Κυριακή 30 Απριλίου 2017

Third Sunday of Pascha: Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers (&: Mothers conference in Orthodox Diocese of Kisumu, Kenya)

"The true mothers of the church" (photo from here)

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America


The third Sunday of Holy Pascha is observed by the Orthodox Church as the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers. The day commemorates when the women disciples of our Lord came to the tomb to anoint his body with myrrh-oils but found the tomb empty. As the woman wondered what this meant, angels appeared proclaiming that Christ had risen from the dead.

Biblical Story 

About the beginning of His thirty-second year, when the Lord Jesus was going throughout Galilee, preaching and working miracles, many women who had received of His beneficence left their own homeland and from then on followed after Him. They ministered unto Him out of their own possessions, even until His crucifixion and entombment; and afterwards, neither losing faith in Him after His death, nor fearing the wrath of the Jewish rulers, they came to His sepulcher, bearing the myrrh-oils they had prepared to anoint His body. It is because of the myrrh-oils that these God-loving women brought to the tomb of Jesus that they are called Myrrh-bearers.
Of those whose names are known are the following: first of all, the most holy Virgin Mary, who in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 is called "the mother of James and Joses" (these are the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, and she was therefore their step-mother); Mary Magdalene (celebrated July 22); Mary, the wife of Clopas; Joanna, wife of Chouza, a steward of Herod Antipas; Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee; Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus; and Susanna. As for the names of the rest of them, the evangelists have kept silence (Matthew 217:55-56; 28:1-10. Mark 15:40-41.
Luke 8:1-3; 23:55-24:11, 22-24. John 19:25; 20:11-18. Acts 1:14.) Together with them we celebrate also the secret disciples of the Savior, Joseph and Nicodemus. Of these, Nicodemus was probably a Jerusalemite, a prominent leader among the Jews and of the order of the Pharisees, learned in the Law and instructed in the Holy Scriptures. He had believed in Christ when, at the beginning of our Savior's preaching of salvation, he came to Him by night. Furthermore, he brought some one hundred pounds of myrrh-oils and an aromatic mixture of aloes and spices out of reverence for the divine Teacher (John 19:39). Joseph, who was from the city of Arimathea, was a wealthy and noble man, and one of the counselors who were in Jerusalem. He went bodly unto Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and together with Nicodemus he gave Him burial. Since time did not permit the preparation of another tomb, he placed the Lord's body in his own tomb which was hewn out of rock, as the Evangelist says (Matthew 27:60).

Icon of the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers 

The icon of the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers depicts the biblical story of the women arriving at the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. The angel is seated upon the stone that covered the tomb, and he is pointing to the empty garments showing that Christ has risen from the dead.

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers 

The Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. On this Sunday and throughout the Paschal period until the Apodosis or leave-taking of Pascha, the day before the Feast of the Ascension, the services begin with the chanting of the troparion of Pascha, "Christ is risen..."
Scripture readings for the feast are the following: At Orthros: Luke 24:1-12; At the Divine Liturgy: Acts 6:1-7 and Mark 15:43-16:8.

Hymns of The Feast

Apolytikia (Second Tone) 

When You did descend unto death, O Life Immortal, then did You slay Hades with the lightening of Your Divinity. And when You did also raise the dead out of the nethermost depths, all the power in the Heavens cried out: O Life-giver, Christ our God, glory be to You. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. The noble Joseph, taking Your immaculate body down from the Tree, and having wrapped it in pure linen and spices, laid it for burial in a new tomb. But on the third day You did arise, O Lord, granting great mercy to the world. Now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Unto the myrrh-bearing women did the Angel cry out as he stood by the grave: Myrrh-oils are meet for the dead, but Christ has proved to be a stranger to corruption. But cry out: The Lord is risen, granting great mercy to the world.

Kontakion (Second Tone) 

When You did cry, Rejoice, unto the Myrrh-bearers, You did make the lamentation of Eve the first mother to cease by Your Resurrection, O Christ God. And You did bid Your Apostles to preach: The Savior is risen from the grave.

Icon of the Myrrhbearning Women provided by Theologic and used with permission.

Mothers conference in Orthodox Diocese of Kisumu, Kenya.

From here: With the blessings of H. G. Bishop Athanasius of Kisumu I hereby announce the Diocesan mothers Seminor that will be held in kakamega Vicarage Bukura from 26th -30th April 2017.
THEME: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:16. We shall have facilitator from within and U.S.A. Welcome all.

