the city was one of the leading politico-religious centers.
In the meantime, Constantinople was mired in its own problems and the Eastern Roman Empire was suffering through its last days. As the Vatican was entering the Renaissance era, it was eager to end the 1054 schism, especially to its own advantage. Thus the Catholic pope was well inclined to help Constantinople, which had asked for help and unity in resisting the Ottoman threat. At the Council of Florence in 1439, the Catholic Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople signed an agreement that should have put an end to the schism. At that time, Constantinople was still appointing the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, and it counted on the support of Moscow to endorse the agreement. But reality dictated otherwise as Russia had gained much distance from Constantinople and its issues. The Patriarch of Constantinople died soon afterward, and it was decided that his signature was nonbinding for the Orthodox churches. Only Constantinople still hoped that the union with Rome would save them from the Ottomans. But a decade later, in 1453, Constantinople fell under the control of the Ottomans.
Moscow-based bishops decided to emancipate themselves from Constantinople, which had compromised with the Catholics to save itself, yet was now under Muslim rule. For the first time, Moscow elected its own head of the church, independently from Constantinople. Although the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church was recognized only in 1589, the church became de facto independent in 1448, with Jonah as its first metropolitan. One of his first objectives was to maintain religious unity in territories over which his predecessors had authority. Eventually, in 1458, the canonical territories over which the metropolitan professed corresponded to those over which the Grand Prince of Moscow ruled. This transition was reflected in his title, which changed in 1461 to Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus. The Russian Church was now an actor of importance that saw itself as the guardian of Orthodoxy, the Third Rome.
The new Autocephalous Church asserts itself
The remaining element was the recognition of autocephaly by Constantinople. Without the approval of its peers, the self-proclaimed autocephaly has no validity in the Orthodox world.
The Ottomans imposed heavy tributes on patriarchates that fell under their territorial control. Economically weakened, the patriarchates lost considerable weight, especially Antioch, which had been weakened and forced into exile several times due to centuries under the dominion of Arabs and crusaders. In 1586–1587, the patriarch of Antioch, Joachim V, engaged in a journey to collect donations from other Orthodox churches. In Moscow, the future tsar Boris Godunov offered his support and seized this political moment to stir ambitions of an official autocephaly. Two years later, the patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias II, traveled to Moscow with the same objective of collecting money. During his stay, he would have discussed with Boris Godunov the possibility of remaining the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch but being based in Russia. Finally, after lengthy negotiations, Jeremias II decided to give autocephaly to the Russian Orthodox Church and returned home. The recognition was made official in 1589 with the concurrence of the other three original patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
In 1589, the Russian Orthodox Church for the first time had a patriarch at its head, Job of Moscow. There were now five patriarchs: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Moscow. And the tsar was the guardian of Orthodoxy.
Kiev, the Tsarist Empire and the church
Peter the Great launched many reforms to modernize Russia, following European model. He replaced the patriarchate with a committee termed the Holy Synod, placing a bureaucrat, the Chief Procurator, as its de facto head and the tsar’s eyes and ears in the church. With authority over religious matters and control over the appointment of bishops, Peter succeeded in relegating the church to the status of a ministry or state department, with clerics placed in charge of spiritual matters.
Catherine the Great continued the policies of Peter the Great. She entertained the Austro-Russian idea of dissolving the Ottoman Empire. As part of this scheme, she nurtured plans to embark on a “Greek Project”: re-establishing a Greek Byzantine empire to replace the Muslim Ottoman Empire, which had gained ground in continental Europe. For instance, she supported the Daskalogiannis Rebellion in Crete in 1770, in which Cretans rose up against the Turks. In reality, she was rather indifferent to religion: she embraced the project, promoted by Prince Potemkin, for geopolitical rather than religious reasons. Yet it did not materialize, and no alliance with Austria came into being. In 1783, Catherine decided to annex Crimea, putting an end to the revolts occurring there and, most importantly, pushing the Ottoman Empire back across the Black Sea. Crimea became a Russian province and part of Novorossiya or “New Russia” in 1784.
