The following steps must be taken with deep efforts, seriously and effectively:
1) No more the twisted mirror image. To view Islam through Western inclusive pluralistic lenses means not only never understanding Islam but also it may produce disastrous results. What if the struggle is between two polar opposite cultural conceptions, between a society that aspires to modernity and progress, as against totalitarianism of thought, traditional tribal values and religious extremism?
What if Islamic approaches do not play by the Western rules of the game, by the Judeo-Christian morality? What if Islamic behavior is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Muslims as a norm of social behavior, as a cultural reflection of their society? What if Muslims are devoted to implementing their values out of profound hatred and hostility?
Psychologist Norman Dixon has defined the issue aptly: We are busy performing two things: first, denying reality, and second, when the catastrophe happens, rationalizing our mistaken behavior. This is the reason why the Free World is flattering, appeasing, and serving as useful idiots to Islam and Muslims. If we do not know why the Muslims hate us so deeply and they shamelessly continue pushing for concessions, is there any hope for us to prevail? One Jew of the Holocaust survivors, who was asked what he had learned from the Second World War, replied: “When somebody says he wants to kill you, you should believe him.” Everything is so clear and obvious, yet, we do not want to learn.
Let us take, for example, the issue of language, which represents Orwell’s 1984. There is a heated debate concerning the difference between Islam and Islamism. As if Islamism is a political ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is Jihad and conquests, while Islam is a peaceful religion. However, this is the Western debate, the Western language and a twisted formula to evade reality. There is absolutely nothing on that matter in the Islamic vocabulary.
Moreover, what if the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ are totally opposite in Western and Arab-Islamic political culture? What if we all use the same terms — peace, political arrangements, negotiations, coexistence, etc. — while we translate them operationally and understand them conceptually totally differently? What if for Islam “good” is only whatever advances the cause of Islam to control the world, and “evil” is whatever resists the cause of Islam and enables the existence of the Kuffār? What if Islam teaches war in the name of peace, and hate in the name of love? What if, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are the moderate true believers, since they strictly follow the orders and commandments of the Sharī’ah, and those whom we relate to as moderates are in fact the extremists, even infidels, in the Islamic perspective?
There is another perspective, which is Theodor Adorno’s idea of the authoritarian personality. Scholars had determined that social conservatives suffer from ‘mental rigidity,’ ‘dogmatism,’ and ‘uncertainty avoidance,’ together with associated indicators for mental illness. This is a Machiavellian psychological command and control device. Its purpose is the imposition of uniformity in thought, speech, and behavior.
This is exactly the Arab-Islamic personality that leads to cultural terrorism. Obedience is the result of force. Force is the antithesis of humanizing actions. It is synonymous in human mind with savageness, lawlessness, brutality, and barbarism displayed in an inhuman attitude toward the other. Consequently, it rejects, for example, the first principles of the US Declaration of Independence of “unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is rejected by Islam as its uppermost characteristics is submission to Allah.
According to Ali Sina’s paraphrasing, there are three categories of Muslims residing in the Free World: the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, this division is not according to Western definitions. The good are in fact the bad; the bad are in fact the good and the ugly are in fact the good face of the Islamic propagators introduced to the Free World’s public opinion, in order to deceive and mislead. So, in fact, nothing in Islam is what it is because everything is what it is not. Each and every group has its role in the world game of Islam to occupy the world and subdue humanity to Islamic rule.
What if the terrorists are actually good Muslims, practicing the commandments of the Sharī’ah? Muhammad raided and butchered people merely because they were not his followers. The good Muslims do the same. Bombing and terrorism perpetrated by Muslims are replicas of Muhammad’s raids, Ghazawāt, for booty (Ghanā’im) sanctioned in the Qur’an. Muhammad ordered the assassination of his critics, killing the apostates, slaughtering the infidels and decapitating their heads, and imposing terror on them. It is all written in the Qur’an.
What if the bad Muslims are those who do not practice their religion and do not follow its ordinances? What if the ugly Muslims actually appear beautiful? They are eloquent, articulate, intelligent, attractive, and highly manipulative. They know what to say to gain the Muslim majority’s approval and applause. They are charming. Their words are reassuring and their faces are reliable and authentic. They act efficiently in diplomacy of deceit; they use propaganda in order to make you believe that Islam is not only peaceful and poses no threat to you, but in fact is cooperative and dialogue-oriented. These are wolves in sheep clothing proving that deception is as deadly as terror.
Muslims that practice and support the ideology and doctrine of Islam are all part of the problem. That is, they wish to occupy the world and to subdue humanity. Some use terrorism and violence; some use Da’wah and good words of propagation; and some, perhaps the majority, push forward, by charity money of Zakāt, by demography and birth-rate, and by being the silent majority, that is refraining from denouncing and alienating the terrorists. The result: Islam acts firmly and steadily to take over the world. This goal is rooted deep in every Muslim, the good, the bad and the ugly, each with its own strategy and tactics, but all with the same objective.