The mothers Seminor at Bukura is still on the turn up was so great that they could not take sessions in the hall rather in the field and tents .So wonderful and encouraging. Many years your Grace for your spiritual guidance to the mothers [from here].

The 3rd day of the mothers Seminor in Kakamega. It has been a great fun and spiritual warfare. Blessed mothers [from here].

Vihiga vicarage presentation at the kakamega Seminor.

See video here!

Today (Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers 2017, April 30) being the last Day of the mothers Seminor in Kakamega it was all amazing. The true mothers of the church. Had wonderful facilitators and committed Rev. Frs with the blessings of H. G.Bishop Athanasius of Kisumu. All was success [from here].


Bishop Athanasius of Kisumu in St. Mark Orthodox Health Centre with him is the Nurse. On 19th April 2017 (here).

Please, see also

The African Woman & the role of Woman in Orthodox Church: she must become the light of the world 
“Christ is the hope of the Africans” : A spiritual Odyssey in Tanzania  
Mother of God (Virgin Mary), Orthodox Church and African peoples
Male and Female Created He Them 
Orthodox Women Saints
Union of Orthodox Church Mothers in Uganda  
When the Orthodox Church celebrates pregnancy...  

Oppression of Women in Africa
The Worst Place to Be a Woman!...
African Women (tag)

Orthodox Kenya (tag)
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
How “White” is the Orthodox Church?
Natives Africans bishops in the Orthodox Church
"THE WAY" - An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life

Σάββατο 29 Απριλίου 2017

Patriarche Bartholomée : «La religion, élément clé du processus de paix»


Le patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée I,  a prononcé son discours »La religion, élément clé du processus de paix » à l’occasion de la Conférence mondiale sur la paix d’al-Azhar qui s’est déroulée les 27 et 28 avril 2017 au Caire.
 « Religions et paix »

Conférence mondiale de la paix du Conseil des Aînés d’Al-Azhar et des Musulmans
Le Caire, le 27 avril 2017

Vos Béatitudes, Éminences, Excellences,
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Chers amis,
C’est un honneur d’être invité à prendre la parole à cette Conférence sur la paix mondiale organisée par Al-Azhar et le Conseil musulman des Aînés. Nous félicitons sincèrement Son Eminence, M. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam d’Al-Azhar, d’avoir eu le courage et la vision d’organiser cette initiative cruciale pour la promotion de la paix par les religions.
Au cours des deux dernières décennies, l’humanité a connu des attaques terroristes continues, qui sont à l’origine de la mort et des blessures de milliers de personnes, et qui deviennent la plus grande menace et source de peur pour les sociétés contemporaines. Depuis lors, les religions ont souvent été soupçonnées ou ouvertement accusées d’avoir inspiré le terrorisme et la violence. Notre vie quotidienne s’est remplie d’horribles nouvelles sur les attaques terroristes au nom de la religion.
Dans le même temps, nous constatons la volonté de notre monde de promouvoir le dialogue au lieu des conflits et la capacité à le faire. Cela est vrai non seulement pour les dirigeants politiques et les organisations laïques, mais aussi pour les dirigeants religieux et les institutions qui se sont montrés prêts à s’engager dans un dialogue de paix au niveau local et international, afin d’assurer une coexistence pacifique et une collaboration entre les gens.