Religion politics in Russo-Turkish Wars
Eventually, tensions between the Russian and Ottoman empires had reached a climax, and war broke out in 1787. The conflict lasted for five years but was decided to Russia’s advantage. Russia was therefore able to consolidate its positions around the Black Sea but never captured Constantinople, the gateway to the Mediterranean’s warm waters and an Achilles heel for Moscow to this day. Even though the Treaty of Jassy, signed at the end of the war on January 9, 1792, recognized the Russian territorial gains, relations with the Ottoman Empire remained tense. Russian expansion benefited from momentum on the world scene shaken by the French and American revolutions. Consequently, nobody really reacted to Russian expansion until the situation in France had stabilized. But Napoleon reaction was short-lived.
Alexander’s victory over Napoleon gave him a new sense of divine mission, and by 1814, the tsar had grown more religious and prone to messianism. His religious awakening triggered his initiation of the Holy Alliance between Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Signed in Paris in 1815, this alliance aimed to promote Christianity but was also a reaction to the Napoleonic Wars. The Great Powers wanted to ensure a balance of power in Europe and avoid revolutions. During the two hectic decades that followed, the Catholic Church remained strong and Napoleon III pursued a pro-Catholic agenda, as proven by his 1849 expedition to restore the pope. He posed as the champion of Catholicism in Europe, which in part explained his decision to engage in the Crimean War against Russia.
With its territorial gains and advances well into the Black Sea region, Russia represented a growing threat for the Ottoman Empire and its French and British allies. Paris, together with London, backed the Ottoman Empire, whose western territories in the Balkans saw many uprisings, such as those of the Orthodox Serbs and Orthodox Greeks.
The trigger of the Crimean War of 1853–1856 was religious, but the roots were indisputably linked to the fear of Russia’s growing influence in the weakened Ottoman Empire. At the beginning, quarrels between Catholic and Orthodox monks arose in Palestine about their prerogatives. As the matter had reached serious levels, Tsar Nicholas I intervened and asked the Sultan to recognize the right of Russia to protect the Christians of the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed after the war of 1774. This right gave the Russian Orthodox Church further predominance over the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The document also gave Russia access through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. This privilege was certainly not pleasing to France or England.
Catholic France declared that it wanted to have authority over the Eastern Christians, a decision contradicting a previous agreement that gave Russia the right to protect Christians. The French Catholic Emperor Napoleon III promised support to the Sultan if he were to resist this Russian “aggression.” Stung by the humiliating conditions of the treaty following the Ottoman defeat, the Sultan agreed. Consequently, a new war erupted between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. As promised, France, joined by England, intervened in support of the Sultan to preserve the territorial integrity of his empire.
The protection of holy places and Christians became the source of an international war with several fronts around the Black Sea, including in the Caucasus. The war was eventually lost by Russia, which was then forced to hand over several territories around the Black Sea. As a result, France gained influence in the Holy Lands.
Moscow – Constantinople Competition
World War 1 put an end to both Russian and Ottoman empires. Under the Soviet, religion was undermined, priests were killed and churches destroyed. So, the Russian church found itself in a state of confusion when the Soviet government collapsed. The church was divided and weak. During the final years of the twentieth century, the ROC stabilized and consolidated its power over its canonical territory thanks to the support of the Russian authorities. It also reasserted its stance within the Orthodox Church worldwide. By far the largest in terms of parishioners and with growing wealth, the Russian Orthodox Church overshadowed the patriarch of Constantinople.
