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Islam and the Free World: What Should be done as an Imperative Survival (A)

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Islam has been, from its very beginning, not only a religion but a political community (Ummat al-Islām), and Muhammad was not merely a prophet, but a political leader and military commander whose aim is occupying the world. Therefore, Islam is more politics than a religion. Since Allah promised the Muslims victory and superiority over all other religions worldwide, it is sanctioned for all Muslims to occupy the world. Humanity is divided into two groups: the followers of Islam who are called “believers,” as compare to all the others, who, being not Muslims, are infidels or apostates by definition and deserve death.

It is the duty of the Muslims to propagate the only one true faith, Islam, throughout the world. It is the duty of the Muslim to invade, by force, to the lands of the infidels. Should the infidels refuse to embrace Islam, jihad is the means to vanquish them. These are the three main arms of Islam, the Muslims use at will and according to the circumstances.

A brief glance to world situation today clearly reveals what Western leaders refuse to utter; and Western media refuses to display; and what Western academia refuses to teach and to investigate – that Islam is the main source of all humanity’s troubles. 95 percent of world terrorism and more than 70 percent of world violence are purely Islamic. There are political, religious and ethnic minorities all over the world. In our global world, there is not even one country that has not minorities. However, there are three salient facts:

First, and of critical importance, Muslims are the only minority that do not want to integrate and assimilate. On the contrary, they have come to change and transform. Muslim minorities are almost the only cause of turbulence, agitation, hatred, rage and violence. This fact is one of the main reasons to the mired situation in most states globally.

Second, In the US, they have exacerbated the rage of Blacks and Hispanics, large parts of them converted to Islam, and part of them have deteriorated their upheavals to more radical-violent spectrum. In other states Muslims are the cause violence takes so high level of societies’ situation.

Third, in Arab-Islamic states, minorities are extinct species. They are persecuted, butchered, massacred, and slaughtered. This fact shows the true face of Islam. While demanding (by force of violence!) civilian rights in the West without accepting and recognizing any civility or loyalty, they treat other minorities savagely and deadly.  

We have clearly to understand and declare that only one religion today regularly motivates large numbers of its followers to murder, behead, terrorize, rape, butcher, and enslave all other peoples across the globe. It is Islam; not Christianity; not Judaism; not Buddhism; not others. Islam. Only Islam. We know it, and still run away; we see it, and still we close our eyes; it is so clear and obvious, and still we deny it. It is one of the unfortunate facts that we all ignore this unprecedented evil in history and continue to pay protection money out of deep intimidation and ignorance. We all whitewash this horrific situation, as we are in deep mental and willful blindness.

Contrary to the Free World’s beliefs and conceptions, Muslims take Islam’s doctrine and teachings seriously and take it a must to follow. The Qur’an explicitly and repeatedly commands Muslims to engage in Jihad: “Jihad is ordained for you Muslims.” It explicitly and repeatedly commands Muslims to “kill the infidels wherever you find them;” “strike off their heads,” enslave and make sex slaves of their wives and daughters, and continue this Jihad “until all opposition ends and all submit to Allah.”

As is clearly seen from current history, Muslim terrorists across the globe are murdering, beheading, enslaving, and raping infidels wherever and whenever they can. There is not even one state around the world that is not influenced and/or inflicted by Jihad, Da’wah and Hijrah. These Jihadists are encouraged by Islamic exegetes and Imāms’ preaching; are directly supported by many Muslim sponsor states, like Saudi-Arabia, Qatar, and Iran; and by terrorist exporting states, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan.

The Qur’an explicitly and repeatedly commands Muslims to use all means of propagation to accomplish Islam’s targets and Muslim exegetes. Travelling Imāms, who are the uppermost enemy as preachers of evil, legalize the immigration, Hijrah, as a strategy to occupy the world. There is a perpetual Islamic political and religious encroachment into the deep fabrics of the non-Muslim states, perpetuated by Da’wah and Hijrah. This new kind of invasion, unknown in the record of history, happens since the Free World is voluntarily conceding to Islamic whims.

