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More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]

Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)


It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

Angaelos’ response:

As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.


And here is Angaelos again:

Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

[ .. ]

What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.


I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.


To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

A Message to Those Who Kill Us

What will we say to them?


The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.

Orlando & Charleston: Lawfare raising questions

Friday, June 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — “Orlando Thoughts Towards a Better Taxonomy of Mass Violence” and “White Hate but Islamic Terror?” ]

Recommended readings:

Two pieces from the Lawfare blog offer us plenty to chew on regarding our categorization of violent acts, triggered by Orlando and Charleston, Thomas Mair and Dylann Roof.

Benjamin Wittes
, Orlando Thoughts Towards a Better Taxonomy of Mass Violence:

I have been struck, however, by the range of people who have seen confirmation of their particular worldviews in this horrific event, some plausibly in my view, some not:

  • To the LGBT community, understandably enough, it’s about violence against gays.
  • For many Latinos, a salient fact is that the victims were overwhelmingly Latino, many of them Puerto Rican.
  • To those who believe our society is too heavily armed, this latest mass shooting proves they were right about gun availability.
  • For those who believe our society is insufficiently armed, this latest mass shooting proves they were right about more good guys needing guns.
  • For those who are anxious about foreign terrorism, the shooter’s claimed allegiance to ISIS places this on the long list of attacks and attempted attacks by ISIS and Al Qaeda and those they inspire.
  • To the Trumpists and others who don’t like Muslims, it’s all about Islam more generally.
  • To those who have a problem with immigration, well, the shooter is the child of immigrants from Afghanistan.
  • Apparently it’s also about the surveillance debate.
  • I even saw one tweet—the logic of which I admit I could not follow—blaming the incident on white supremacy.
  • I’m pretty sure that the shooter’s aim was not to validate anyone’s preexisting political stance.


    To be sure, sometimes legal path dependencies do arise out of our categories. Most importantly, the criminal laws on material support for terrorist groups don’t apply to domestic terrorist organizations, only designated foreign terrorist organizations. And the law presumptively treats as terrorism those crimes committed with bombs, but does not do the same with crimes committed by domestic individuals or groups with guns. (For an excellent explication of these points, see this piece by Jane Chong.)

    But the more important impact of our taxonomical confusion, in my view, is intellectual, not legal: We just don’t know what to call an incident of (a) mass murder (b) by means of a gun (c) in which motive is unclear or mixed but involves clear elements of (d) bigotry, (e) mental illness, and (f) expressions of affiliation with a foreign terrorist group. And because we don’t know how to describe it, we also don’t know what aspects of it to prioritize in responding and preventing future such events.

    One interesting question is why we care? It’s a crime; it’s a tragedy; it’s big. Why do we fight over what to call it?

    There’s more, naturally, and I recommend the whole piece.


    Wittes also links specifically to another, earlier Lawfare post..

    Jane Chong, White Hate but Islamic Terror? Charleston, Hate Crimes and Terrorism Per Quod:

    Netizens have taken particular interest in contrasting the immediate reaction to Charleston with the immediate reaction to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Presumably these two attacks have emerged as fertile subjects for comparison partly because of the early dearth of evidence that either alleged perpetrator had official ties to or an operational role in a designated terrorist organization.

    South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is among those who have been singled out for his disparate treatment of Charleston and Boston. Commenting on what the Charleston shooting might signify for his home state, Senator Graham described Roof as “one of these wacked out kids” and stated, “I don’t think it’s anything broader than that.”

    This presents a sharp contrast with the views Graham espoused back in 2013 on the appropriate treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: “This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.”

    Judd Legum of Think Progress cited the Senator’s statements as a glaring example of our collective insistence on seeing violence motivated by Islamic extremism as a systemic threat while minimizing right-wing supremacist violence as the work of individual madmen. As Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer noted in a New York Times op-ed the day before the Charleston attack, such bias is particularly indefensible given the data: Attacks carried out by Muslim Americans account for 50 fatalities in the thirteen and a half years since 9/11, while plots by right-wing extremists have resulted in 254 fatalities between 9/11 and 2012.

    The conflation of terrorism with Islamic extremism is an undeniable error. But distinguishing Boston and Charleston need not unequivocally boil down to bias of this particular kind.

    Chong continues:

    Consider President Obama’s reactions shortly after each attack—reactions that, if read in isolation, might seem to reflect this bias. On April 16, 2013, the day after the Boston bombings, President Obama delivered a speech in which he stated the following:

    [G]iven what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That’s what we don’t yet know.

    Now contrast this with President Obama’s speech last Thursday, one day after the attacks in Charleston, which nowhere made mention of terrorism:

    The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

    Superficially speaking, there are at least two ways to read the administration’s initial decision to investigate one attack as a terrorist act and the other as a hate crime. A critic might contend that President Obama, like Senator Graham, appears to have untenably reserved the terrorist designation for Muslim extremists. Alternatively, we could take President Obama’s words at face value and recognize the weapon of choice as a critical factor in how a massacre tends to be classified when facts remain sparse and the evidence is still forthcoming. Those words again: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.”

    And so our inquiry evolves. Is Dylann Roof being widely portrayed as a hater and not a terrorist because, based on the available evidence, he is a white supremacist and not a Muslim extremist? Or is it because his weapon of choice was a gun and not a bomb?

    Again, I’d encourage you to read the whole piece.


    As an addendum, if you want some thoughtful consideration of Thomas Mair, the (alleged) killer of the British MP Jo Cox, you way want to read Barth’s Notes on the topic:

    Richard Bartholomew, Some Notes on Claims about Thomas Mair

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