The later did not enjoy much freedom under the new Turkish rule. In addition, it had lost jurisdiction in the Balkans in the nineteenth century. Turkish authorities imposed that the Patriarch should be a Turkish citizen, usually of Greek origin, and such candidates are rare. All in all, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been in an increasing difficult position for centuries, and Moscow has proved to be a strong challenger. In 2016, the ROC asked to convene the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete and not in Istanbul as Turkish authorities had downed a Russian jetfighter deployed for operations in Syria. Based on this security argument, the Council agreed to change location. Nonetheless, local Orthodox churches, namely the Bulgarian Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Serbian and Georgian Orthodox churches refused to participate because of disagreements over the agenda. The ROC suggested solving those issues to guarantee full attendance, even if it meant postponing the Council. Eventually, the disputes were not resolved and the ROC decided to cancel its participation. By so doing, the ROC expressed a defiant message about the role and authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Tensions never resolved and the situation in Ukraine added insult to injury in the relation between Constantinople and Moscow.
Moscow – Kiev: rivals once more
Since the mid seventeenth century, Kiev remained largely under the rule of the Tsar and then Soviet Moscow. Ties binding Ukraine and Russia were strong especially in the field of alimentation, industry and energy.
After the end of the Soviet Union, the Western European World and Russia have tried to attract Kyiv into their respective spheres of influence, a game from which Kiyv benefitted. In 2014, the tables turned drastically with the Euromaidan revolution that toppled President Yanukovych. Incapable of averting Ukraine’s choice of the EU, Moscow was concerned that Ukraine might ally with NATO. Russian authorities treated the situation as a security matter and actively supported the separation of the autonomous region of Crimea and its attachment/annexation to Russia. The situation spiraled out of control and a kinetic conflict erupted in the Donbas, leading to serious readjustments in international affairs.
Against the backdrop of the complex international relations prevailing in the early twenty-first century, interests of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state have overlapped in Ukraine. The question of religion and allegiance to the Kyiv or Moscow patriarchate has become a matter of identity and call for resistance among some Ukrainians against Russia in 2014. This unfortunate confusion resulted in intra-Orthodox confrontation with the killing of orthodox priests and the destruction of orthodox churches. In a vicious circle, religious and political differences fueled each other.
Many critics have interpreted the positions of the Russian church and the Russian authorities as two sides of the same coin. Consequently, the Russian church became synonymous with Russian interference in Ukraine, and as such the separation as we see it unfolding was almost a fait accompli.
The creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is another turn in this fluid relationship between the three historic cities of Constantinople, Kyiv and Moscow. And it is hardly to be the last move…
Rabbi Arthur Schneier and anti-Semitism
A few days ago, Rabbi Arthur Schneier -the Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, who has been leaving and operating for many years in New York -gave the keynote address to the Austrian Parliament on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the terrible “Night of Broken Glass” when the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.
It is also referred to as Reichs pogrom and November pogrome, two terms that always use the word “pogrom” (meaning “devastation” or “riot” in Russian) to indicate the attack of small well-manipulated groups against Jews and their property.
Many pogroms were carried out in Russia, a country of ancient and profound anti-Semitism.
What are its roots? The traditional anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, as well as the easy manipulation of the apparata, and the obsession with identity, spurred on by the Tsarist regime.
The Nazis, in particular, imitated this terrible political practice, as early as the Kristallnacht of November 1938, to actually start the Jews’ physical elimination until the “Final Solution”, which began in 1940-1941.
During that night over 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and 1,500 people were killed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
At that time, as many as 30,000 Jews were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Before the Kristallnacht, in 1933 there had been a call – or, indeed, an obligation -for a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses and professionals and later, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated.
Rabbi Schneier thought that, after the Holocaust, there would be no resurgence of anti-Semitism – a virus that has characterized modern history from late antiquity until today.
As a Kantian rationalist, Rabbi Schneier thought that – after the evidence of facts – there would be no persecution against Jews in the bright enlightened future of the twentieth century.
Instead monsters remain alive, after visible history putting them temporarily to rest.
But, as Rabbi Schneier said, now – in 2018 – the cancer of anti-Semitism is back and has metastasized in Europe and in the United States.
Ii should be recalled that anti-Semitism has always been present in North America.
Suffice it to recall Leo Frank’s affair of 1915. That American Jewish citizen was at first sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, he was taken from prison by a band of vigilantes, lynched by an angry mob and hanged from a tree. Today the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.