There are also good people, in Western terms, among the Muslims. But they are, unfortunately, a very small minority. They really wish to reform and democratize Islam, and to take away all Islamic signs of hatred and incitement to the other. However, the belief that Islam can be reformed from within is something impossible. The Qur’an is the heavenly book given by Allah. One cannot change the words of Allah, as it means blasphemy and it leads to punishment by death. There are verses in the Qur’an and Ahadīth that clearly state, he who changes even one word of the Qur’an must be killed. It is even forbidden to wonder or ask questions about it, let alone to criticize it. Islam is not adaptable with the times and cannot adapt itself to modernization. The gates of innovations (Ijtihād) have been closed since the 12th century. The mountain of Islam has not changed as what is written in the Qur’an cannot be changed.
In a revealing, perhaps surprising, analysis, the Jerusalem Post editorial, took a bold step by criticizing the media in the US:
The irony, of course, is that our postmodern media analysts, while preaching the gospel of cultural relativism, are themselves entirely blind to the moral values, cultural underpinnings and ethical standards of those who adhere to different sets of guiding principles. Rather, their search for answers are steeped in their own narrow mindsets, nurtured at the universities they attended and reinforced in the scholarly journals they read and in the social circles they embrace. The attempt by the media elites to paint a portrait of these men as alienated, disaffected youths is symptomatic of such a mindset. Their faux sophistication is belied by the narrow Western lens with which they view the motivations of these Islamists living in the West.
In essence, they are guilty of the analytic omission which they accuse others of: an honest attempt to understand events beyond the context of their own cultural biases and narrow frames of reference. If they did, they might find the anger and alienation of these young jihadists have nothing whatsoever to do with the familiar narrative of youthful rebelliousness depicted in iconic American cinematic and literary touchstones such as Rebel without a Cause or The Catcher in the Rye. Hence, the multiculturalist thinkers, plagued by Western guilt, seek conflict resolution through understanding and compromise. For the jihadist (lone wolf or otherwise) those are alien notions. They have already determined that there is no place in the worldwide caliphate to come for those who do not submit to the laws of Allah – Western commentators included.
2) No more ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘moral relativism.’ These are in fact names without any common sense, odd and alien notions without a logical definition, inventions that aim at destroying our existence as a free society. These also intend to confuse and to mislead, in fact leading to chaos and disruption.
‘Multiculturalism’ as opposed to ‘multi-ethnicity,’ dictates that groups of people with different cultures will live in one society and retain their culture, rather than trying to assimilate into the culture of the host nation. The all but inevitable consequence of this approach is that the law of the land will need to be altered so as to accommodate the culture of the new migrants. This could bring about a whole new set of laws that lead to the demise of the original culture. Multiculturalism was the myth, the keystone to the whole tyrannical mythology of political correctness.
Multiculturalists immediately attack anyone who seems to challenge their new religion called ‘multiculturalism,’ and brand him a racist and fascist. Studies and analyses which show any negative side to multiculturalism are silenced and consequently any dissent and criticism are paralyzed. We live no longer as a free society in our own political systems. The intimidating situation was that academia embraced this notion of multiculturalism in its entirety, while the media followed it with enthusiasm and the governments go along with it in intimidation. So, instead of an idea being debated whether it had any merit, the peoples were forced to accept this dubious lethal idea without being allowed to question it, even to understand its meaning and consequences.
Western universities are founded on the principle that each and every idea is up for critical thinking, according to the tradition of academic freedom. However, now the forces of evil coerce their societies to embrace destructive ideas without questioning, and if one resists, he is labeled by academia, with the assistance of the media, with a whole set of accusations based on racial prejudice. Yet, the truth is clear: This notion has never been part of the Western values of freedom of speech, expression and conscience and it contradicts the basic civil rights ideas. In fact it is clear that fundamental Western deep-rooted values are in a fast process of disappearing exactly as a result of this horrific notion called ‘multiculturalism.’
So currently, across the Western World, ideas are introduced which nobody is allowed to question; ideas that become the basis of new laws which nobody is allowed to criticize; laws that lead to disastrous consequences, and still nobody is allowed to question and to criticize. We live in an era in which our precious freedoms are in danger and no wonder that Western societies are degenerating.
Sweden, once known as one of the most peaceful and law abiding countries in the world, is now the rape capital of Europe, a state of havoc and disarray. It has become a symbol and framework to be a first third world country in Europe in the course of the next decade.
Formerly peaceful and homogenous France now has over seven hundred no-go zones for non-Muslims where the government has no control and no ability to enforce French law. Terror acts by Muslims are common and become a routine.
The UK has embraced legal provisions for Muslims who now have Sharī’ah courts all over the country, while many neighborhoods in London, Birmingham and several other English cities, have areas which are being declared no-go zones.
