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Posts Tagged ‘Aramaic’

BBC ‘Kill The Christians’ – At Last, Thank God, But Please Don’t Leave It There

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on April 18, 2015

Reblogged from “Achbishop Cranmer

keep-calm-and-kill-christians-4As regular readers of His Grace’s blog will be fully aware, the plight of Christians around the world is a subject that is discussed frequently on these pages. I sometimes wonder if such repetition will turn people away in a ‘read that; been there before’ approach, but as long as such intense suffering continues, given the nature of this site’s religio-political focus, there is an overwhelming duty to speak up and attempt to lay the facts bare.

The Bible is very clear that Christianity is not a private faith. When anyone makes the decision to follow Jesus, they become part of the biggest family on earth. During the Church of England’s baptism liturgy, the congregation welcomes in the newly-baptised with these words:

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

..by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body.

All: We welcome you into the fellowship of faith;

we are children of the same heavenly Father;

we welcome you.

My Christian family is not just my local church, but the global one. My attitude towards Christians in Pakistan or China should be no different from those I know in my local congregation. Anyone who has had even a smattering of religious education should know that Jesus calls us to love our neighbours, and the story of the Good Samaritan plainly clarifies that we should make no distinctions as to who we consider our neighbour to be. However, the New Testament writers also exhort Christians to be especially vigilant regarding the welfare of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Mt 25: 31-46), it is not difficult to argue that when the king declares, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,’ he is referring specifically to God’s people, i.e., Christians, and not to humanity as a whole.

This is why the reports that have poured in over the last year, telling of the brutal and horrific treatment of Christian communities in the Middle East, have been so disturbing. In actual fact, the drawn-out eradication of Christians from the region has been going on for a good deal longer, but with ISIS’s inhuman treatment of anyone they choose to hate, this has been brought sharply into focus. Through the work of Christian charities such as Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide and, in particular, Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, this persecution has not gone unnoticed well beyond our Sunday church congregations. The secular media has increasingly taken up the cause of Christians suffering most frequently at the hands of intolerant Islam. A growing number of parliamentarians are also voicing their concerns.

One of the exceptions, though, has been the BBC. In its coverage of world affairs and the Middle East, the persecution of Christians, while not entirely ignored, proportionally receives little attention. When ISIS drove the Yazidis out of their homes and into the mountains of Iraq last year, it made the BBC’s headlines. It rightly deserved attention, but the Christians who were experiencing exactly the same treatment (and were also much larger in number) were mentioned far less. If this is still a Christian country, as David Cameron often likes to remind us, then it becomes even more irksome that the BBC, for whatever reason, devotes such little attention to (for example) the fact that the Christian population in Iraq alone has collapsed to a tiny percentage of the millions who lived there prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein. This is one of the biggest stories to have come out of the troubles in the Middle East, and yet the BBC has barely mentioned it in all of its coverage of the multiple conflicts.

So, when Jane Corbin’s Kill the Christians aired on BBC2 this week, it was a welcome surprise. Such a programme covering the situation for Christians in the Middle East is long overdue, but at least the BBC has finally begun to catch up with the rest of us. It was never going to be a perfect programme: squeezing a whistle-stop tour of Christian communities in Syria, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Palestine into an hour could scarcely give all situations the level of attention each deserves. When the wait has been so long, expectations inevitably increase. And, on the whole, Jane Corbin did a thorough job of telling the story of a few individuals and the dislocation of their communities as they have fled the deadly violence of the ISIS.

Ed West has written a sound review of the programme for the Catholic Herald, but I want to highlight a number of factors that stood out as I watched it. The first was the complete contrast between the Christians interviewed and the actions of their aggressors. Footage of both Muslims and Christians, just moments before their execution at the hands of black-clad ISIS soldiers, was flashed up at regular intervals. This was greatly disturbing, but still failed to convey the scale of their sickening disregard for the lives of others. It was perhaps best summed up by 13-year-old Nardine. She had escaped the invasion of her village in northern Iraq, but was fully aware that if they had caught her she would now be either dead or imprisoned as a sex slave. The look on her face as she considered the Yazidi girls who had suffered that fate was haunting.

Whilst ISIS were depicted sowing fear and terror, Christians were seen feeding, sheltering and caring for the suffering and displaced irrespective of their beliefs – for Muslims as much as their fellow Christians. Even with the little that they had, they were doing their utmost for others. One Muslim bluntly stated that without the survival of Christianity in the Middle East, moderate Islam is also doomed. In countries with diverse and complex religions and histories, Christianity has provided a level of stability and cohesion. As this fades away, so does the chance of long-term peace between the different strands of Islam.

And little hope remains. Where Christians have fled persecution in their droves in the face of the utterly intolerant Saudi-Salafist strain of Islam and the increased sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, it is impossible to see them returning in any great number, if at all. If they are able to find better homes elsewhere, what would bring them back? The only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is secure and growing is Israel, and yet, for some strange reason, Jane Corbin told us the complete opposite. Strangely, too, she blamed Israel for the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories. What the programme failed to mention is that since Hamas came to power, there has been a marked increase in incitement and violence by Muslims against Christians throughout Palestine. This subtle anti-Israeli rhetoric was uncalled for, and an unnecessary blot on an otherwise well-researched documentary. It would seem to be that this Twitter comment from journalist Nelson Jones has some weight:

Maybe it was? If so, thank you, Jane Corbin and the BBC, for at long last sharing the stories of just a handful of Christians in the Middle East. It was better than might have been expected, despite one grating flaw. But there is so much more to say. You could, for example, devote a whole programme to the experiences of Andrew White in Baghdad. Archbishop Justin Welby has visited Iraq and has plenty of informed opinion which could also be reported. Please don’t leave it here, thinking you’ve fulfilled your Christian-persecution quota. You have only just begun to scratch the surface, and the world needs to hear much more. Politically-correct sensibilities and the fear of causing offence should never be allowed to hide the truth of this genocidal ‘cleansing’.