In 1958, even after the Shoah and the Nazi atrocities against the Jews becoming publicly known, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta was blown up and damaged extensively by a dynamite-fuelled explosion.
Myths and preconceived ideas, especially those based on hatred, do not need confirmation or denial. They exist and that is just the way it is.
Two years later, there was also the shooting attack by a “white supremacist” against a synagogue in St. Louis, with the killing of some Jews leaving that place of worship.
Alan Berg, an anti-racist intellectual, was killed in 1984, because in some of his radio talk shows he had defended black people and Jews.
There is no rational argument that can defeat anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic or even personal hatred.
Over seven major cases of violent anti-Semitism were reported in in the USA between 1990 and 2010, but there were countless actions on a smaller scale.
Anti-Semitism is still alive and is even increasing in terms of quantity and virulence. Just think of the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue last October.
As Rabbi Schneier maintains, certainly the periods of social, cultural and economic turbulence are always fatal for the Jews – as the whole Western history demonstrates. Hence, unfortunately, with the crisis of Europe and the different, but concurrent crisis of the USA, the increase in anti-Semitism is predictable.
Shortly after the end of the Holocaust, Hanna Arendt rejected the theory of anti-Semitism as the development of the Jewish “scapegoat” theory and she often elaborated on the Rathenau case. Rathenau was the great Jewish industrialist and diplomat, who was Foreign Minister in Germany’s Weimar Republic and was murdered by right-wing extremists.
Elias Canetti reminded us that the idea for his extraordinary “Crowds and Power” sprang to his mind while seeing the many Social-Democratic workers following Rathenau’s coffin during the mourning service.
What is the essence of Arendt’s thesis on the Foreign Minister of Germany’s Weimar Republic?
The essence is that – by traditional position and role – the Jews were the “avant-garde of modernity” – hence all those who hate the values of Modernity are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic.
It is partly true, but Arendt forgets to say that anti-Semitism is widespread even in ancient societies (or in archaic societies, such as the Tsarist Russia of pogroms) and that many critics of the eighteenth-century revolutions are far from being anti-Semitic.
As noted by both Leo Strauss and the Marxist philosopher Lukacs, the modern world is also the symbolic and social organization that has been most opposed during its development, which has probably not ended yet.
The West of technology and of the calculating mind is not yet over, but its death depends on its excess of current and probably future anti-Semitism, which is incredible after the Shoah.
That is an excess of memory of its archaic and anti-modern past, even though modernity itself was somehow anti-Semitic.
Here Rabbi Schneieris very clear: the future of Europe is directly linked to the end of anti-Semitism and of today’s particular hatred against the Jews, i.e. that of anti-Zionism.
The future of Europe, but not only of the European Jews or of the complex world of North American Judaism.
We can certainly criticize Israel and its government – as we can disagree with the government of Turkey or Finland – but it is certainly nothing new that the polemic against the Jewish State is linked more to the adjective “Jewish” than to the noun “State”.
In the crowds’ minds, the history of Israel is now linked to the assumption – completely ungrounded – that it took away from the Palestinians the lands that originally belonged to them.
Zionism was linked – quite rationally – to the reaction of the French people to the Dreyfus trial that divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus, the so-called “Dreyfusards”, and those who condemned him, namely the “anti-Dreyfusards”. That year also marked the beginning of the unfortunate caste of intellectuals, that is fortunately irrelevant today.
In Theodor Herzl’s mind, the end of the rational and civil relationship between Europe and the Jewish world was evident.
Everything could collapse in an instant for European Judaism. The combined forces of the reaction to 1789 and of the worst 1789 had come together.
Living without history and in the here and now – like the animals described by Nietzsche in his second essay of the Untimely Meditations- is currently the form and the way in which the West thinks of itself. The history of our civilization seems to have finished and, hence, it is no longer necessary to know history, which is the basis of endless manipulations that today still float in the crowds’ minds. This is the worst forgetfulness and neglect of ourselves.