Comment, après tant de conférences, de déclarations et d’initiatives pour la paix, pouvons-nous être témoins d’une augmentation de la violence, au lieu de remarquer un progrès dans la paix ? Comment la communauté mondiale peut-elle justifier les derniers actes terroristes de Paris, Bruxelles, Istanbul, Saint-Pétersbourg ou Stockholm ? Comment expliquer les guerres en cours, les conflits armés et les effusions de sang au Moyen-Orient ? Comment pouvons-nous accepter les attaques dans les églises coptes de Tanta et d’Alexandrie il y a environ deux semaines ? Permettez-nous d’exprimer encore une fois à la communauté copte et à tout le peuple égyptien nos sincères condoléances et les prières du Patriarcat œcuménique.
Afin de comprendre ce qui se passe dans notre monde d’aujourd’hui, réfléchissons sur le rôle de la religion dans l’humanité. Paradoxalement, au lieu de l’attente moderniste d’un ‘âge laïque post religieux’, notre époque devient en fait une ‘période post-laïque’ ou même une période d’ ‘explosion religieuse’. La religion apparaît comme une dimension centrale de la vie humaine, tant au niveau personnel que social. Elle revendique un rôle public et participe à tous les discours contemporains centraux.
Les fonctions cruciales de la religion sont évidentes dans les quatre domaines suivants de l’existence humaine et de la coexistence :
  1. La religion est liée aux préoccupations profondes de l’être humain. Elle fournit des réponses à des questions existentielles cruciales, donnant l’orientation et le sens de la vie. La religion ouvre aux êtres humains la dimension de l’éternité et la profondeur de la vérité.
  2. La religion est liée à l’identité des peuples et des civilisations. C’est pourquoi la connaissance de la croyance et de la religion de l’autre est une condition préalable indispensable à la compréhension de l’altérité et à l’établissement du dialogue.
  3. La religion a créé et conservé les plus grandes réalisations culturelles de l’humanité, les valeurs morales essentielles, la solidarité et la compassion, ainsi que le respect de toute la création.
  4. La religion est un facteur vital dans le processus de paix. Comme saint Paul l’a écrit autrefois : « Dieu n’est pas un dieu de désordre mais de la paix » (1 Co 14,33). La religion peut, bien sûr, diviser en provoquant l’intolérance et la violence. Mais c’est plutôt là son échec, et non son essence qui consiste en la protection de la dignité humaine.
Malheureusement, notre monde contemporain est marqué soit par le relativisme – profondément lié à la laïcité – soit par le fondamentalisme, que beaucoup considèrent comme une réaction au premier. En effet, le fondamentalisme se considère souvent comme menacé ou même persécuté par le relativisme. Alors que ce dernier nie l’existence de la vérité, l’intégrisme considère que sa propre vérité est unique et doit donc être imposée aux autres, ce qui rend impossible à la religion de servir de pont entre les êtres humains. Dans l’histoire récente, le phénomène du nationalisme et du post-colonialisme a transformé l’extrémisme et l’intégrisme religieux en une simple idéologie, utilisée à des fins politiques.

Malheureusement, l’éclatement continu du fondamentalisme religieux et des actes de violence terribles au nom de la religion, donnent aux critiques modernes de la foi religieuse des arguments contre la foi et appuient l’identification de la religion avec ses aspects négatifs. La vérité est que la violence est la négation des croyances religieuses fondamentales et de la doctrine. La vraie foi ne libère pas les humains d’être responsables du monde, de respecter la dignité humaine et de lutter pour la justice et la paix. Au contraire, elle renforce l’engagement de l’action humaine, elle élargit notre témoignage pour la liberté et les valeurs fondamentales humaines.
La région méditerranéenne a connu dans le passé, pendant plusieurs siècles, une cohabitation pacifique de juifs, de chrétiens et de musulmans. Cette expérience démontre que les personnes de différentes religions peuvent vivre ensemble, en trouvant le message le plus fondamental pour l’humanité qui unit, au lieu d’être une source de division. Cela montre que les religions peuvent servir de ponts entre les gens, d’instruments de paix et de compréhension mutuelle, de tolérance entre les êtres humains et de dialogue interreligieux.

Le patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée avec le Patriarche d'Alexandrie et de toute l'Afrique Theodoros, Caire (ici).

Pour cette raison, le dialogue interreligieux reconnaît les différences des traditions religieuses et favorise la coexistence pacifique et la coopération entre les personnes et les cultures. Le dialogue interreligieux ne veut pas nier sa propre foi, mais plutôt changer son esprit ou son attitude envers l’autre. Il peut aussi guérir et balayer les préjugés et contribuer à une compréhension mutuelle et à la résolution pacifique des conflits. Les partis pris et les préjugés proviennent d’une fausse représentation de la religion. Par notre présence aujourd’hui, lors de cette importante conférence, nous voulons nous opposer à au moins un préjugé : l’islam n’est pas égal au terrorisme, car le terrorisme est étranger à toute religion. C’est pourquoi le dialogue interreligieux peut chasser la peur et le soupçon. Il est central pour la paix, mais seulement dans un esprit de confiance et de respect mutuels.
En juin dernier, nous avons eu le privilège de présider le Saint et Grand Conseil de l’Église orthodoxe à travers le monde, réunis en Grèce, sur l’île de Crète. Parmi plusieurs questions, le Conseil a rejeté et condamné l’intégrisme. Son encyclique souligne que, malheureusement, nous faisons aujourd’hui l’expérience d’une augmentation de la violence au nom de Dieu. Les explosions du fondamentalisme au sein des communautés religieuses menacent de faire penser que le fondamentalisme appartient à l’essence du phénomène de la religion.

