Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fr. Georges Massouh: Basilios Nassar and the Best Jihad

 The Arabic original can be found here.

Basilios Nassar and the Best Jihad

He was a fighter, but he was not like other fighters. He was a warrior, but he did not resemble any other warrior. He was armed, but his weapons are not of this world. He was a revolutionary, but his revolution was not of this world, even if it was in this world. He followed the example of his Jesus. His age was on the threshhold of thirty years. His name was Basilios Nassar and it has become the Martyr Basilios Nassar.

He was from the village of Kfarbahom in the district of Hama. He grew up in his village and studied theology in the St. John of Damascus Institute at Balamand University. He obtained a master's degree in theology and then returned to serve his village church. He was killed by treacherous bullets last week while performing  humanitarian work, attempting to bring relief to a wounded member of his flock.

Father Baslios' weapon was the Holy Gospel and his armor the life-giving Cross. His sword was absolute truth and his arrow righteousness and piety. His citadel was the Holy Church which the Lord acquired with His holy blood. He carried love as a banner that sheltered him against hatred and prejudice. He raised up hope as a wall against oppression and coercion. He declared his faith in a teacher who left no law other than a single commandment: "Love each other as I have loved you."

Basilios believed that "the servant is not greater than his Master." Christ spoke these words when He washed the feet of His disciples on the night of His crucifixion. Basilios carried his apron and went around serving the poor, the destitute, the needy, the indigent, the sick, the widows, the orphans, the elderly... On his final trip, he wanted to be like that Samaritan who cared for the one who had "fallen among robbers," wounded and struggling with death. He went beyond what the Samaritan did, since it was not enough for him to give money for the wounded man's care. He paid for redemption with his blood, to save a person from death. He died so that someone else may live and so reached the limits of martyrdom.

Like his crucified teacher, Basilios did not believe in violence as a way to defend the oppressed. He believed in the Word of Truth and in human dignity and in the freedom that is the image of God in humankind. He did not carry a weapon to defend the children of his flock, but he carried his white shroud. He did not carry a white flag with which to surrender before blind hatred and the strife that has ignited among the children of a single nation and a single city and a single village. Rather, he carried the banner of love which alone destroys hatred and conquers it. A person does not conquer hatred with hatred. This is what Basilios said to us in his martyrdom.

Basilios comes from a Church that has produced thousands of holy martyrs, from a Church that considers bearing witness with blood to be the loftiest witness. He comes from a Church whose golden age was not an age of alliance with the state. Rather, her golden age was when she lived and spread and evangelized in the shadow of persecutions that the tyrannical Roman state  unleashed against her children. He comes from a Church whose children say, "In Him (that is, the Lord) we live and move and have existence" and in no other.

It is important for us to know which side killed the Father Basilios the New Martyr, even if that is difficult in the midst of civil wars. However, it is more important for us not to traffic in his pure blood and not to profit from it in the bazaar of internal conflict.  That said, the bitter reality indicates that an honorable Syrian citizen was killed by Syrian bullets fired by a Syrian citizen. This is the most painful thing, that the children of a single nation attack each other with bullets.

Blessed is the Orthodox Church to whom the beloved Basilios belongs, in the ranks of her righteous martyrs. Blessed is he because he completed his quest and fought the good fight. Is there anything more glorious than this jihad?

Fr. Georges Massouh is Professor of Islamic Studies at Balamand University.

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