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By Metropolitan Kyril McGowan
Holy American Orthodox Church 

Are we aware of what's happening?

 


A little more than 2,000 years ago, a young Jewish man – born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth – began the life of an itinerant preacher. He chose 12 men to assist him in this work and many others chose to follow him. He preached repentance for sin and claimed to be the Son of God who had come to call sinners into a renewed unity with their Creator.

During his lifetime and in the years following his death, his followers preached his message in the then-known parts of the world, which we now call the Middle East. They went from Jerusalem where their leader had been crucified and buried, to Alexandria and other parts of North Africa, to Persia, to Egypt, to Mesopotamia, to Ethiopia, to the Sudan, then called Nubia, and to Syria. In an important city on one of the many caravan and trade routes called Antioch, these followers of Jesus of Nazareth were first called Christians.

When Christianity was legalized at about the beginning of the fourth century many of these people were able to publicly declare their belief in the teachings of this man. And much of that world became Christian. Even though there were some who held different beliefs about certain aspects of this religion, almost the entire area professed some sort of Christian faith. The church, governed mostly from Constantinople, would hold councils to discuss and argue and settle by consensus what they agreed to be truth. The world of that day was the Greco-Roman Empire and most of that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea. There was one Christian Church and this was the cradle of Christianity.

Europe as we know it today had not quite come into being. It was basically a series of city-states vying for power. Islam had also not yet come upon the scene and would not for several centuries, but it finally arrived. Its followers, by conquest and violence, overran most of the Christian territories, although peace was restored at times and many of those who were conquered, in order to save their lives, adopted the Muslim faith, changed their names to Arabic names and served their conquerors. Avicenna and Averoes are examples of this practice.

Today there is much unrest in this area. Some of the Islamic people whose Holy Writings taught them to respect the “peoples of the Book,” i.e., Christians and Jews, have disregarded these teachings. These malicious few have assumed great power and in search of even more power and wealth have ignored the teachings of their own faith to attempt to destroy the Holy Shrines of other religions including some offshoot sects of their own faithful.

Many Christians, not only Catholic and Orthodox, but Evangelicals and mainline Protestants have fled their homes and their communities and most of these people are Arabs – not Muslims but Arab Christians. The cities of Aleppo and Mosul are prime examples of these. Westerners often are not aware so do not give any thought to the Christians of what was once called the fertile Crescent. They have had to fight for this existence over the centuries and they have defended their faith well.

Now a new threat has arisen and it may be worse than anyone has experienced. In Europe there has been a steady influx of Arabs. Many of the are fine people; in fact, most Arabic people I have ever met are gracious and kind. But they’re not the ones making threats. And among those now populating Europe, there are some who do not fit the mold of gracious and kind.

Recently, a public official reminded us that these militant jihadists are only a plane ticket away. In Europe, these people are pushing for Islamic law to replace the laws of the country where they live. It could also happen here. We must pray that God will allow all people to live in peace and that these malcontents are stopped before they stop us.

Metropolitan Kyril McGowan,

Holy American Orthodox Church

 

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