The situation in Germany is no less bad. Germany is now home to the largest number of immigrants in the EU, and also has the second-largest Muslim population. It continues to be the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications in the EU: more than 200,000 asylum-seekers in 2014, and more than a million at the end of 2015.
A report, produced by the police headquarters of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state with the largest Muslim population, warns that the government is losing control over problem neighborhoods and that the ability of police to maintain public order cannot be guaranteed. There are districts where immigrant gangs are taking over the entire social setting, where native residents and business people are being intimidated and silenced. According to a Duisburg City Councilman, “When I say that steps must be taken to ensure immigrants comply with rules and regulations, I am immediately branded as a far right extremist… But spiraling levels of violent crime perpetrated by immigrants cause areas of lawlessness, areas that are becoming de facto ‘no-go’ zones for police.”
Leaders of the major powers have expressed misgivings over multiculturalism. It has “failed, utterly failed,” according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This attitude has been the opinion of a former French president and of prime ministers of Spain and Australia. The most forceful denunciation of multiculturalism came from British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who also calls it a “failure.” However, nothing is done about it. It has not been a “failure,” but a lethal disaster to the Western way of life.
Unfortunately, even before Muslims have changed Europe, the Europeans themselves did so, as leading European states have trashed their national identities and labelled their national awareness as worthless. Since European nations are reluctant to stand for what nations traditionally stand for, religious and/or ethnic identity, it is no wonder that they are undergoing a deep identity crisis and are subdued by the Muslims’ desert reality.
Western liberal democratic civilization is falling apart and dismantles, not because of conquest from outside it, but because its leaders and cultural elites in the media and the academia have turned everything upside down, on their own free will. Right is wrong; good is bad; the ideology of evil is forgiven and understandable; and the forces of primitivism and savagery deserve a higher place in Western societies’ considerations. Cultural and moral relativism, political correctness and moral equivalency are the on the top, and it is even forbidden to call a spade, a spade, and all must stick to the New Emperor’s cloths.
These are the most dangerous time in the walks of our civilization. We have fought and won over tyrants, and dictators, and evil regimes. We have managed to do so as we could strictly and correctly define the situation, to separate between right and wrong, and to fight evil. Today everything has been turned over to the opposite. The horrendous forces of evil of Islam win, not because they are strong, or because they are correct, or because they have a new massage, a new development and innovations to humanity, but because Western civilization has a death wish. Western civilization has determined to commit suicide. The great prophet of our mired situation, George Orwell, is rolling in his grave. Indeed, he was strictly right: in our twisted atrocious new situation, peace is war; love is hatred; and truth is lie.
According to Pascal Bruckner, the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt. The West has no monopoly on evil, and though it has created monsters it also destroyed them: the abolition of slavery; the renouncing of colonialism; the building of peaceful and prosperous technological societies; and the establishing of law and order, of roles and institutions that are models for mankind. However, Western guilt has gone too far. It has become a pathology, an obsessive that has obscured Western understanding and distorted its behavior, even its balanced logic.
Today, there remain a few last bastions that keep Western civilization alive, because Europe has been attacking its own values and has raised generations of self-hating elites, and unfortunately the US academia and the media have aped their European models. It is time to find our own Judeo-Christian roots again, and to assert our values with pride and affection and without being afraid to speak out. The fact is that multiculturalism has become a clear code of submission to Islam, because it clearly leads to a new Dark Age, imposed by a medieval fascism of self-haters enabled by the collaboration of the leftists and the fanatical doctrine of Islam.
There is a disturbing situation. An alliance between Islam and Western left seems odd and grotesque. On the surface, Muslims with their single-minded dedication to the destruction of Western civilization, imposing worldwide Islamic rule according to the prescriptions of the Shari’ah, they are vehemently opposed to the left’s touted beliefs in the socialist utopia. However, a closer look makes understandable driving these strange bedfellows into each other’s arms. For the left there is just one overpowering consideration. After the collapse of communism, radical Islam appears to be the only power capable of defeating capitalism and the hated United States as the last obstacle on the road to Bolshevik ideas. One analogy stands clear: the Nazi ideology hatred to the Jews and its admiration of Islam.
For the Islamists, on the other hand, the rationale is fully congruent with their worldwide objectives. The leftists, though infidels who deserve death, are valuable as useful idiots to be exploited on the road of destruction of the Free World. The 1991 project of the US Muslim brotherhood indicates a “temporary cooperation” with movements opposed to colonialism and the Jewish state and working with “various influential institutions and using them in the service of Islam.” As both share “anti-American and anti-imperialist ideology,” this alliance ceases to be strange.
