“The fight against terrorism is moral; we can even call it a holy fight”, says Russian Archbishop
The US invasion of Iraq set off a global war on Christians, with Islamist groups taking advantage of failing governments in states across the Middle East to persecute this minority, often waging outright war.
American journalist and poet Eliza Griswold has written extensively about the flight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians since the US invasion, which left fewer than 500,000 from a 2003 population three times that size. The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda reported that since then more than 60 churches have been bombed, decimating priests and bishops.
Among the Christian churches and artifacts blown up by ISIS is the burial shrine of the Old Testament prophet Jonah in Mosul. The other week, fifteen thousand Christians fled as Islamic State militants threatened to storm Sadad, an ancient Christian community north of Damascus where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The most revered Christian Orthodox saints were Syrians, including Ephrem the Syriac, Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom.
Of the 2.3 billion Christians worldwide, two thirds live outside the West and are subject to persecution. According to Open Doors, 322 Christians are murdered for their faith every month, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, while 772 incidents involving other forms of violence are committed against Christians.
The protection of Christian minorities and the defense of the Christian heritage in Syria play a crucial role, in Russia’s participation in the fight against terrorism. When Russia accepted Syria’s request for air strikes against ISIS, the Russian head of the Synod for Relations between Church and Society, Archbishop Vsevovlod Chaplin issued a statement saying that “The fight against terrorism is moral; we can even call it a holy fight.”
Chaplin is not referring to a new war of religion, but to the moral obligation to fight evil which in addition to weapons and strategy. requires spiritual strength. Since the Cold War ended, Russia has derived its spiritual strength from a mighty revival of the Orthodox Christian faith, even as the West abandons its Christian identity.
According to Chaplin, speaking at a conference in Slovenia on “Cults, Neo-paganism, Secularism: the Christian Ethos is Being Threatened”, ‘something’ will always win out over ‘nothing’:
“Christian countries can oppose pseudo-Islamic extremism only by basing themselves on traditional religious values. Secularism will never be able to cope with the challenge of religious fanaticism and extremism that is coming to Europe today. It will always lose out to religious or pseudo-religious extremism. Even if, with power and money it can beat off religious radicalism temporarily, it will not be for more than 20-30 years.”