La vérité, cependant, est que le fondamentalisme, comme « zèle que n’éclaire pas la pleine connaissance » (Rom 10.2), constitue l’expression d’une religiosité morbide ». En outre, le Conseil a souligné qu’ « un dialogue interreligieux honnête contribue au développement de la confiance mutuelle et à la promotion de la paix et de la réconciliation. (…) La vraie paix n’est pas atteinte par la force des armes, mais seulement par l’amour qui « ne recherche pas son intérêt » (1 Cor 13,5). L’huile de foi doit être utilisée pour calmer et soigner les blessures des autres, et non pour rallumer de nouveaux feux de haine » (Encyclique, 17).
La crédibilité des religions dépend aujourd’hui de leur attitude à l’égard de la protection de la liberté et de la dignité de l’homme, ainsi que de leur contribution à la paix. C’est la présupposition non seulement de la coexistence pacifique, mais aussi de la survie pure de l’humanité. Nous ne pouvons affronter ces défis que tous ensemble. Personne – pas une nation, pas un État, pas une religion, ni la science ni la technologie – ne peut affronter les problèmes actuels. Nous avons besoin les uns des autres ; nous avons besoin d’une mobilisation commune, d’efforts communs, d’objectifs communs, d’un esprit commun.
Par conséquent, nous considérons la crise aux multiples facettes actuelle comme une opportunité pour pratiquer la solidarité, pour le dialogue et la coopération, pour l’ouverture et la confiance. Notre avenir est commun, et la voie vers cet avenir est un voyage commun. Comme il est écrit dans les psaumes : « Oui, il est bon, il est doux pour des frères de vivre ensemble et d’être unis ! » (Psaume 132,1).

Votre Éminence le Grand Imam,
Chers participants
Nous croyons profondément que la contribution des religions demeure cruciale dans notre recherche commune de la paix sur terre. Elle est précieuse car, pour les religions, la vraie paix dans le monde n’est pas simplement l’absence de guerre, mais essentiellement la présence de la liberté, de la justice et de la solidarité. Ce qui est nécessaire pour la religion, c’est de guider les gens à la profondeur de cette vérité, à un changement d’esprit et de vie et à la compréhension mutuelle. C’est en effet le cœur de nos traditions religieuses. Pour cette raison, l’humanité a le droit d’attendre de nous plus que ce que nous donnons effectivement. C’est le plus grand défi pour les religions : développer leurs propres potentiels d’amour, de solidarité et de compassion. C’est ce que l’humanité attend profondément de la religion aujourd’hui.
Je vous remercie de votre aimable attention !

Voir aussi

Παρασκευή 28 Απριλίου 2017

A Christian perspective on Islam

"...When we as Christians meet Muslims and try to understand them, we should not forget that many of them are genuine worshipers who serve their God with dedication. We Christians should never despise their deep aspirations, but should love and respect every Muslim who sincerely worships Allah.
This, however, does not absolve us from the obligation to seek the truth about Islam. Our respect for Muslims leads us to compare the Qur’an and the New Testament, which for us is the only standard of truth. If one compares the 99 names of Allah in Islam with the names of God in the Bible, one must acknowledge that the Allah of the Muslims is not in harmony with our God. If someone says, “Your God and Islam’s God are the same,” he does not understand who Allah and Christ really are, or glosses over the deeply rooted differences..."

Icon from here
The author, a member of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship living in Britain, prefers to remain anonymous. His homeland is a country with a Muslim majority.

Not much time has passed since Europe was last in danger of being overrun by Islam. In 1453, Constantinople, the Eastern bulwark of Christianity, was captured by the Ottomans. In1529 and again in 1683 the Turks stood at the gates of Vienna. The struggle to free Belgrade lasted almost 200 years, and it was only a short time before the First World War that the last Balkan countries were able to free themselves from the Ottoman rule. It is naive, however, to assume that Islam and Christianity were wrestling with each other in that region for six hundred years. The fact is that empires are not built on any religion but on economic and military powers. Christianity and Islam both became servants of empire, the first of the Roman Empire and the second of the Ottoman Empire.
Many Christians have forgotten that Syria and North Africa were once the heartland of the Christian world, but were overrun and fell under Arab control during the first Islamic invasions between 632 and 732 AD. Arab armies swept into Europe and stood within 200 kilometers south of Paris, and near Geneva, too. If Charles Martel had not stood firm, we might all be Muslims today.
Again many Christians are pondering the questions: What is Islam? Who is Allah? What relationship does Allah have to Jesus Christ and his Church?