The result: the putative romance of the Left with Islam have become an affectionate embrace. An example to the “anti-imperialist coalition” is ANSWER. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Founded, not coincidentally, three days after 9/11 It was designed to serve the Islamic objective of preventing U.S. retaliation against Muslims. ANSWER called for a “partnership with the Arab-American and Muslim community,” and to oppose any American policy or legislation that could ban the activities of Islamic organizations. The case of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has become an unabashed defender and apologist for Islamic groups, mainly CAIR in instructive, and in fact its legal arm. Since then, the left-Islamic nexus has moved into the US establishment, the White House and all American branches.
It is again Daniel Greenfield to so aptly remarks: Islam is tribal. Tribes are nomadic and they raid each other. They mount coup on each other. They steal and humiliate each other’s women. They lash out and kill each other over insults. Islam incorporates the religious feelings and the tribal behavior. Terrorism also incorporates both the tribal and the religious. Islam sanctified the tribal raid as a religious act and turned the dead into martyrs. Islamic missionary activity in the West also targets dissatisfied minorities, potential fifth columns.
To the leftists, Islam is an inefficient sort of Socialism dependent on medieval superstition and lacking modern idea. To the Muslims, the left is an inefficient sort of Islam that’s missing the Shari’ah. It is all just a problem of explanations and textbooks.
In their confused world order, leftists believe that the terrorists are attacking “our values” and we in turn must attack “their values” with our superior “values.” While the left attempts to integrate the Muslims with “our values”, the Muslim immigrants show that Europeans have no honor on a tribal level.
However, no meaningful dialogue is possible between the Islamic “Allahu Akbar” and “Our values” Western religion. Both insist on absolute submission. The left’s demand for submission is based on the absolute moral superiority of “Our values,” while Islam’s demand literally means submission to its religion. To the Muslim mind, we are a series of fragile tribal associations. The “Our values” leftists think of the threat in terms of “radicalization”, but the real threat is “integration.” Indeed, if multicultural Westerners continue to ignore, deny, embrace, appease and nurture the truths of Islam’s objectives, they do so at their own existential peril.
The left’s multicultural vision made this mess possible. It’s also making it worse. The left despises tribal thinking and yet its entire political infrastructure is built on rewarding it. Our enemies are not states and they will not fight us as states but as tribes. To the extent that they are religious, they will attack us that way. But the real problem is that we are no longer states and we do not think and act like states. We are in the grip of a mystical deluded cult of multiculturalists that opened the gates to a cruel, backward enemy. And in doing so, they have brought a tribal war into our own homelands.
Multiculturalism is so disastrous that it is shown in the mass-rape plague in Europe. Dennis Prager draws our attention to the horrific fact: between protecting over the European girls from repeated gang rape and protecting Muslims from being identified as the rapists, British authorities chose to protect multiculturalism and “diversity.” That is, in the competition between multiculturalism and one of the most elementary obligations of civilization, the protection of women from sexual violence, civilization lost. The U.K. is not alone in taking precedence of the fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic over protecting women. This is also the situation in Germany and Scandinavian states.
Altogether, this is cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism. Western political leaders have sold out to the Marxist idea of multiculturalism and the result has been an emboldening the entire world to submit to the Shari’ah. In Europe, this sickening display now culminating in destruction of much of its cultural identity. Multiculturalism would be good if all sides were equally respected and mutually enriched. But, multiculturalism is one-sided, just a fake word that provides cover for its true meaning: the occupation of Islam. Multiculturalism has become code-name for submission to Islam.
Ukrainian Church Autocephaly: A Web of Intrigue
It is for long that the non-recognized Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate (UOC –KP) tries to get autocephaly and sever the link with the canonical Russian Orthodox Church. To get it the UOC-KP appealed to Patriarch Bartholomew of the Constantinople.
At the meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of the Constantinople Patriarchate His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow warned him about the disastrous consequences the provision of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the so called Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) could have for the religious life and the believers in the Ukraine.
According to some sources Patriarch Kirill tried to get across to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the idea that the political forces behind the idea of an independent status for the UOC-KP “do not represent the people. Those who came to power as a result of the Maidan coup in Kiev want autocephaly in order to consolidate their illegally seized power”. Fearing ouster by the disgruntled people and exile these people, who represent a mere 8 percent of Ukraine’s population, hope that the authority of and assistance from the Ecumenical Patriarchate will help them stay in power. The arrival of the two envoys dispatched to Ukraine by the Constantinople Patriarchate was followed by weeks of hectic and tense activity by local political and religious leaders.
In the wake of a series of meetings recently held by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) at the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery news feeds and social networks continue to report on a flurry of consultations, meetings and statements made by bishops, clergy and laity of the canonical UOC-MP, the schismatic UOC-KP and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC). Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly clear that in the Client – Executor – Statists (also Beneficiaries) – Victim scheme, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is acting as Executor, is using the Constantinople Patriarchate and the unrecognized Kiev Patriarchate as Statists in a bid to boost his chances for re-election with this “final step to independence.”
