Monday, March 17, 2014

Met. Ephrem (Kyriakos) on how Christians should React to Terrorism

Arabic original here. One should remember that Met. Ephrem's city of Tripoli has been in a state of low-grade civil war for well over a year now and is home to many jihadist gangs. Headlines like this are common.

Terrorism from the Church's Perspective

Today it appears very clear that Satan is "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31).

Everything inclines toward evil, even politics and religion. Everyone who opposes the status quo is boarding this speeding train, whether they are on the Left or the Right.

Contemporary world civilization produces people who are not pleased with the prevalent situation. Instead of rising up against themselves, against their passions and the illnesses of their souls, they take revenge on others, even the innocent. They think in terms of criticism and are inclined to tear down rather than to build up. Naturally, there are those who suffer from extreme poverty and there are those who do not accept good morals and values. So how then can we be surprised when they reject their religion or deviate from it? In many cases, they are correct in their opinions, even if they practice satanic actions-- this is when they denounce the contradiction of political and media calls for peace and justice, for example, while in reality there comes aggression and self-interest. Violent, destructive behavior, whether its motives are nationalist or religious, is nothing but another image of selfishness, as are individualistic behavior and the breakup of the family. In all of this there is the weakness of the upper self (the expansive heart) and the dominance of the lower self (lusts and passions).

Now how can we Christians approach this terrorist wave that  is sweeping the world and our country? How can we, if possible, deal with it on the personal or collective level?

Now in these days of fasting, I will content myself to state an opinion that springs from the experience of some of the holy fathers, even if you consider them to be deficient or the result of weakness or the lack of strength. The modern Russian saint Seraphim of Sarov says, "One human being becoming holy is enough for him to bring along behind him hundreds of people." Saint Ephrem the Syrian, who composed the famous prayer of repentance "O Lord and Master of my life..." says, "The saints are those who repent to God and return to Him."

It is enough, then, for us Christians to repent. Look at the whole world, how many Christians retreat from their faith, leaving their churches empty of worshipers! Many claim that they are civilized and champions of technology while families are broken up and people deviate from the natural life that God intended. What is needed, then, is a revolution against the self, a return to Christian moral values, a return to God's commandments and His Gospel. This is repentance. Saint John of Damascus defines it by saying, "True repentance is the return from Satan to God. It does not happen without struggle, pain and tears" (On the Orthodox Faith, Chapter 47). Yes, we are in need of many tears in these difficult days, so that our Lord and God Jesus will save us through his plentiful mercy from emigration and extinction.

Despite all this, the merciful Lord does not leave us orphaned and despairing, since He says to us, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). 

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