Allah in the Thought and Lives of Muslims

A Muslim’s relationship to Allah can be seen in the five daily prayers, which belong to the five pillars of Islam. “Islam” means surrender, submission or subjugation.
If it were possible to watch from space, we could see the prayer ritual of Islam sweeping across our globe like a mighty wave five times a day, as millions of Muslims bow to the ground in worship. At dawn, as soon as one can distinguish between a white and a black thread, the prayer of the Muslim begins in the Philippines. The first wave of worship surges over Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, then Iran and Turkey. Finally it reaches Europe, at which time the second wave of worship begins at noon for the Muslims in China. This new wave will have reached India and the forty-five million Muslims in Central Asia just as a third wave will have started at 3 p.m. for afternoon prayers in the Far East. These three waves of worship follow each other successively, molding and determining life under the Islamic culture. Then, as dawn is breaking on the East Coast of America with its Morning Prayer, Muslims in the Nile Valley are bowing down in the heat of noon prayer and in Pakistan men are gathering in their mosques for afternoon prayer. When the final wave of the Muslim night prayer begins in the Far East two hours after sunset, the rays of the setting sun touch the worshipers in the Ganges Delta, while pilgrims in Mecca bow down for afternoon prayer before the black stone in the Ka’ba. At that moment the second prayer wave has already reached faithful Muslims in the high Atlas Mountains in Morocco, while the first wave breaks with the early morning dawn in the Rocky Mountains of America.

These five waves of prayer unite millions of Muslims in worship. Many Muslims pray earnestly, disciplining themselves by repeating their prayers 17 times a day. Early in the morning, the Muezzins call from the minarets: “Arise to prayer! Arise to success! Prayer is better then sleep!” Everyone who serves Allah hopes to receive a reward from him. Muslims thank Allah because he has already granted faith, which leads them to pray and keep the law in order to have the goodwill of Allah bestowed upon them.
Islam, then, is a religion based on keeping the Law of God. Prayer is an obligation. In Saudi Arabia a visitor may observe policemen forcing passers-by into mosques during the prayer times, so that the wrath of Allah may not descend on the country because of neglected prayer.
There is also in Islam a deep longing for purity. Before each prayer time, every Muslim performs a compulsory ablution — the washing of hands, arms, feet, mouth, face and hair. Those who know something of Judaism will see the parallel with the Pharisaic ablutions. Everyone must be clean before entering Allah’s presence to pray.
A sentence from the al-Fatiha in the main prayer for all Muslims reads, “Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom thou hast blessed, not of those against whom thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray,” a cry expressing the desire for guidance and a total dependence on Allah. A Christian cannot deny the faithful intent of Muslims to serve God. On the contrary, their discipline, sincerity and consistency in praying can be an example to us. Without a doubt, every true Muslim desires to serve God with all his heart. He calls on Allah in his prayers; he wants to honor him; he fights for him and submits his entire being to him.

The Beautiful Names of Allah

“Allah” is the Semitic name of God which comes originally from El, Eloh and Elohem. What is the Muslim concept of Allah? Whom do they worship? In his struggle against polytheism, Muhammad waged a merciless campaign against all gods, idols and images. His outcry was: “Allah is One! All other gods are nothing!” He had accepted the basic monotheistic faith of the Jews who were living in the Arabian Peninsula after being exiled from their homeland by the Romans. Influenced by them, Muhammad freed the Arab world from idolatry. The first half of the Islamic creed makes a sharp distinction between the Oneness of God and the claims of religions and magical cults which teach that other gods exist. Millions of Muslims confess daily, “There is no god save Allah!” as the core of the Islamic faith. Any theological assertion that contradicts this is rejected without question.
Muhammad not only testified to Allah’s uniqueness, but described him with many names:. Islamic theologians have systematized all his statements into “the 99 most beautiful names of Allah”. Sorting through these names of Allah according to their significance and frequency, moves us closer to the heart of Islam. Allah is the Omniscient One with infinite wisdom who hears all and sees all, understands all and encompasses everything. He both builds up and destroys. He is the exalted one above everything, great and immeasurable, magnificent and almighty, without equal. He is the living one, ever-existing, unending, everlasting, the first and the last, the one and the only one, the incomparably beautiful one. He is praiseworthy and excellent, the holy one, light and peace. He is the true reality and the foundation of everything, who created everything out of nothing by the strength of his word. He brought everything into being, and to him we shall all return. He creates life and causes death (Sura al-A`raf 7:44; note that Eastern Christianity does not accept that God created death). He will raise the dead and unite the universe. Allah is the sovereign lord and king to whom the universe belongs. He saves whom he wills and condemns whom he wishes. Above all, Allah is called the compassionate and merciful one, and yet he is also the avenger. He has recorded everything and will be the incorruptible and indisputable witness on the day of judgement.