In turn, the Ecumenical Constantinople Patriarchate is trying to improve its image and financial status by foraying into foreign canonical territory and granting the self-proclaimed and self-styled KP and UAOC the status of “Churches” as part of the overall scam. Much to our regret, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOK-MP) is already falling victim to all this with separation lines already being drawn between the clergy and laity , dioceses and parishes being isolated and fragmented, conflicts flaring up, the faithful unaware of what is going on, temples and monasteries being expropriated with the help of the powers-that-be and “conscious” militants, and the UOC-MP being branded as the “aggressor’s church.”
All this is already a sad reality. Just as Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church noted: “Renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate amid an ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia is like forcing a Jew living in Nazi Germany to wear a yellow star.”
The main benefactor, behind all this, is the United States, as the proclamation of Tomos to the non-recognized Ukrainian church will inevitably set off a series of new conflicts, all of which will immediately be blamed on canonical priests and the Russian Federation. The Americans’ hand in these efforts, both in the form of advisers and ongoing consultations with the main actors of this process, aimed at the establishment of the new – United Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church (UCLOC), is impossible to miss.
The most recent consultations by three personalities, all of them, in one way or another, connected with the issue of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), was not lost on the editors of SPZ-website.
“On Monday, September 24, Petro Poroshenko arrived in the United States,” – the online publication wrote. “The official purpose of his visit is to attend a regular session of the UN General Assembly”. By a mere chance ”the Metropolitan” (he names himself – Patriarch) of Kiev – Filaret (Denisenko) and the Metropolitan of Vinnitsa and Barsky – Simeon (Shostatsky), both of whom are playing key roles in the ongoing process and vying for the head of the United Ukrainian Local Orthodox Church happened to be in the US.
Metropolitan Simeon went to the United States on September 20 at the invitation of the American clergy.
The self-proclaimed “Metropolitan” Filaret has been in US since September 14.
On September 18, he met with former US Vice President Joseph Biden, who calls himself an advocate of LGBT rights, and awarded him the ecclesiastical order of Prince Vladimir the Great, Second Degree.
A little later, Filaret thanked Ohio Senator Robert Portman, another defender of LGBT rights, for his “continued support of Ukraine” bestowing on him the same award.
In his September 19 speech at the Atlatnic Council think tank, which looked more like one made by a job seeker to his would-be employers than by a church leader, Filaret said that “we are grateful to the United States of America for supporting the Ecumenical Patriarch and his intention to give us Tomos on autocephaly.”
“We hope that the United States of America will help us complete our church effort,” he added.
Like we already mentioned before, Denisenko, who is absolutely disrespected by Orthodox Church primates, including (surprisingly as it may seem) the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, is the main stumbling block on the way to Tomos. However, this fact is completely ignored by Filaret who still hopes…
Simeon, Metropolitan of Vinnitsa and Barsky, stayed in the shadows until the very last moment. His godbrother in the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Jonathan (Yeletskih), the head of the Tulchin and Bratslav eparchy, spoke openly about Simeon’s participation in the creation of the UCLOS. Presiding over an emergency meeting on autocephaly on September 14, he issued a decree forbidding any contacts with representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate, and also named Metropolitan Simeon as the likely candidate for the head of the UCLOS.
Adding to Metropolitan Simeon’s chances of winning US support is the fact that, unlike Filaret, he is a canonical bishop of the canonical church. And, according to an analysis of recently obtained information, this fact is very important not only to the world Orthodox Churches, but above all, to Patriarch Bartholomew himself.
An article carried by the newspaper Kommersant sheds light on how the Ecumenical Patriarch wants to conduct and complete the procedure of granting autocephaly to the UOC-KP. An unnamed member of the Constantinople Patriarchate told the newspaper that “… Ukrainian hierarchs make a mistake hoping that Tomos will be granted to one of the non-recognized churches here. This will be a new structure: the hierarchs will be appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the parishioners of the Ukrainian churches, as well as the clergy, will have the opportunity to join the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church in unity with the Patriarchate of the Constantinople. ”
In other words, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been insisting that the Ukrainian Church cannot be in canonical subordination to the Russian Orthodox Church, since, allegedly, it is the Kiev Metropolis of the Constantinople Patriarchate. It also faults the UOC-MP for “shamelessly forgetting” the Mother Church of Constantinople, and is going to undo this “historical injustice that has developed over the centuries.”
The second step will apparently be bringing together under Constantinople’s hand the “lost” bishops and priests from all jurisdictions – both the canonical Church (here Metropolitan Simeon comes in just right!), and factious entities. Everyone will have to repent, both canonicals and impostors. Both are guilty of one terrible, yet forgivable, sin – they did not bow to the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Constantinople. Other sins just don’t matter.
The “repentant” convene a Council, which is named the winner and awarded with Tomos. Filaret is not among the winners because there is no place for the “patriarch” and the “Kiev patriarchy” in the new plans and no one cares about its future.
