Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

A Reflection Upon the Effects of Terrorism

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In Biblical times and as applicable today, violence and wars are waged for various reasons. Since before the age of the Patriarchs, war was there as a part of everyday life. Moses and Joshua helped the Israelites to conquer the Land of Canaan. Once conquered, the Holy Land remained constantly under attack by other nations such as Assyria.

Surprise attacks were battlefield tactics in many Old Testament accounts, as they remain so until today. Terror depends upon its unpredictability and its magnitude of violence. Terror depends upon the fear instilled through the murder of innocent victims to state its cause, as the cause in itself is weak without the implications of violence.

According to the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew, the Lord Jesus Christ stated that "wars and rumors of wars" would be a part of the present world order. Just before the Lord Jesus Christ's passion, the most violent of events, He plainly told His disciples that we should wage war against Satan (evil) not one another.

St. John the Baptist did not forbid the soldiers to prepare for war. To add to this, it should also be remembered that St. Paul recognized the governing authority maintained order with the sword and urged the believers to be subject to authority (Romans 13:1-7). What should we understand related to the significance of the action of these two saints? We should understand that the purpose of civil government at that time and our present governing authority until today is to produce a social order that is grounded in goodness not evil. The moral responsibility of government is to punish the evildoers.

While reflecting upon the correct understanding of what is meant by the previously referenced Holy Scriptures, should we as Christians want to retaliate to violence? No, we must remember that the Lord Jesus Christ never commanded His followers to use warfare as a means of conquest. Neither did His Holy feet travel upon this earth to lead a Messianic War (John 6:15; Acts 1:6). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself cautioned His holy disciples at Gethsemane, "All who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked his disciple who used the sword against those who had come to arrest Him (Matthew 26:51-53).

The more one reads the Holy Bible the more one discovers that images of war are often used in the Holy Scripture to describe struggles of righteous believers against evil and evil acts (Revelations 13:1-7). The Coptic martyrs are steadfast examples of those who were trapped by evil acts and endured persecution and its terrors bravely and without wavering.

Have you ever thought about the fact that we read of the persecution of Coptic martyrs but never about the Coptic martyrs having persecuted others? Christians do not persecute others. Christians do not wage wars of terror and horrific acts against others. History can attest to this. It is written about the Coptic martyrs:

Athenagoras said, "You have not treated us who are called Christians in like manner. We commit no wrong. In fact, as will appear in the rest of this discourse, we are of all men most piously and righteously disposed towards the Deity and towards your government. Nevertheless you allow us to be harassed, plundered, and persecuted. The crowds make war upon us for our name alone."

St. Clement of Alexandria said, "They persecute us, not from the supposition that we are wrong-doers, but imaging that by the very fact of our being Christians we sin against life. This is because of the way we conduct ourselves, and because we exhort others to adopt a similar life."

Like Biblical times, Christians today are constantly under attack. Unlike Israel, the Church is "not one" of the nations of the world. Rather the Church today is composed of many people from many different lands of immigration where acts of terrorism abound.

The September 11 tragedy remains with us until today. Perhaps with this terrorist attack, the Lord desired our faith to be made stronger through those whose lives were sacrificed. Many religious denominational writers have thought the terrorism attack was a call for our nation to return to God. The attack of the world trade center and the people who lost their lives with the attack deserve remembering this one-year anniversary to the event.

With our proclaimed "Coptic New Year" meanings of violent events have been preserved in our Coptic Christian history and reflected upon. Violence is not something new to Coptic Christianity but an integral part of our Church History. A Church History that has persevered through the blood spilled by our martyrs.

In remembrance of the September 11 tragedy and in remembrance of all those who lost their lives to preserve our Coptic faith we pay tribute. The role of steadfast faith no matter what violence may confront us as in Christianity is of utmost necessity.

This is how we as Christians can find TRUE peace, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

Let us all pray for this TRUE peace on earth and good will toward men.

H.G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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