On March 23, 1943, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Damaskinos, signed his name on a letter addressed to the collaborationist Prime Minister K. Logothetopoulos. The letter, composed by the poet Angelos Sikelianos, was a courageous defense of the Greek Jews who were being rounded up and it was signed by other prominent Greek citizens. “The Greek people were rightfully surprised and deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community of Salonika to places beyond our national borders, and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland,” the archbishop wrote. “The grief of the Greek people is particularly deep … ” When the Germans continued with the deportations, Damaskinos called the police chief of Athens, Angelos Evert, to his office and told him, “I have taken up my cross. I spoke to the Lord, and made up my mind to save as many Jewish souls as possible.” (more…)
For us the rebirth of Russia is inextricably tied, first of all, with spiritual rebirth … and if Russia is the largest Orthodox power [pravoslavnaya dershava], then Greece and Athos are its source. —Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Mount Athos, September 2005.
Writing for the Carnegie Council, Nicolai N. Petro says that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “call for greater respect for traditional cultural and religious identities was either missed or ignored in the West. One reason, I suspect, is that it was couched in a language that Western elites no longer use.” Summary of his report:
For many analysts the term Russky mir, or Russian World, epitomizes an expansionist and messianic Russian foreign policy, the perverse intersection of the interests of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Little noted is that the term actually means something quite different for each party. For the state it is a tool for expanding Russia’s cultural and political influence, while for the Russian Orthodox Church it is a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus.
The close symphonic relationship between the Orthodox Church and state in Russia thus provides Russian foreign policy with a definable moral framework, one that, given its popularity, is likely to continue to shape the country’s policies well into the future.
More on Putinism: (more…)
A columnist for Al-Monitor who writes under the pseudonym Edward Dark visited Siryan Adeemeh, or Old Siryan, an elevated area in the regime-controlled west of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. Dark wanted to “gauge the sentiment” of this area, which he describes as a working-class neighborhood home to Christian Arabs of several denominations and also inhabited by a sizable Muslim and Kurdish population. “It’s one of the few areas of Aleppo where churches outnumber mosques, and communal relations had always been jovial and friendly, as could be seen while strolling its maze-like narrow streets, lined with markets, cafes, sandwich shops, bars and liquor stores,” Dark, a resident of Aleppo, recalls.
He interviews Abu Fadi, “a middle-aged man, tanned with silver hair and sharp dark eyes — a striking appearance to match his striking personality. He was the de facto mayor of his neighborhood, the go-to guy for news, stories and gossip, a figure much liked and respected by his Christian community and beyond.”
I asked him how he felt about the warring camps in Syria, whom he supports and why. He answered, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.” (more…)
“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan interviewed Iraqi Christians for a report that aired March 22. There will be a commercial embedded at the start off the video, but just get past it. Logan’s interview, and the images of the destruction wrought by ISIS, vividly illustrate what this persecution means for more than 125,000 of Iraq’s Christians who have abandoned homes, villages and churches in the face of this barbaric assault.
She interviewed Nicodemus Sharaf, archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, who was among 10,000 Christian who fled the city. He showed Logan an Aramaic manuscript that he said was written 500 years ago, one of hundreds of church manuscripts left behind when his community fled ISIS. “I think they burn all the books,” Sharaf said. “And we have books from the first century of the Christianity.”
You can read the entire transcript of the Logan report here.
In an important victory for religious liberty in Canada, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the government cannot force a private Catholic high school to teach a government-mandated ethics and religion course that includes teaching contrary to Catholic belief.
An attorney working with the Alliance Defending Freedom International filed a brief last year with the high court in defense of the school after the court granted them the right to intervene in defense of the school’s freedom of religion and conscience. Commenting on the decision, Alliance Defending Freedom notes:
In the fall of 2014, business people, scholars, and theologians converged on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Symposium on Common Grace in Business. The event was conceived and co-sponsored by the Calvin business department and the Acton Institute as a way of highlighting Abraham Kuyper’s theological work on common grace – the grace God extends to everyone that enables him or her to do good – to the business world. The gathering was also a celebration of Acton’s translation and publication in English of volume one of Kuyper’s seminal three-volume work on common grace (De Gemeene Gratie).
