Translation Canon Tony Dickinson
In the tragic wars raging across the Middle East, Christians are suffering intolerable persecution, in the face of a generalised indifference which is difficult to bear.
We are all Christians of the East. Without particularism, or partisanship, their cause is universal. For their tragedy, which is unrolling amid the indifference of world opinion and the passivity of the international community, constitutes nothing less than a historic turning-point and a catastrophe for the planet.
With their disappearance the chain which links us to the first civilisations of Scripture, to the sources of the Bible, to the origins of the Gospel and the genesis of the Qur’an is disintegrating. The function of cultural mediators between the East and the West, the South and the North, which was theirs, is being erased. The distinction between Christianity and the West, to which they bore witness, is being blurred. The capacity of Israel to break down the barrier of its antagonism towards Arabs, and of Islam to consolidate a watertight border with Islamism, which they might have facilitated, is diminishing. And the claim of America and Europe to promote the humanitarian imperative to which they lay claim and which the embarrassed irresolution which they profess towards them belies and overwhelms is vanishing.
So it is that the announcement of their extinction signs our moral suicide note. Not only because we are authorising the eradication of Christians from the lands in which Christian faith was born. Not only because we are accepting that the imperative to combat barbarism is valid for all, except for them. Not only because we acquiesce in their being sacrificed as an “adjustment variable” in the diplomatic game of the dominant powers. But also, and especially, because we are hereby agreeing to the state to which globalisation is more and more being reduced, a barbarous empire, sapped at its centre by amnesia and at its periphery by tribalism.
At the heart of the question about the Christians of the East is, in fact, the principle of mediation which is inherent in the biodiversity of cultures. Under the weight of the fourteen centuries which they have traversed as absolute minorities, theirs has become that of the space between. Caught in a pincer movement between the tyranny of the Muslim world and the instrumentalisation of the Western world, considered by turns as subjects, auxiliaries, hostages, scapegoats, they have resisted thanks to their piety. At the time when their identity as helpless makes them ideal prey for those whose identity is vindictive, their tragedy proves to be deep-rooted. For these people of the middle are from now on superfluous people.
This question is equally that of all Christian traditions. For they are all present in the East, whether because they were born there in the case of the most ancient, or whether they were invited there in the case of the most recent, in a sort of missionary pilgrimage sometimes in the style of a colonial venture. No matter, the result is there. There are so many of the Eastern Churches which the two thousand years of Christianity have known, and their mosaic sums up the totality of the confessions, even if it means putting together a table summarising their divisions.
We find there the pre-Chalcedonian family, offspring of the rupture of the borders of the Roman world in the 5th century, Assyrians on one side, Syriac Christians, Armenians, Copts, Abyssinians on the other, with the Malabar and Malenkar Christians of India straddling them; the Orthodox family, offspring of the divorce between Latins and Greeks in the Middle Ages; the Catholic family, offspring of the policy of union promoted by the Papacy from the Renaissance, which duplicated each Eastern entity with an entity affiliated to Rome, as well as creating some entities that were specifically Latin; the Protestant family, offspring of the split between the Reformation and Rome, which has seen implantations of Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists spring up from the 18th century onwards, with the addition today of some Evangelical groups.
The chronicle of their relationships has inevitably been tumultuous. But the walls separating wounded memories are cracking now in the face of the emergency created by the jointly endured persecutions. This ecumenism of blood to which the Christians of the East are summoning us must also be our own.
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