The authority of Allah may open the door to success or lock it. Nothing takes place without his will. He has no need of any mediator. Everything depends directly on him. He is also benevolent and patient, faithful and kind to Muslims, the giver of all gifts. From him alone comes provision for all mankind. He who possesses everything makes people wealthy and protects all who glorify him. He is guardian over all who worship him. Allah acknowledges those who repent, and forgives because he is the forgiving one. He is gracious toward Muslims.
Often, the names of Allah are ascribed to him in a spirit of wishful thinking rather than confident faith. The more oppressive attributes create fear and drive people to do everything possible to keep the law. Poverty and illness are regarded as signs of Allah’s wrath for secret sins. By the same token, riches, success and esteem in Muslim society are taken as indications of favor. Some Muslims say, “Because we have remained faithful to Allah for 1300 years, he has rewarded us with the oil.”
The wealth of the divine names of God can be discovered only in Sufism. Ordinary Muslims accept that Allah cannot be proved to exist, or described. One can only sense him through experience. A pious Muslim confirms his faith that God is beyond our understanding by the common words, “Allahu akbar! God is great!” This statement, repeated millions of times each day, is an abridged form of the Islamic creed. With this testimony Khomeini’s revolutionary guards ran blindly into mine fields knowing they would be torn to shreds. Yet it is not a complete sentence. Its literal meaning is “Allah is greater!” Every listener should complete the thought: Allah is wiser than all philosophers, more beautiful than the most fascinating view, stronger than all atomic and hydrogen bombs together, and greater than anything we know. Allah is the unique, and inexplicable one — the remote, vast and unknown God. Everything we may think about him is incomplete, if not wrong. Allah cannot be comprehended. He comprehends us. We are slaves who have only the privilege to worship him in fear.
Islam stands for renunciation of the rationalism that prevails in Europe and America. For a long time it was the characteristic of Islamic theology that Allah could not be described philosophically. Understanding this brings us to a crucial statement expressed by the Islamic theologian al-Ghazali, who meditated at length on the ninety-nine excellent names of God. He wrote that these names can mean everything and yet nothing. One name of Allah can negate another and the content of one may be included in the next. No one can understand Allah, so devout believers can only worship this unknown God and live before him in fear and reverence, observing all his laws in strict obedience.

Islam — a theocentric culture

What are the practical consequences of such an understanding for the daily life of a Muslim? The image of a great, all-embracing Lord has conditioned the home, education, work and politics. “Show me your God and I will explain to you why you live as you do.” Similarly Genesis tells us, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” (1:27 ) This means that the concept of God is the pattern and measure of the culture associated with it.
In Islam, the father of the family is not an equal partner with his wife, but the patriarch of the house, holding all rights and authority. The children belong to him alone. He supplies provisions and grants no insight into his financial situation. His wife is not necessarily a life-time companion with equal rights, but often just a means of satisfying his physical desires, sometimes merely a baby factory. There are exceptions, of course, where noble and sensitive Arabs open themselves to the influence of world-wide humanism or where some resolute wives exert influence over their husbands. Christendom has also influenced Arab customs to some extent. In general, however, Islam is a man’s world where women must stay in the background, not seen in mosques, coffee bars, or public life. Khomeini in particular used the resurgence of Islam to reduce women to medieval subjection.
In schools, too, until a few years ago, the teacher gave instruction like a patriarch, ruling over his pupils and forcing the lessons down their throats. Any pupil who could not fully repeat the subject matter was punished. The main goals of education in many Islamic schools are not understanding, individual thinking and development of character, but acceptance and conformity. This is closely associated with the concept of thought in the Islamic religion, since a Muslim is forbidden to think critically about the Qur’an. He must accept it and memorize it. Being thus filled with the spirit of Islam, he walks in accordance with Allah’s law in his daily life. (How many Christians know even one of the Gospels by heart? Yet many Muslims have mastered the whole of the Qur’an.)
The forms of educational instruction and thought in Islam are based upon the picture of Allah given by Muhammad. A person is not guided to become active and responsible, but to submit himself passively to his fate. This is why Muslim emotions often flare up uncontrollably, for their entire education amounts to a submission of will and integration into an Allah-centered society. Again, in politics, democracy does not appear as the best model for social organization. Rather Allah, the king and lord over all, is the unconscious pattern for many sultans and dictators. The strong man who swept away corruption with an iron hand, who brought renown to Islam, has always been admired. (In Arab schools one can find children with such unusual first names as Bismarck, Stalin, de Gaulle and Nasser, because the parents wish and hope that there will be a glorious future for their offspring in the spirit of such historic personalities.) Complaisance and compromise mean weakness and incompetence.