The remaining prize-winners, helped by the state, the “national battalions” and conscious citizens, start snapping up the churches, parishes and monasteries that remain loyal to the UOC_MP. Goodbye, Filaret, your mission is over. Long live the new Constantinople metropolis. The game is over.
Unfortunately, we have to admit that those who ordered the drama unfolding before our eyes firmly believe in the omnipotence of the “human factor”. It seems that, being pragmatists excluding the existence of the Heavenly Power, they don’t take into account the main factor – the existence of the Creator.
“The Lord cannot be mocked”. Therefore, the miserable end of this project is imminent even though if it may take some time coming.
First published in our partner International Affairs
The Swedish Church of Plaka
There were many clouds in the sky. The temperature was still hot enough for early October and I was walking hurriedly across the narrow streets of Plaka. Shortly before 15.00 pm I would ring the bell in the building of 18, Daidalou street. Looking up I would notice a Swedish and Finnish flag fluttering on the balcony of the first floor while at the door of the entrance I would see only a small inscription with the emblem of the official Church of Sweden — Svenska Kyrkan.
Going to the first floor, Rev’d’ Björn Kling would open the door. Coming in, I heard a mixture of Scandinavian languages while Björn is offering me a tea to start our conversation. Brigitta, who is responsible for the cafe of the Swedish Church, is giving me my brown sugar, smiling, while she is speaking her mother tongue on the phone.
Founding the Swedish Church
“The Swedish church has been established about 45 years ago and not even in Athens where we are now but in Piraeus. Originally, it was a branch of the Seamen’s Churches, part of a huge network. The thought behind it, was that all Scandinavian countries had a large number of men working in shipping, at sea. When they got to the harbor, they were all in a bad situation due to the harsh working conditions and there was no one to take care of them as their own people would do. Well, this role has come to be covered by the Swedish Church.” says Björn, sitting on the white couch.
But the time when the Swedish sailors were at sea was over and the Swedish Church had to change its role and mission. It was now there to help the Swedish truck drivers who were waiting to load and unload goods from the port of Piraeus. Due to time-consuming customs procedures, drivers waited in Piraeus for several days or weeks and the Church was there to help them and facilitate their stay.”
“Then we entered the era of the European Union and there were no customs and therefore no truck drivers. Our Church had to think very seriously about its raison d’être, its reason of existence. Why do we exist? Whom should we help?
From Piraeus to Athens
The needs were now shifted from Piraeus to the center of Athens. “There were quite a few Swedes and Scandinavians in Athens. Mainly women who married Greeks 30–40 years ago and settled here permanently. The need to find a common bond with their homeland again, to speak their language again and to pray in a church with memories from their childhood was more intense than ever.”
Based on this reasoning, the Church settled in this building 8–10 years ago. Access now is pretty easy and everyone can come. But who are they all?
“The truth is that we are a very small parish, and indeed a “poor” parish. At Easter, 60 people were in the mass, while in Sunday’s services we did not exceed 20 people. “
The average age of Swedes who are members of the Church is growing while younger generations do not come to the church.
“Our people here are growing up. Mobility impairs and diseases do not allow them to come to the church regularly. Also, many choose to return to Sweden because of the economic crisis. An even more important problem is that the descendants of these people, children and grandchildren, have nothing to do with Swedish culture and identity. Because of their daily life in Greece, they did not learn to speak Swedish and they have no contact with this country culturally, let alone religiously. “
While we are talking, I am hearing people arrive and coffee cups take their place in front of the coffee maker. Fika is called the habit of Swedes to take a break from everyday life to have coffee with friends while enjoying the cinnamon buns. Coincidentally, on the same day of the interview, October 4th in Sweden, they celebrate the National Day of Cinnamon Buns.
“As I told you, our parish here is quite poor. Of course, the Church supports us back to Sweden, but we have to face several challenges. That’s why I chose tbeing and serving abroad. Parishes abroad do not enjoy the advantages of parishes in Sweden such as huge, clean buildings, bureaucratic organization, several employees, etc. “
In my question about their activities as a parish, I would be happy to learn that there have been several things in the last two years. There is a children-youth choir and a youth club where it meets Wednesdays or Saturdays. “We study and discuss. We study mainly religious books, but we love the ancient Greek philosophers and ancient Greek mythology. Despite the odds, the Swedish church will celebrate with all the glory the Christian feasts as well as the Swedish traditions such as the tradition of Lucia — Lucia. The custom of Lucius is celebrated every year in St. Paul’s Anglican Church. We have an excellent collaboration with both the Anglican and all other Lutheran churches here.”