We’re leading this Winter 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty with a roundtable discussion by three prominent business people who discuss how common grace has a direct, and transformative, application in their workaday lives.
Also in this issue, Ray Nothstine reviews Thomas C. Oden’s autobiography A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. The book chronicles how one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated liberals made a dramatic turn away from pacifism, ecumenism and psychotherapy toward the great minds of ancient Christianity.
Critics of the market economy often say it inevitably leads to Black Friday stampedes and gross materialism. We counter with an excerpt from Rev. Gregory Jensen’s forthcoming Acton monograph The Cure for Consumerism. (more…)
A Pentecostal chaplain once assigned to elite Navy SEAL units may be kicked out of the Navy for allegedly scolding sailors for homosexuality and premarital sex, reports the Military Times.
Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder was given a “detachment for cause” letter on Feb. 17 after his commanders concluded that he is “intolerant” and “unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of his current assignment at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina.
Modder denies any wrongdoing and is fighting the dismissal with attorneys from the Liberty Institute, which advocates for religious expression in the military and in public institutions. Modder has served more than 19 years and could lose his retirement benefits if the Navy convenes a board of inquiry and officially separate him before he completes 20 years of service.
Christianne Witten, a spokeswoman for the Navy Chaplain Corps, said Modder has been temporarily reassigned to Naval Support Activity Charleston as one of the staff chaplains while Navy Personnel Command officials review the detachment for cause action. In addition, the Pentagon released a statement to Fox News that says:
In the Middle East, the Islamic State is crucifying Christians and demolishing ancient churches, write Bethany Allen-ebrahimian and Yochi Dreazen at Foreign Policy. Why is this being met with silence from the halls of Congress to Sunday sermons?
Every holiday season, politicians in America take to the airwaves to rail against a so-called “war on Christmas” or “war on Easter,” pointing to things like major retailers wishing shoppers generic “happy holidays.” But on the subject of the Middle East, where an actual war on Christians is in full swing, those same voices are silent. A push to use American aircraft to shield the areas of Iraq where Christians have fled has gone nowhere. Legislation that would fast-track visa applications from Christians looking to leave for the United States never even came up for a vote. The White House, meanwhile, won’t say if or when it will fill the special envoy position.
“It’s been difficult to get the attention of the previous administration, or the current one, when it comes to the urgent need to act,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, the California Democrat who drafted the visa legislation. “The classic definition of genocide is the complete annihilation of a group of people. The Islamic State is well on its way. It keeps me up at night.”
In today’s Christian Post, Breakpoint’s John Stonestreet says it is “bogus” to claim “others have it worse” when it comes to religious persecution as a way of denying claims of the loss of religious liberty here in the West.
Now, let me first state the obvious: Nothing happening here or elsewhere in the West can remotely be compared to what Christians in the Islamic world undergo on a daily basis. Our first and second response should be to pray for them, and our third response should be to do whatever we can to draw attention to their plight.
At the same time, as Rod Dreher has helpfully pointed out, the ‘people in this country who fear and loathe Christians’ are not beneath using what happened in Libya as an ‘argument-ender’ when Christians complain about infringements on religious freedom. Their response is in essence, ‘Get back to me when they’re chopping Christian heads off in Times Square, then we’ll talk.
Earlier today the Supreme Court threw out an appeals court decision that went against the University of Notre Dame over its religious objections to the Obamacare health law’s contraception requirement.
Last summer the high court ruled that Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd could, on religious grounds, seek exemptions from the contraception provision. Because this case, Notre Dame v. Burwell, was the only appeals court decision on the issue that pre-dated that ruling, the Supreme Court sent it back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision ruling in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling.
Until now, Notre Dame was the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the federal government has relied heavily on the decision against Notre Dame in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. The government fought hard to prevent this GVR, but the Supreme Court rejected their arguments.”