The strategy is simple but brilliant: Muslims consistently suppress any criticism of Islam by all means, from intimidation and riots to butchering and slaughtering. They immediately cry out, ‘racism,’ even though Islam is not a race; or ‘Islamophobia,’ even though it is absolutely not a phobia to fear Islam as it is founded upon a concrete reality. Indeed, this horrific situation is due to the fact that Islam is a political religion with political goals and political means to achieve its political strategy. It is a political system meant to impose its political ideological teachings on the entire universe.

The fact is that Muslims present their sensibilities and cry out they are insulted as a tactic and a strategy at the same time. When they do it, they are successful in imposing their will and censoring the Free World’s freedoms. With Western stupidity, ignorance, and intimidation, Muslims aim at bringing the world into submission.

The last example of continuing stupidity that motivates and drives Islamic atrocities is the media’s idiotic, retarded, unprecedented stupidity, detached from reality, as if, Muslim grievances, poverty and lack of education, is responsible for the terrorism. We have already referred to this in one of the articles in Modern Diplomacy. The fact is it is exactly the opposite. But the media continue to spread Islamic Da’wah, propagation, and the result is blaming the West and defending Islam.

The Nice massacre, is another example how the media viciously acts to rescue its narrative that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. With this line, Reuters reporter, Tom Heneghan, leaves no stone unturned, in portraying France as an “aggrieving” Muslims. The Islamic Caliphate State’ French-language magazine Dar al-Islam appeared with the Eiffel Tower on the cover and the headline “May Allah curse France.” In its words: “France is gripped by an irrational and deaf hatred against Islam and Muslims that pushed it to the head of the coalition against the caliphate.” For Heneghan, Muslims are angry with France because it is warring against ISIS. Why? Because France is secular and it alienates non-Christian minorities. Muslim community is discriminated and Muslims live in poorer neighborhoods.

However, the truth is that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Muslim terrorist who massacred 84 people at Nice was not a “lone Wolf” (what is this stupid definition?); he had accomplices, part of the Jihad syndrome. No, we was not poor and miserable in France and he was not depressed because of a divorce. No, he was not mentally unstable but good Muslim believer. No, his father is not a good French citizen but a member of a Tunisian Islamic party. No, his vicious terrorist murderous attack was not out of whim but meticulously planned and well thought out. No, his terrorism is not an isolated incident, but part of large world-wide Islamic Jihad.    

However, the stupidity of the day concerning Nice massacre was the declaration of the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, that “France must live with terrorism.” Is it? Moreover, what was the reaction of French President, Francois Hollande, to the Islamic atrocity? He sounds almost as if he was being forced to speak: “We cannot deny that it was a terrorist attack.” Thank you so much. Raymond Ibrahim is so correct by blaming: imagine Winston Churchill declaring, “Britain must live with Nazism.”

And how both French leaders get out of this shame? They ‘externalize’ France’s foreign policy in the Middle East: now there is a ‘new’ diplomatic move to resolve the so-called “the Middle East Conflict,” by organizing a peace conference between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead of finding and executing a reliable strategy to fight Islamic Jihad, in fact Islamic atrocities in France and in Europe at large, France is meddling in Israeli affairs, and finds time to deal with Israel, as if pressing Israel will ease its mired Islamic situation. The standing ovation Abu Mazen received in his racial anti-Semitic speech in the European Parliament was a shame and must be totally denounced.

To the French oblivious and ignorant leaders there is Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, declaration that there was a clear link between illegal immigration to Europe and terrorist attacks on the continent. “It is clear as two and two makes four, it is plain as day. There is an obvious connection… If somebody denies this connection then, in fact, this person harms the safety of European citizens.”