As a final thought, it was quite remarkable to observe that none of the Christians who were interviewed had questioned their faith: their resilience was stoic, and at no time did they express doubt in God. We live in a country where Christianity is often derided and discarded; where God is disparagingly referred to as a magical fairy or ‘sky pixie’. But, for these Christians who have so much to lose simply by staying true to their faith, they find in God not empty indifference, but strength and unending hope. The wisdom of Nardine, despite her young age, was profound:

The Christian religion is about love and peace. I feel very sad because the Devil has taken over the Islamic State. I will pray to God to enlighten their minds. Whatever happens, we will not give up our religion. We will not abandon Christianity, never.

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War on Christians: How the Cross Taunts ISIS

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on February 27, 2015

Still image from video shows men purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneeling in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli

Last week, the attention of the world was riveted to a deserted beach in northern Libya, where a group of twenty one Coptic Christians were brutally beheaded by masked operatives of the ISIS movement.

In the wake of the executions, ISIS released a gruesome video entitled “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” I suppose that for the ISIS murderers the reference to “the Nation of the Cross” had little sense beyond a generic designation for Christianity. Sadly for most Christians, too, the cross has become little more than an anodyne, a harmless symbol, a pious decoration.

I would like to take the awful event on that Libyan beach, as well as the ISIS message concerning it, as an occasion to reflect on the still startling distinctiveness of the cross.

In the time of Jesus, the cross was a brutal and very effective sign of Roman power. Imperial authorities effectively said, “If you cross us (pun intended), we will affix you to a dreadful instrument of torture and leave you to writhe in agonizing, literally excruciating (ex cruce, from the cross) pain until you die. Then we will make sure that your body hangs on that gibbet until it is eaten away by scavenging animals.”

The cross was, basically, state-sponsored terrorism, and it did indeed terrify people. The great Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero once described a crucifixion but only through a convoluted circumlocution, for he couldn’t bring himself to characterize it directly. After putting down the great slave uprising of Spartacus, the Roman government lined the Appian Way with hundreds of crosses so as to dissuade any other would-be revolutionaries. Pontius Pilate had much the same intention when he nailed dozens of Jewish rebels to the walls of Jerusalem. That same Pilate arranged for Jesus to be crucified on Calvary Hill, a promontory situated close to one of the gates of ancient Jerusalem, guaranteeing that his horrific death would not be missed by the large Passover crowds moving in and out of the city.

From the crucified Jesus, all of the disciples, save John, fled, precisely because they wanted with all their hearts to avoid his dreadful fate. After Good Friday, the friends of Jesus huddled in terror in the Upper Room, petrified that they might be nailed up on Calvary as well. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were, understandably, heading out of Jerusalem, away from danger, and they were utterly convinced that Jesus’s movement had come to naught. In a word, the cross meant the victory of the world, and the annihilation of Jesus and what he stood for.

And this is why it is surpassing strange that one of the earliest Apostles and missionaries of the Christian religion could write, “I preach one thing, Christ and him crucified!” How could Paul — the passage is taken from his first letter to the Corinthians — possibly present the dreadful cross as the centerpiece of his proclamation? He could do so only because he knew that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, proving thereby that God’s love and forgiveness are greater than anything in the world. This is why his exaltation of the cross is a sort of taunt to Rome and all of its brutal descendants down through the ages: “You think that scares us? God has conquered that!” And this is why, to this day, Christians boldly hold up an image of the humiliated, tortured Jesus to the world. What they are saying is, “We are not afraid.”

How wonderful this is, by the way, in light of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the controversy over the Dutch cartoonist’s mocking depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Christians don’t fuss particularly about insults to Jesus, for we reverence a depiction of the insulted Christ as our most sacred icon. We can say, with Paul, “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39), for we know that the world killed Jesus but God raised him from the dead.

Just before their throats were cut, many of the murdered Coptic Christians could be seen mouthing the words “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus is Lord.” The first of those phrases is a rendering of the Aramaic Ieshouah Maschiach, which means “Jesus the anointed one” and which hearkens back to King David, the paradigmatic anointed figure of the Old Testament. The second phrase is one that can be traced to St. Paul’s kerygmatic cry Iesous Kyrios (Jesus Lord!), which was intended to trump a watchword of the time, Kaiser Kyrios (Caesar is Lord). In short, both declarations assert the kingship of Jesus, but what a strange kingship! The new David reigns, not from a throne, but from a cross; the one who trumps Caesar doesn’t lead an army, but embodies the divine forgiveness.

The ISIS barbarians were actually quite right in entitling their video “A Message Written in Blood.” Up and down the centuries, tyrants and their lackeys have thought that they could wipe out the followers of Jesus through acts of violence.

But as Tertullian observed long ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And they were furthermore right in sending their message to “the Nation of the Cross.” But they should know that the cross taunts them.

Source

The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic

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