Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on When Armed Struggle is Necessary

Arabic original here.

Love Sometimes Requires Violence

Is it permissible, in Christian terms, to resort to violence in order to resist evil? This is the question being posed by many Christians in our country, especially given the absence of any non-violent means to put a stop to genocide, indiscriminate killing and forced expulsion.

Christians are called to imitate their Lord Christ who forgave his crucifiers saying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." But would Christ have said the same thing if it was someone else being crucified? Surely Christ would pick up a whip in defense of the person under attack. He would bring him down from the cross, heal his wounds and relieve him from oppression and suffering.

It is true that Christ said, "Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). However, He did not say to love the evil that they do and far be it for Him to say that! For a person to love his enemy with sincere love is to deter him from the evil he harbors. True love assumes speaking out to the wicked, oppressors and aggressors. Love requires resisting and eliminating evil, not making a truce with it or surrendering before it. The commandment to love our enemies does not negate the other commandment to love those for whom God has made us responsible: the poor, the oppressed, the tormented of the earth. "Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me" (Matthew 25:45). Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) expressed this verse the best when he said, "He who does not repel the injustice that threatens his brother when he is capable of doing this sins no less than the one committing the injustice."

In his book Violent and Non-Violent Struggle to Realize Justice (Beirut: Manshurat al-Nour, 1988), the Orthodox theologian Costi Bendaly affirms that non-violent struggle is the ideal form of resistance, since it realizes the harmony between the ends and the means  such that the ends are realized through the means themselves. Bendaly adds that it is not permissible to absolutize non-violent struggle in such a way as to categorically and in principle reject all violent struggle.

If a Christian arrives at the conviction that violent struggle is the sole means of realizing justice, Bendaly stipulates certain rules to which he must adhere in order not to deviate from his original plan and fall into the passion of senseless destruction and wanton killing. The most important of these rules is limiting violence to the goal of eliminating injustice, oppression and aggression and after their being eliminated the need for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. Thus it is not permissible to rely on violence as a method and to follow it unconditionally, even if difficult historical circumstances sometimes require its use in order to ward off tyranny, injustice and aggression.

Costi Bendaly arrives at the conclusion that the choice between violence and non-violent forms of struggle cannot be based merely on a position of principle, but rather it must take into account the necessities of the actual situation and the historical context. When evil grows and becomes recalcitrant, it does not leave any other choice in confronting it apart from armed struggle. He gives two examples of this, namely Nazism and Zionism.

The Takfiri movements that are sowing corruption in the land and are wantonly spilling the blood of the innocent and defenseless, apart from resembling Nazism and Zionism in their racism, are no less dangerous than they are. However, confronting these Takfiri movements requires that we shun sectarianism. Any sectarian organizing to confront the Takfiri movements will play into their interests. Is there a universal national institution that transcends sects and is capable of uprooting those who spread corruption in the land other than the Army?

1 comment:

Brian said...

War is a microcosm of this present world. It is the ultimate manifestation of the battle in which those of this world are always engaged, albeit stripped of the façade of civility that is commonly referred to as peace. For war is the logical extension of the hatred which results from the struggle over wealth, power, and pride – and their reduction to the essential violence thereof.

Those who rightly decry the evil of war need look no further for its cause than the hatred, the selfishness, the lust for power and possessions present in each of our everyday lives. For war, like pain, death and the struggle for economic survival, is the inescapable consequence of our common fall into sin. It cannot be avoided whether we are combatants or civilians. Nor can it be considered “just” from our human point of view, for how is it just that the evil actions or even the apparently justifiable reactions to evil of a few are able to cause the suffering of so many?

The essential violence of this present world made manifest in war can only serve to reveal what is in the hearts of men altogether aside from political motives for armed conflict. War reveals hate and love, selfishness and sacrifice, cowardice and courage, greed and generosity, pride and humility… All the vices and virtues present in our hearts are brought into sharp relief by the immediacy of the danger of death – to ourselves, our loved ones, our countrymen, our security, our way of life.

No amount of rationalization can change the fact that all war is evil. But the evil of war is not external to us personally, something at which we can wave our fingers in condemnation. It is the shared lot of humanity. And like all the evils which the providence of God allows us to suffer in common, it can be used for our redemption or our destruction. It all depends on how we respond to Him in the midst of it. War can never be said to be just, but it can be transformed into a means of redemption through the deeds of just men caught up in its torrents.

“There is a time for everything…”