Europe is a dying continent. Europe has become a province of Islam, as the late Oriana Fallaci referred to years ago. Europe is walking toward its own cultural suicide with eyes wide open, as if it does not care surrendering to a 7th century cult. Indeed, with its disastrous multiculturalism, European self-loathing and self-hatred gain ground over its Judeo-Christian values. The European states in their trauma of “no more war,” has created a deep black-hall, a vacuum that Islam entered freely and with full force. Not only that Europe has no answer to this hideous encroachment, it adds insult by helping to establish Islamic occupation in its continent.

William Kilpatrick has referred to the current situation in the US. Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of CAIR, urged Muslim Americans to take up the cause of Black Lives Matter. “Black Lives Matter is our matter… Black Lives Matter is our campaign.” At the same conference, Khalilah Sabra told the Muslim audience, “Basically you are the new black people of America… We are the “community that staged a revolution across the world; why can’t we have that revolution in America?”

In 2014, CAIR used the protests and clashes in Ferguson, Missouri as an opportunity to attempt to recruit blacks. The same is relevant to most of massacre atrocities done in the US. The paradox is that CAIR has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates, but not in the US, though it is a direct outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is listed as a terrorist group by the by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Islam is a missionary political religion. Islamic proselytizers see the present situation in the US as an opportune time to concentrate on blacks and to radicalize them. They are the tool, the means to transform the US, according to the Muslim Brotherhood grand strategy, published in 1991. Islam has managed to convince the blacks and Hispanics that America is a racist society that was built on the back of slavery and Hispanic hard workers. America belong to them and not to the Whites. CAIR and other Muslim “civil rights” organization reinforce this narrative, while advocating that Muslims are victims of a similar oppression, colonialism, racism, and Islamophobia.

According to an academic approach the chief theorists of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, and Abu al-A’la al-Maududi, were heavily influenced by Lenin and by the communist revolutionary thought. Maududi said: “Islam is a revolutionary ideology and program which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals… it is an International Revolutionary Party organized to carry into effect its revolutionary program… Muslims are under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge the infidels from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”

Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, said: “Muslims must kill the infidels wherever they are unless they convert to Islam.” Infidels are apes and pigs. Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi, the president of al-Azhar University, also approves of killing Christians, Jews, and other infidels. He added, “This is not my personal view. This what the Shari’ah says, the law of Allah, the only valid law on the earth.” Abdallah Bin Muhammad Bin Humaid, The Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, teaches In his book, Islamic Law and Constitution, that “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam.”

Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Islam is an all-embracing world concept which regulates every aspect of life. Waging warfare against the infidels is the highest expression of fidelity… It is a duty incumbent on every Muslim to struggle towards the aim of making every people Muslim and the whole world Islamic, so that the banner of Islam can flutter over the earth and the call of the Muezzin can resound in all the corners of the world.” Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the prominent Islamic cleric, “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today,” said: “No peace can be made between us (Muslims) and the infidels. This what our holy book says. This is what Allah says. As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (’Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. The call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam.”

Muslims are not ‘radicals;’ they are ‘orthodox.’ They follow and observe the scriptures of Islam. They are abiding by the law of Muslims. They do not ‘hijack’ Islam and they do not misinterpret it. They adhere to their accepted established faith. The ‘radical’ Muslims, according to the Free World’s vocabulary, are in fact true orthodox believers in Islam, while ‘moderate’ Muslims, according to the Free World’s vocabulary, are in fact heterodox Muslims, who are also butchered.

It is clearly commanded: “Fight in the name of Allah and for the sake of Allah against those who disbelieve in Allah… When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizyah. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.” These are the words of Muhammad.

The first directive is to understand the track Professor Mike Dobbins, from Georgia Tech, has passed over and to follow it. For years, he was an apologist for Islam. In his words: I believed those who painted Islam in a peaceful, glowing light. I made excuses for radical Muslims and lived in a flood of denial that religious teachings could still motivate a person to commit evil. I criticized those who warn of the dangers of Islamic doctrine, recklessly labeling them Islamophobes.