It is not surprising, then, that Nasser and Khomeini were the dominating figures in the Near East. While Nasser attempted to combine an Arab socialism with Islam in order to meet the attack of atheistic communism, Khomeini trod a still more radical path by attempting to establish the kingdom of Allah on earth in Shi’ite countries. The ultimate aim of Khomeini’s revolution was not merely the removal of the shah or the elimination of Christian, capitalistic or communistic principles from among his people, but the reinstatement of an Islamic theocracy in which Allah prevailed in every area of life. This brought a “mullah state” into existence, where more people were killed in a few years in the name of Allah and Islam than during the long reign of the shah. Enemies of the Islamic revolution were no longer even regarded as people. Khomeini himself declared, “In Persia no people have been killed so far — only beasts!”
As the Islamic spirit cannot tolerate any other gods beside Allah, Islam will find no rest until all people have become Muslims. This mission-consciousness is based on the Islamic confession of faith which states that “there is no God except Allah.” Thus there can be no real peace on earth except through Islam.
We must confess, however, that Christians Crusaders who came to the Near East left behind them a trail of blood, engraving on the consciousness of Muslims the image of Christians as aggressive militants. Yet all “holy wars” are in direct conflict with the teaching of Jesus, who said, “Do not resist evil! Put your sword away! Love your enemies!” Christ never commanded his followers to fight in religious wars; rather, he forbade them any demonstration of violence. Muhammad, on the other hand, repeatedly fought in person alongside his fighters until they conquered Mecca and the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. The spread of Islam is based on the sword, holy war being considered a direct command of Allah. This is why there is still in Islam the potential for holy war. (Sura al-Baqara 2:245). In Islam, there is no separation between throne and altar, between politics and religion. Mosques are often the starting point for political upheaval. Friday sermons are not confined to the fostering of faith and spiritual life, but may stir up the people for political conflict in the name of Allah.
According to the Islamic portrayal of Allah, nothing exists outside the province of his omnipotence, and anyone not surrendering voluntarily must be brought into subjection either by cunning strategy, economic persuasion or revolutionary force. Islam demands surrender of all areas of life to Allah’s spirit and the Qur’an’s control over all thought and conduct. Bedouin tribes once said to Muhammad, “We believe in Allah ” But he replied, “You have not believed until you say, ‘We have submitted ‘”
Islam cannot compromise with any “isms” for any period of time. As its history unfolded, strong impulses repeatedly flowed out of the Qur’an, which overcame ideas and concepts that had penetrated the Islamic culture from Europe, Persia and India, resulting in an all-pervading legalistic religion. The ultimate aim was nothing less than the establishment of Allah’s kingdom on our earth.

Allah in the Light of the Christian Faith

Islam has recovered much ground and expanded in the last ten years, making a substantial thrust into the cultures of Christianity, Hinduism, communism and the African cults. When we as Christians meet Muslims and try to understand them, we should not forget that many of them are genuine worshipers who serve their God with dedication. We Christians should never despise their deep aspirations, but should love and respect every Muslim who sincerely worships Allah.
This, however, does not absolve us from the obligation to seek the truth about Islam. Our respect for Muslims leads us to compare the Qur’an and the New Testament, which for us is the only standard of truth. If one compares the 99 names of Allah in Islam with the names of God in the Bible, one must acknowledge that the Allah of the Muslims is not in harmony with our God. If someone says, “Your God and Islam’s God are the same,” he does not understand who Allah and Christ really are, or glosses over the deeply rooted differences.

Allah — No Trinity

In the Arabic language, the name Allah can be understood as a sentence: al-el-hu. ‘El’ is an old Semitic name for God meaning ‘the strong and mighty’. The Islamic name, Allah, corresponds to the Hebrew name Elohim. Although the Hebrew name contains the possibility of a plural (hum), the name of Allah (hu) can only be singular. Thus, Allah in Islam is always only one and never a unity of three. It is unthinkable for a Muslim to believe in the existence of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament sense. Consequently, the Islamic confession of faith not only declares the uniqueness of Allah but at the same time firmly rejects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Allah — No Father