Furthermore, Rabbi Schneier focuses his attention on a fact that few people – who are not tunnel-visioned and narrow-minded as a result of apolitically correct approach or mere interest in the number of votes gained in elections – currently consider: immigration, especially from the Middle East or Africa, where there is a strong presence of Islam, will certainly increase the insecurity of European Jews and, in many respects, of all EU citizens.
In the European and American liberal culture, integration implies acceptance of the other and the kind request that the other adapts to our laws, regulations, customs, habits and practices.
However, there are not only explicit and written rules, at least for us who are the heirs of Roman law.
Hence the other needs to accept the substratum of our civilization, which is not only the trite, idle, frivolous and enlightened “tolerance” – the mechanism in which, as Adorno and Horkheimer maintained, everything is false.
Something more profound is here needed, which can never be written and regulated.
Politics is a metaphysics where the unspeakable is what matters and shapes all the rest.
Obviously this also applies to the citizens of the host countries, who must understand the alterity of the other, in the profound meaning of this concept, and hence respect him / her in his / her becoming other – just to use philosophical jargon.
Hence, although a share of immigrants is – to some extents – inevitable and, however, this has already materialized, we should recall that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the enemies of Jews alone, but of our civilization as a whole.
This held true also for Nazism: it was in fact a political theory – but we should rather say a mere practice – linked to caste ideas typical of Asia where, indeed, the Third Reich also found military, economic and ideological support.
From Tibet to Indian Hinduism, from the Islamic sects of Central Asia to the peripheral Russian cultures of anti-Semitism, such as the Cossacks, while developing the aforementioned myths, Nazism aimed at the annihilation of Europe and hence at its “Asianization”.
Hence Nazi anti-Semitism as a struggle against Europe and its millennia-old civilizations, not less ancient than Asia’s.
Also the economy should be considered: as demonstrated by the most recent historians studying the Third Reich, the Nazi leaders thought to solve their economic and financial crisis with the “Jewish gold”.
Still today, whoever fights against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is like one of the 300 Spartans holding the line in Thermopylae, who rescued the unique Greek knowledge and wisdom from a great Asian Empire that would have equated the maritime civilization of the Mediterranean to the steppes of the Persian Empire, without any culture other than the exaltation of the God-Emperor – or the sad repetition of the “ancients”.
An imperial wisdom that was also typical of the Roman Empire, but with the plurality of gods that already foreshadowed the Weberian “polytheism of values”.
Certainly, as Rabbi Schneier maintained, European leaders are very careful about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but the issue does not lie in leaders, but rather in crowds, who seem to be ever more seduced by hatred, which is more complex than love but – like the devil -is a very powerful seducer.
But what is really anti-Semitism today?
A mass phenomenon, of course. And this is worrying because preconceived ideas are harder to eradicate than rational beliefs.
In the United States currently the Jews account for 5.5%.
Needless to say, it is not a race, but a set of different ethnic groups, united by the same creed.
Furthermore, between 11% and 20% of North American Jews are “coloured people” – hence not only blacks.
The Jews, however, live in 70% of current nations, ranging from the Jewish communities of Kaifeng in China to the Indian Jews of various Middle East origins, up to the Jewish majority areas in various parts of Latin America.
Nor should we accept the anti-Semitic myth whereby Jews are the “rich” who dominate the world.
According to the most reliable statistics, currently over 50% of the richest people in the world are of Christian faith, while there is a higher number of rich Hindus and Muslims than Jews.
The 2015 data shows that out of the 13.1 million people defined as “rich” globally, 56.2% are Christians, 6.5% Muslims, 3.9% Hindus and 1.7% Jews.
Certainly pathological thinking – a real mental illness, which currently defines anti-Semitism as a “conspiracy theory” – could maintain that this data is “rigged”.
This is not true. Indeed, it is real data taken from the tax returns of the countries recording significant GDP rates in the world.
In the United States, however, Jews are the ethnic-religious group that earns higher wages than any other similar group.
And there are still many poor people – poor like the Jews who arrived in New York two or three generations ago.