Today I am writing to say I am sorry, I apologize, and I ask for forgiveness. Those who have blindly defended Islam are tragically wrong. The critics of Islam are right. Islam is intrinsically, alarmingly violent, hate-ridden and oppressive on a scale greater than all other major religions combined. To say that Islamists are motivated to commit atrocities and embrace oppression based on religious doctrine is the understatement of the century. I, like most defenders of Islam, was ignorant, naïve, and in deep denial. I wrongly assumed that Muhammad promoted peace, love, and non-violence.

We who have carelessly thrown around the Islamophobe label, should lower our heads in shame and guilt. We must now live with the knowledge that we have abandoned and betrayed our principles. Those who criticize Islam, especially reform minded Muslims, are the bravest of the brave. They are literally putting their lives at risk by the simple act of criticizing the Qur’an, Muhammad, and the Sharī’ah.

We were unwittingly misinforming the public and deluding ourselves by not making the connection between Islamic religious teachings and Islamic hate and violence. We did not connect the dots and we refused to look for proper solutions. At the same time, we liberals were busy tarnishing the critics of Islam as bigots and racists, and by that abandoned our cherished values of defending equality of women, gays, and minorities, protecting free speech and religion, and other freedoms and civil rights.

No religion, book, prophet, law, or god, no matter how sacredly held by the follower, is exempt from criticism. We either live in a free society or a tyrannical one. Rather than self-censoring and abiding by Islamic blasphemy laws, we should be defending our values and freedoms. I challenge everyone, especially the people who smear the critics, to read the Qur’an, the biographies of Muhammad, the history of Jihad, and the political ideology of Islam.

Indeed, apologists not only pretend that Islam is not inherently aggressive and deadly; they also smear those who point out that it is inherently aggressive and deadly. As Sam Harris says: the leftist-smear-brigade will label you “Islamophobic” (as if fear of Muslims who actively seek to kill you were irrational); “racist” (as if Islam were a race rather than a religion); “intolerant” (as if you should put up with people who seek to behead, enslave, or rape you and your loved ones); and all manner of other absurdities. Leftists will also point out that, like the Qur’an, the Bible contains commandments to kill unbelievers, homosexuals, and other sinners, ignoring the fact that today only Islam motivates large numbers of its followers, indeed entire nations, to murder and enslave people in the name of Allah.

What the Free World has to do as a must?

The first task is that is it should recognize, define and understand Islam. It was Albert Einstein whom we can take an analogy: “if I was given one hour to solve a problem, I would have spent 55 minutes to understand the issue, and 5 minutes to find a solution.” Indeed, we must really and deeply understand Islam and its cultural framework, by reading its scriptures, by learning its bloody history, and by analyzing its current behavior and practices. Then, the Free World should learn its own weaknesses and strengths and openly tell, loud and clear, with sobriety and wisdom, the true story of the situation. Without these, the Ummah, the Islamic Caliphate, wins.

Islam wins because we fail to understand its motives and aims. We must call a spade, spade. It is impossible to understand what the situation is all about, if one fails to call it by its name, or is not ready to name its ideology, or cannot define the situation. However, concerning Islam, we do not understand or we are afraid to declare that Islam is the problem all along. We even do not want to admit that we have the solution to the Islamic horrific encroachment.

The Free World’s media and the cultural elite love root causes, but the root causes of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Caliphate State and other Muslim organizations are not poverty, unemployment, lack of education, or lacking democracy. It is Islamic religion. The Muslim terrorist groups are not unnatural to Islamic reality; they are in fact an organic part of the Islamic religion and its culture. It is exactly the teaching of the Qur’an that matters; it is exactly Islam that is important.

Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, is correct by rattling the orthodoxy of political correctness, saying that Shari’ah is incompatible with Western civilization, the US constitution and the Free world basic values. Those who follow it are not loyal citizens, and either should not be allowed to enter the U.S. or should be deported from it. Islam and the values of democracy are totally incompatible. Everything that America stands for, freedoms, free speech, freedom of religion, civil rights, equal rights for all, and all the democratic power plays that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are in total contrast to Islamic teachings and doctrine.

