There once was a major Christian leader who advocated armed might to both stem the tide of an invading and quite bloody army as well as to protect individual Christians threatened by the same invaders. Almost a thousand years later, the warning largely attributed to philosopher Jorge Santyana still rings true: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In arguably the truest form of religious ecumenism, in 1095 Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos appealed to Pope Bl. Urban II for the Western Church’s assistance against the attacking Turks and Arabs, who’d taken nearly all the Byzantine lands in Asia Minor, the Near and Middle East. It was then that Blessed Urban II changed the course of world history by calling on all of the West’s sovereigns no not only aid their Greek brethren, but to also liberate the Holy Lands captured by invading Muslim armies. As reported by the Agence France-Presse via NewsMax.com, and also the new media Meduza.com portal of Latvia, both on Sept. 30, 2015, it certainly appears that everything old is new again.
In a curious change of leads, now it appears the Eastern Church is rescuing their Western counterparts. As reported, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s (ROC) public affairs department, The Very Rev. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin didn’t exactly mince words when it came to where the ROC stands on troops from Mother Russia engaged in combat in Syria.
With Syria’s sizable Christian minority being a favored target of murder, torture and kidnappings by Islamic jihadists such as al-Qaeda, ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, Fr. Chaplain stated, “The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it.” Verifying that Fr. Chaplain hadn’t gone rogue, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (Cyril) said “Russia took a responsible decision to use military forces to protect the Syrian people from the woes brought on by the tyranny of terrorists.”
His Holiness also noted that he considers armed intervention needed since “the political process has not led to any noticeable improvement in the lives of innocent people, and they need military protection.” Patriarch Kirill’s call is eerily reminiscent of Blessed Urban’s shaming a millenia ago of initially weak-kneed Western kings and princes:
Go, brothers, go with hope to the fight against the enemies of God, who for so long have dominated Syria, Armenia and the countries of Asia Minor. They have already committed many outrages.
They have taken the Sepulcher of Christ and the marvelous monuments of our Faith; they have forbidden pilgrims to set foot in a city whose worth only Christians can truly appreciate. Are these facts not sufficient to upset the serenity of your faces?
Critical of Western ecclesiastical and secular leaders inability (or possible unwillingness) for swift and final action against Syria’s various Islamic jihadis, the editorial staff of The Catholic Herald (of London, UK) rhetorically asked on Sept. 30, 2015, “Will Russia’s ‘holy war’ save Syria’s Christians?” With a more than a slightly pointed quill, the Catholic Herald noted, “For example, the rebel group al-Nusra Front, one of the players in the region Russia is now pounding, previously overran the Christian village of Maaloula, 40 miles north of Damascus, executing three Christians and kidnapping a dozen nuns before being driven out by the Syrian army.
During the battle for that village one Christian addressed the BBC cameraman with these chilling words: ‘Tell the Europeans and the Americans that we sent you St Paul 2,000 years ago to take you from the darkness, and you sent us terrorists to kill us’.
Hey buddy, you’re welcome.”