Currently 45% of New York’s Jewish children live just below the poverty line, while in the United States the poor Jews account for 26.4% as against an absolute average of 30.8%.
Between 1991 and 2011 the number of poor Jews in the United States increased by 22%.
Hence, as we already knew, the myth of the rich Jews who secretly organize economic crises or the spoliation and dispossession of the goyim peoples is completely unfounded.
But where did anti-Semitism historically originate? Probably in Europe and, above all, in the area of popular Christianity.
There is no difference here between Protestant and Catholic anti-Jewish hatred.
In his treatise On the Jews and Their Lies Luther used terminology and arguments that seemed to be copied from one of Goebbels’ leaflets.
Probably everything began formally with the Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre(blood purity) in the seventieth century and beyond, also after the great pogrom of the Reconquista, which occurred at the same time as the discovery of America.
At that time the Jews escaped – along with the Muslims – from the “purified” Spain of Isabella of Castile heading to the East, especially to the Ottoman Empire.
The sultan of the time wrote an ironic letter to the Spanish Catholic Kings: “I thank you for bringing me here all these doctors, merchants, scholars and mathematicians, whom I needed”.
Furthermore, in addition to the specific Catholic anti-Semitism – from which the Pope, St. Paul VI, but above all another Pope, St. John Paul II, definitively freed us – there was a secularist anti-Semitism linked to the scientist, positivist and rationalist ideologies developed as from the French Revolution of 1789.
A revolution which soon led to a resurgence of irrationalist and antiscientific attitudes: just think of Gracchus Babeuf’s Arcadian refusal of technology and factory work and his “Conspiracy of the Equals” or o fRobespierrism, when Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined by the revolutionaries under the slogan: “The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed!”
Here other myths – apparently more “rational” – are already at work.
Darwinian racism, eugenics, the American anti-Communism – where Communism is basically the practice of fraternal help – as well as phrenology or physical anthropology.
This was the “scientific” basis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and, from the beginning, the “Führer” was a loyal subscriber to the publications of New York’s “Observatory on Race and Eugenics”, which also set the yearly quotas of immigrants accepted by the US government.
Certainly confining the Jews to ghettos is also an excellent practice to eliminate dangerous competitors in trade, business or professions.
This is just what happened in Italy after the racial laws of 1938.
When the West thrived, Jews’ freedom was revived. Just think of the Florentine Republic of the Medici, as well as the Renaissance, the Italian Risorgimento, in which many Jews participated, and finally the German unification.
It should also be noted that, before the Western colonization, the Jews of the Middle East lived without particular restrictions or threats.
However, the number of the sporadic anti-Jewish actions were more or less the same as in Europe.
It is therefore appropriate to say that it was precisely the European anti-Semitism, imported into the French or British colonies, to stimulate the latent and silent anti-Semitism of the local population.
Currently, throughout the Middle East, the avowed anti-Semitism account for 98% on average.
A major cultural and political problem.
In fact, if a powerful Islamic militant group like Hamas, that is currently considered “terrorist” by both the EU and the USA – a group which is also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood -states in its founding Charter it believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this means that there is a problem of communication between the worst Europe and the most fanatical Middle East, which concerns both us and the Islamists of the Gaza Strip.
The “Protocols” are, in fact, a key example of the new and old anti-Semitism.
From 1880 to 1921, the anti-Semitic pressure in Russia was one of the major mechanisms that favoured the Jewish migration to the United States.
Moreover, the early twentieth century was a phase of extreme weakness for the Russian tsarist system, that the anti-Semitic myth greatly contributed to blocking and stabilizing, until the German operation that favoured the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and hence Germany’s initial support for Bolshevik Russia.
On the one hand, the tsarist regime accused the Jews of plotting against the Russian Empire, on the other, the Jews were accused not only of the severe economic crisis, but also of the anti-tsarist propaganda, both the revolutionary and the bourgeois and pro-Western one.
Hence the anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist propaganda are closely interwoven. They develop the same traditional style features and turn them into new slogans. They create the same mechanism of fallacious identity inside and of exclusion outside for Jews and Zionists, but today they are targeted above all against the policies of the State of Israel that we must defend.