Anything that is not in Islam is apostasy and all non-Muslims are infidels, including those Muslims who do not follow the articles of the Shari’ah. As early as 1991, the “Muslim Brotherhood in North America” has delineated in details the process of Islamic occupation of the US. The plan is to carry out a “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated.”

Indeed, the Shari’ah is toxic; it is totalitarian with everything the democratic West stands for. It is an unfortunate fact that Europe ignored the announced goals and intentions of Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf, now the entire West ignore the horrific and much more concrete ideology and intentions of the Islamic doctrine. Moreover, the Nazis concealed the Holocaust and did everything to hide their actions. But today the spokesmen of Islam – Sunni-Salafi; Sunni-Wahhabi; Shiites – proclaim their intentions loud and clear without any camouflage. To paraphrase Mubarak Hussein Obama, the future must not belong Islam and those adhere the Shari’ah.

Arab and Muslim countries are not modern states with civil sovereign peoples. They are collections of quarreling antagonistic tribes and clans that were forced to live in states without any of the substance. When the Europeans left, the countries quickly became military juntas, and now they are fighting for survival against Muslim Jihadi groups that strive to bring the Muslims and the infidels to their 7th century desert. These Muslim groups are not a reaction against, but constitute the underlying pathology in the Muslim world.

The Free World’s media and cultural elite, with their ignorance and stupidity, are oblivious to the situation and insist that Western colonialism is the problem. But they fail to understand that the true regional alternative to Western colonialism is tyrannical rule, genocide of the minorities, discrimination of the other, and slavery.

Therefore, instead of pursuing liberalism and democracy as a solution to the Muslim countries, the Free World should strengthen the non-Islamic and counter-Islamic forces in the Muslim world. In order to win over, even trying to stop Islamic encroachment, it has to understand that the way that leads to the defeat of the Muslim Jihadi groups is paved only by defeating the culture and ideology that sustains and encourages them.

The problem is that Western leadership does not want to connect the dots between the Islamic ideology and teachings, so clearly permeating in the Sharī’ah. The cultural elite and the media even refuse to realize that the battlefield is in our own homelands; in our own streets and neighborhoods; in the TV studios; in the editorials of the papers; in university campuses; in the public opinion venues; and in the courts of law. That is why, if the Free World does not follow this, it has to experience Winston Churchill’s declaration:

If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

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Serious Drawbacks in Ukraine’s Adopted ‘Church’ Bill

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On January 17, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) passed the bill No. 4128 on new amendments regarding the subordination (denomination) of religious organizations and the procedure of state registration of religious organizations with the status of legal entities. The relevant law No. 2673-VIII was signed by President Poroshenko on January 28 and came into force on January 31, 2019.

Though the bill was designed to simplify the process of changing the religious subordination of a religious community, it actually introduces a new, more complicated scheme of registration and reregistration for religious organizations of all confessions including Protestants.
So, reregistration becomes not just a long-lasting process full of red tape but also is rather expensive. Thus, according to Art. 15 of the Law of Ukraine “On State Registration of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs and Public Organizations”, the signature of every community member must be authenticated by a notary.

Moreover, the law No. 2673-VIII requires to submit a new charter of a religious community along with the list of the Assembly participants, which is an unjustified state interference in the internal affairs of religious organizations and infringes believers’ right on confidentiality of their religious views envisaged in Art. 4 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”.

It’s worth noting that a request to submit the community members’ signatures contradicts European standards, for example Point 25 of the Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities published in 2015 by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR):

Any procedure that provides religious or belief communities with access to legal personality status should not set burdensome requirements.68 Examples of burdensome requirements that are not justified under international law include, but are not limited to, the following: that the registration application be signed by all members of the religious organization and contain their full names, dates of birth and places of residence; that excessively detailed information be provided in the statute of the religious organization; that excessively high or unreasonable registration fees be paid; that the religious organization has an approved legal address; or that a religious association can only operate at the address identified in its registration documents. Such requirements would not appear to be necessary in a democratic society for the grounds enumerated in international human rights instruments. Also, religious or belief communities interested in obtaining legal personality status should not be confronted with unnecessary bureaucratic burdens or with lengthy or unpredictable waiting periods. Should the legal system for the acquisition of legal personality require certain registration-related documents, these documents should be issued by the authorities.