“Unfortunately, we would love to help even more actively to tackle social problems. We are not running our own programs to alleviate vulnerable social groups. Instead, we provide some sponsorship for some who know very well how to do it. First, we give an amount to the Non-Profit Organization APOSTOLI belonging to the Greek Orthodox Archbishopric. Then we give a support to a very worthwhile effort, ANASA. It is a school — circus where pupils either Greeks or refugees or immigrants learn acrobatics. It supports young people so that they can come out of the margin or do not get to the margin. They learn how to work together and how to acquire skills. We are interested in souls. Everyone will give a dish of food or do a medical examination. But who will care for these so tormented souls? “
Volunteers play a very important role in the parish’s actions. “Generally, we have quite a few volunteers. Mostly young volunteers from the Finnish church.”
A few months earlier, I would have noticed a new Finnish in Greece. She had just begun to work in the refugee on behalf of the Finn Church Aid, official organization of the Finnish church.
“But we also have paid staff for a few hours a week. Brigitta, Eva or Mari but also other women. They are employed for the cafe or the administrative part while there are two musicians. “
“Are you optimistic about the future of the parish in Greece?” I will ask with naivety. He has traveled with the church as a volunteer but also as a priest in places like Tanzania and Eritrea, Paris, Spain. His experiences marked him and shaped him.
“I grew up in a small town in northern Sweden. My parents were not particularly observant, but my friends and I were going to the church. It was a little normal for me to become a priest … “
“At first I went to a very small place of Sweden. I had awesome dreams and innovative ideas for a priest. I dreamt to create a football team, a volleyball team, etc. The people there taught me to make close relationships and learn each other.”
While we share our experiences from Sweden, I would tell him that I believe that the Swedes are not at all religious. “I think the Swedes are very Christian,” Bjorn told me. “And when I say Christians I mean they have, they maintain and they share Christian values. The negative is that it is now a polarized society where everyone is afraid of religion. Is he a Muslim? He is a terrorist. “
We close the interview and the last question I want to ask is about memories. A memory he will keep with him when he leaves Greece.
“I will never forget a feeling. How people feel when they speak their mother tongue again, when they pray and sing hymns that remind them of their childhood, when they find shelter and themselves in their memories.
You next cofee meeting can take place at the cafe of the Swedish Church: https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/grekland/cafe-paulusgarden (with Google translation you will also see the days and hours of operation). If you are interested in seeing a typical Sunday service in Swedish, you can be on Sunday at 18.00 at the Anglican Church of St. Paul in Filellinon. But where you will meet the original Swedish and Scandinavian culture will be in the annual Christmas Bazaar and the tradition of Lucia. To keep up with their news, follow them: https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/grekland & Facebook.
Achieving religious harmony in a world of fear and populism
This is a tough time for men and women of the cloth, at least those whose message is one of peace, tolerance, mutual respect, equality and inter-faith dialogue.
Underlying the rise of populism, nationalism, protectionism, fear of the other, anti-migrant and anti-foreigner sentiment, and hate speech is an erosion of the norms of debate. Articulation of hate speech has become permissible, if not fashionable. Often blunt and crude language employed by leaders, politicians and some people of the cloth help shape an environment in which civility has been lost.
Intolerant, racist and supremacist have risen in significance even in democratic societies that project themselves as open, tolerant guarantors of equal rights irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, religion, colour or sexuality. Suppressing those voices through laws and bans drives hate speech and racism underground, it doesn’t erase or eradicate it. Countering it with a message of tolerance and mutual respect won’t erase it either but can help shape an environment in which those principles become dominant again.
Let’s face it, prejudice is a fact of life. Its inbred in whatever culture each of us adheres to and whatever education at home and in schools that we have enjoyed, irrespective of how conservative or liberal our family and societal backgrounds are. We all were raised on implicit or more explicit notions that our culture is best or by implication other cultures are not as good.
In other words, prejudice is not the issue, its how we deal with it, how we manage it. The problem arises when we lose our sense of relativity, when we adopt an absolutist approach, the high way or no way. It arises when pluralism is thrown out the window and we abandon the notion that our world is populated by a multitude of equally valid faiths, worldviews and belief systems.
To quote Mahatma Gandhi, a deeply religious Hindu, who said in 1942: “I believe with my soul that the God of the Qur’an is also the God of Gita and that we are all, no matter by what name designated, children of the same God. My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonistic cultures… To ascent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God.”
In the battles in the late 1940s and 1950s over a proposed national ban in India on the slaughter of cows, Gandhi declared himself a worshipper of cows whom he regarded with the same veneration as he viewed his mother. Yet, Gandhi, went on to say that “the Hindu religion prohibits cow slaughter for the Hindus, not for the world. The religious prohibition comes from within. Any imposition from without means compulsion. Such compulsion is repugnant to religion.”
On a visit in 1942 to a German camp populated by Indian prisoners of war captured from the British during fighting in North Africa, Subhas Chandra Bose, a deeply religious leader of the Indian independence movement, reportedly warned inmates that “if you use religion to unite yourself today, you leave the door open for someone to divide you later using the same sentiments.”