The name ‘Father’, the revelation of God’s innermost reality, is an indispensable element of the Christian faith. God has bound himself to us as our eternal Father. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1) In dialogue with Muslims and Jews, we must scrutinize anew statements of Jesus in the New Testament concerning the name “Father” for God. This name is mentioned at least 164 times in the Gospels. Christ did not preach about a distant God whom no one can know or comprehend, nor did he teach us to approach him with a trembling fear as the unapproachable holy Judge. Instead he gently moved the veil from before the God of the Old Testament and revealed him to us as the Father. He did not teach us to pray to Elohim, Yahweh, or the holy Trinity, but placed on our lips the loving name — “our Father.” Christ thus shared his own privilege with us, the unworthy ones. Through him we have become children of God, a relationship which Muhammad emphatically rejects (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:18).
If we compare the occasions when Christ used the name “God” with the occasions when he used the name “Father,” we are in for a surprise. Speaking to outsiders, demons or his enemies, Jesus spoke of the hidden God, the great and powerful Lord. But when he prayed or talked in the intimate circle of his followers, he revealed the innermost secret of God — his Fatherhood. For this claim Jesus was convicted of blasphemy when the high priest Caiaphas asked him, “I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Mt 26:63) For Caiaphas to refer to God as “Father” would have been scandalous to the Jews, so he asked Jesus if he considered himself the “Son of God,” implying God’s Fatherhood. Christ confirmed his confession. His first words on the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” But as the Father veiled his face the Son cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet the crucified One held on to the reality of God’s Fatherhood in the midst of his suffering and died with the words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

About Islam, please, our brothers and sisters, see these our posts:
Islam (tag)
Islam (tag in the other ouf blog)

Apostle Paul, the Christian equivalent to Mohammed
Early Muslim conquests & Rashidun Caliphate
From Islam to Christianity: Saints in the Way to the Lihgt
The Orthodox Christian sentiment regarding the persecutions of Christians by Islamists
See also

The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place

Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life
Ancient Christian faith (Orthodox Church) in Africa 
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
How “White” is the Orthodox Church? 
The Last Christians of North-West Africa
The Ancient Christianity (Orthodox Church) in Tunisia

About African-Americans and Islam
African Americans & Orthodox Church

Pacifism, Orthodoxy and the “just war”

Khanya e isoe ho Molimo holimo
Photo from here 

Most people who know anything about the Orthodox Church know that it is not a “peace church”, like the Quakers or the Mennonites. But Western Christians who know something about theology are often puzzled when they discover that the Orthodox Church also rejects the theological notion of the “just war”.
Orthodox Christians don’t get involved in great ethical discussions about whether a particular war is “just”, and therefore whether it is “legitimate” for Christians to fight in it. In Orthodox theology there can be no such thing as a “just” war.
Hat-tip to Fr Obregon (the Orthocuban) for pointing to this site where the matter is explained clearly and succinctly: OCA – Q & A – War and non-violence
total pacifism is not only possible, it is the sign of greatest perfection, the perfection of the Kingdom of God. According to the Orthodox understanding, however, pacifism can never be a social or political philosophy for this world; although once again, a non-violent means to an end is always to be preferred in every case to a violent means.
When violence must be used as a lesser evil to prevent greater evils, it can never be blessed as such, it must always be repented of, and it must never be identified with perfect Christian morality.
In Orthodox theology there is no such thing as “justifiable homicide”. The soldier who kills in battle needs to repent of that and confess it. Perhaps the difference is that in Western theology legalism tends to be prominent. The concept of “justification” is very important, so that it has long been central to Western soteriology, leading to debates about “justification by faith” and “justification by works” and “justification by grace”. Whatever the parties to such debates disagree about, the one thing they are all agreed about is the importance and centrality of justification. Hence the concern with such concepts as “just” war and “justifiable” homicide.

SS Boris & Gleb, Passionbearers. Honoured for refusing to fight.

The same applies, mutatis mutandis to Western arguments about abortion. The thing that it is wrong with abortion, for many Western Christians, is that it is the taking of “innocent” life — so legalism intrudes yet again. If it were “guilty” life, then the killing might be “justified”. In one of the classic examples of a moral dilemma, the obstetrician who is faced with the choice of saving the life of the mother or the child, and there is no possibility of saving both. If the obstetrician has to kill the child so that the mother may live (or vice versa), in Orthodoxy there is no question of either killing being “justified”. Whatever happens, the need to repent remains. “Justification” means that there is no need for repentance. For the Orthodox, killing someone, even accidentally, always requires repentance. And so it is with the soldier who kills in battle.
And so the Orthodox Church has among its saints both pacifists and soldiers; those who fought and those who refused to fight, and those in between like St Boris and St Gleb, the Passionbearers, who were selective conscientious objectors.
But pacifism is a “more excellent way”.

Please, see our tags

Africa’s Wars

Child soldiers