There is another unjustified burden for the religious activity of brotherhoods, missions, religious schools – they are required to submit documents confirming the right to own or use the property where they are registered. It is also impossible for newly formed religious communities to comply with the new demand (according to Art. 14 of the Law of Ukraine “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”) to hand in a “properly authenticated copy of a document on the right of property or usage” since the community cannot obtain any property rights without becoming a legal entity first.

Another contradiction is that during reregistration, religious communities must produce “the original registration certificate of the religious organization’s charter” as such document is not determined by the Ukrainian legislation and cannot be issued or demanded.
As the adopted law No. 2673-VIII stipulates, one of the reasons for rejecting the documents for registration is “their non-compliance with the existing requirements”, but it is not stated by which acts these requirements are set. This enables the authorities to voluntary decide whether the submitted documents comply or not with the requirements and leads to corruption.

Moreover, according to the same law No. 2673-VIII, if the authorities decide to reject the registration documents without reviewing them or refuse to register the charter, they do not have to provide to the religious organization a written response with all remarks related to the papers and an explanation in what manner the legislation was not complied with.
Obviously, such an irresponsibility of the registration body paves the way for a biased revision of the submitted documents and increased corruption risks.

Shortly before the second reading in the Parliament, churches, religious and public organizations appealed to the deputies to correct the above-mentioned drawbacks but contrary to the Verkhovna Rada’s regulations, the lawmakers were not permitted to do so.

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Patriarch Theophilus to decide whether to concelebrate Liturgy with the new Ukrainian Church hierarchs

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Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem

On the Orthodox Christian feast of Theophany, the 19th of January, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko will visit Jerusalem. As part of this trip, a meeting with his Holiness Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem is planned.

The Ukrainian leader will be accompanied by several bishops of the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine, who are expected to serve with the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. At least this scenario is persistently promoted by the Ukrainian side with the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Israeli authorities and American diplomats.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was established as the merge of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) at the Unification Council on the 15th of December, 2018, and received a Tomos of autocephaly on the 6th of January this year. Currently, the new Ukrainian religious entity is in communion only with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is still to be recognized by other Autocephalous Churches.

As a source in the Jerusalem Patriarchate is quoted by the Orthochristian.com website, one of the two former hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) who joined the OCU at the Unification Council, Metropolitan Alexander Drabinko, is among Ukrainian bishops who may concelebrate with Theophilus III.

At the same time, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has not yet agreed to receive the OCU representatives and concelebrate with them: due to the unresolved status of the OCU, joint prayer with its hierarchs can seriously affect the reputation of Theophilus III. First of all, there is still no official decision by the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate on the new Ukrainian Church. Other Local Orthodox Christian Churches also consider it necessary to investigate the Apostolic succession of the OCU bishops thoroughly first, as well as to find a solution to the problem of the former UOC-KP parishes in the canonical territories of the four Autocephalous Churches.

Although Alexander Drabinko is portrayed as the most preferable representative of the OCU for the hierarchs of the Local Churches to meet with, questionable reputation of this defrocked UOC-MP bishop also plays an important role here.

Will Patriarch Theophilus III agree to take the risks entailed by the concelebration with the OCU hierarchs, including Metropolitan Drabinko? Will the external pressure prevail over the opinion of the hierarchs of the Jerusalem Patriarchate? Now it’s up to His Holiness Theophilus to decide.

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The Evolving Orthodox Triangle Constantinople – Kiev – Moscow

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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.

Constantinople-Kiev: Christianization

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…

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