Recent history validates Bose’s warning, not only in India and Pakistan, but across the globe expressed in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Shiism, just to name a few, as well as in conflicts, wars and brutal repression in places like Syria, Yemen and the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Many of you represent faiths with multiple sects, legal schools and interpretations – proof that your belief system in the narrow context of that system is open to multiple interpretation. Some of those interpretations may be intolerant, anti-pluralistic, supremacist. They too are a fact of life, like it or not. Countering them depends on the social environment one creates, a sphere within which men and women of the cloth have an important role to play as well. It is also a function of the social and economic policies implemented by governments.
Indeed, the key is not suppression, what is suppressed doesn’t go away, at best it goes into hibernation, only to re-emerge at some point in the future. The key is containment, communities and societies that make discriminatory, racist, supremacist expressions socially taboo. That key is not enforcement by force of law but by social custom and an environment in which those expressions are continuously challenged in public debate, social settings and individual encounters. I am not talking about political correctness that stifles debate.
Leaving aside those whose beliefs are absolute and intolerant of any other view, a majority of people gravitate towards the middle. It’s what some call moral shock or what former trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb dubbed black swans coupled with economic, social and societal uncertainty and political manipulation that drives people towards more literal, absolutist, intolerant beliefs.
It is those circumstances in which normally tolerant communities and societies become more amenable to those beliefs. It’s what allows men like Slobodan Milosevic or Bashar al-Assad to turn societies where inter-communal relations and inter-marriage were the norm into wastelands in which one community tries to exterminate the other.
Think of Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990s that seemingly transformed overnight from a beacon of harmony into a hell or the tensions in multiple countries ranging from Bahrain to Nigeria or the tenth parallel that journalist Elizabeth Rush aptly described as the fault line cutting across Africa and Asia between more strident forms of Islam and Christianity.
The last two decades have witnessed a renewed hardening of fault lines, not just ones between strands of Islam and Christianity, but across the board. This latest round started in 2001 with the moral shock of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington and subsequent attacks across Europe as well as in Asia and Africa that continue until today. 9/11 was the death knell of multi-culturalism and the cradle of the latest wave of Islamophobia and rising anti-Semitism.
The economic financial crisis of 2008/2009 with its decimating effect on the lower and middle classes, the flourishing of jihadism, the impact of heinous attacks close to home and the fear, a human being’s most irrational emotion, that generated the breeding ground for populism, nationalism, protectionism and the return to primordial, absolutist beliefs propagated by multiple sources, including men and women of the cloth.
To be sure, the groundwork for this pre-date 9/11, fuelled by some strands of Christianity, massive Saudi funding across the globe of ultra-conservative strains of Islam, and the use of religious intolerance by leaders and governments because it served a political purpose.
Pakistan illustrates what this can produce. The tolerant and live-let-live types live in a bubble, primarily in Pakistan’s three foremost cities, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The gravity of society has shifted towards intolerance, anti-pluralism and supremacism. Ultra-conservatism has been woven into the texture of segments of society and the culture of some institutions of the state. It is a world in which absolute truth rules supreme, discrimination based on an absolute truth is anchored into law, competence is determined not exclusively on the basis of merit but on what faith one adheres to, democratic freedoms are curtailed. Mob lynching becomes acceptable, violence against minorities the norm, and anti-blasphemy the tool.
It’s a trend that is not unique to Pakistan and not unique to the Muslim world. It is a trend that is nurtured by the rise of populism, nationalism, authoritarianism and autocracy visible across Western societies, the Muslim world and Israel, in other words irrespective of cultural-religious roots.
In most, if not all of these countries, significant segments of the population have no real stake in society. Intolerance, anti-pluralism, racism and supremacism fuel the perception of disenfranchisement and marginalization that often produces a sense of not having anything to lose. It is some combination of religious ultra-conservatism, exclusivist ethnic and nationalist sentiment, and lack of a stake that creates breeding grounds for militancy and extremism.
Men and women of the cloth working in Singapore are in many ways privileged. While Singapore regulates hate speech or expressions it believes would undermine harmony, it has been successful in ensuring that all segments of the population have a stake in society – perhaps the most important factor in combatting discrimination, racism and supremacism as well as militancy and extremism.
Singapore demonstrates messages of tolerance and inter-ethnic and inter-faith harmony can and will be heard in a political and social environment that fosters mutual respect and dialogue.
There is however one caveat. Peace and harmony in society requires peace and harmony at home. The divisions and animosity between different religions and ethnicities at large are reflected in divisions and animosity within faith groups.
Tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue starts in one’s own community and its message is as credible as one practices it without exception. That probably requires a redefinition of the concept of absolute truth. That’s a tough order, but no one claims that ensuring that a peaceful and harmonious existence and future would be easy. It also is a litmus test of one’s sincerity.
Edited version of remarks made at the Inter-Religious Organization Singapore, 1 October 2018
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