Ecumenical Patriarchate will face difficulties in the implementation of the Tomos of autocephaly for Ukrainian church
Having financial interest in rich foreign parishes of the former Kyivan Patriarchate, leadership of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine will hardly agree to sign them over to the Constantinople.
Although all the necessary provisions were prudently included both in the Tomos and the Charter of the new church, it will not be easy to protect the right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to shepherd the diaspora.
On October 11, 2018, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted two largest previously unrecognized Orthodox Christian denominations of Ukraine (the UOC-KP and the UAOC) into its jurisdiction.
At the end of November, the final decision was made to grant autocephaly to the new Ukrainian church, and the text of the corresponding Synodal and Patriarchal Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was approved.
At the unifying council on December 15, in Kyiv, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), headed by the Metropolitan Epiphany of Kyiv and All Ukraine, was created within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The head of the former UOC-KP Filaret Denisenko remained in the OCU as a honorary patriarch, and will lead the independent church together with Epiphany, who used to be his patriarchal vicar before. Same day, a Charter of the newly-emerged church was adopted.
On January 6, after a joint liturgy in the Phanar, Patriarch Bartholomew will grant Metropolitan Epiphany the Tomos of autocephaly.
This decision not only put an end to the Ukrainian schism, but also put Patriarch Bartholomew in front of new challenges, in particular, concerning the Orthodox diaspora around the world.
According to the official position of Constantinople, expressed in the Charter and in the Tomos, the former UOC-KP parishes outside Ukraine with their hierarchs and clerics should become directly responsible to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
However, dozens of foreign Ukrainian parishes in Europe, the USA, Canada, Latin America, Australia, including two exarchates, generated a substantial income (millions of dollars). The diaspora contribute a lot to the personal budget of the former UOC-KP head Filaret Denisenko (ten years ago his wealth was estimated at 300 million dollars.
With this in mind, will the leadership of the OCU be ready to part with such rich communities? Most likely, it will not be easy to enforce the historic right of the Constantinople to govern Orthodox diaspora.
It is said that during one of his visits to Australia in 2017, the current Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphany received only from Fr. Savvas Pizanias a bribe of 300 thousand Australian dollars.
The scandalous deacon and adventurer Savvas Pizanias, expelled from the dignity of the Constantinople Patriarchate for immoral life and evasion into schism in 2001, was re-ordained by the Exarch of the UOC-KP in Greece Chrysostomos Bakomitros in 2015. In the same year, he was expelled by Filaret and transferred under the head of the non-canonical Russian True Orthodox Church Tikhon Pasechnik. However, he stayed there for a short time. Then he paid a large sum of money (AU$ 300,000) to Metropolitan Epiphany, donated a newly built St. Savva of Kalymnos temple ( Ιερός Ναός του Οσίου Σάββα ἐν Καλύμνω), worth $ 1 million, to the UOC KP, and thus was received back in the Kyivan Patriarchate.
Previously, the very existence of the “Greek Exarchate” of the UOC-KP and activities of Fr. Savvas in particular caused strong protest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In order to clear his way to canonical recognition and autocephaly, patriarch Filaret waved the right on some of the parishes in the diaspora and, at the insistence of the Phanar, even abolished his exarchate in Greece.
However, the presence of the UOC-KP in the Pacific region continued. Moreover, in 2017, Savvas Pizanias was appointed a representative of the UOC-KP in Australia.
What will Filaret Denisenko do now, having received everything he wanted from Constantinople? He needed recognition of his canonicity, didn’t he? According to Archbishop Clement of the Crimea (OCU), President Poroshenko ordered not to let the Exarchs of Constantinople leave the country on December 15, until the Unification Council was completed. It clearly shows the determination of the Ukrainian government to achieve autocephaly for national church. And that is exactly why it would be very difficult to force the leadership of the OCU to agree with the historic right of the Ecumenical Throne clergy to minister the diaspora.
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