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Ukraine and the Churches

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- playing catchup with a world that seems to spin faster as it gets older, unlike my weary self ]
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tent_chapels_on_Maidan_Square_in_Kiev__Jakub_Szymczuk
One of two tent-chapels on Maidan Square in Kiev, February, 2014. Photo credit: Jakub Szymczuk

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Here’s a backgrounder from the Ukraine, excerpts from several key articles & letters, in roughly chronological order.

ecumenism in ukraine

First, George Weigel, from January 14, 2014, writing under the title The Exhaust Fumes of Stalinism:

The religious dimension of the EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine these past two months has gone largely unremarked. Yet in Kiev and elsewhere, the day’s activities at these oases of civil society are punctuated with prayers offered by clergymen of a variety of Christian communities: Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Protestant. That fact in itself says something about the nascent civic community that is being born in Ukraine today. Ecumenical fellow-feeling and cooperation have not been a prominent feature of Ukrainian religious life in the past. Yet now, with the future of the nation (and no small part of the future of Europe) being contested amids snowstorms, tent cities, flying universities, and police brutality, Ukrainian Christians have discovered a common cause: the moral and cultural renewal of Ukraine, which the brave men and women of the various EuroMaidans understand is essential to free politics and free economics in the future.

The-Exhaust-Fumes-of-Stalinism
Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Letter from His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the very difficult situation in Ukraine, dated August 29 2014:

All of the Churches and religious organizations of Ukraine stood together against the violence of the Yanukovych regime, the annexation of Crimea, and the division of the country. On the Maydan-Square for months, every day, and hourly in the night, in common prayer they insisted on respect of civil rights, non-violence, unity of the country, and dialogue. This civic ecumenical and inter-religious harmony and cooperation has been an important source of moral inspiration and social cohesion in Ukraine.

In annexed Crimea and in the Eastern war zone some of the Churches and religious communities have been targeted for discrimination, enduring outright violence. In Crimea the most exposed have been the Muslim Tatars. The Tatar community as a whole is in daily danger. Some of its leadership has been exiled, barred from their homeland. The existence of Greek and Roman Catholics ministries, Orthodox parishes of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and the Jewish community in Crimea has been variously menaced.

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Here’s Timothy, Cardinal Dolan, September 15, 2014:

The Catholic Church in Ukraine is young, alive, growing, and prophetic. This, from a worldly point of view, is illogical, near miraculous, as Greek Catholics were viciously persecuted by Stalin in the years of Soviet oppression. Even after the breakup of the communist empire, and the restoration of freedom in Ukraine, Catholics were not given back their former churches that had been given to the Russian Orthodox, and the courageous yet decimated community almost had to start afresh.

Through the optic of the Gospel, we know that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith,” so believers are hardly surprised by the vitality and growth of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

and John L Allen Jr, reporting from the 2014 Synod of Bishops in Rome, October 16, 2014, under the striking title Synod is more and more like a soap opera:

On a different front, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church used his speech in the synod today to take a shot at the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, basically telling them to stop complaining about Russian foreign policy and the support for Russian incursions in Ukraine voiced by Russian Orthodox leaders.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was sufficiently outraged that be grabbed Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Greek Catholic Church, who was also in the synod hall, and immediately taped a segment for his radio show in New York to object to Hilarion’s rhetoric.

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Putin and Kirill

On the other side of things, there’s the close alliance of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church in the person of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to consider:

After weeks of defying international pleas to free eight European officials they had captured in May, pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine released them unexpectedly in June following a public appeal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

The role Kirill’s resurgent church played in the release of the monitors, who were from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), sheds light on how a close cooperation between the state and the church in Russia is now playing out in Ukraine.

What the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) presents as its humanitarian mission in east Ukraine, Western diplomats see as a pattern of cooperation in which the church is acting as a “soft power” ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During the OSCE monitors’ captivity, Moscow gave no public indication that it was heeding calls to help their release by using its influence with the rebels fighting to split east Ukraine from Kiev.

But what looked like a solo venture by Kirill was the culmination of a flurry of diplomatic contacts that, behind closed doors, involved the OSCE, Russian and church officials, separatist leaders and a rebel Cossack unit, according to interviews with parties to the talks.

With questions lingering over Moscow’s role in the turmoil in east Ukraine that has killed more than 3,500 people, European diplomats say the ROC was used to strike a deal and conceal Moscow’s influence with the rebels.

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There have been church destructions — perhaps the most note-worthy being that of the all-wooden Chuch of the Annunciation in Gorlovka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which is reported to have gone up in flames after being hit by an artillery shell:

Cathedral of Gorlovska

I should note here that the only reports of this incident I have ound have been from RT, the English-language Russian state new source, and Daily Stormer, a white nationalist site — caveat emptor.

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And then there’s propaganda, notoriously a grey area as far as authorship is coincerned. According to RT’s piece, War on religion: Orthodox Christian priests, churchgoers face threats in Ukraine:

Using both the years-long strife between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its breakaway Kiev branch, as well as allegations of the Moscow-tied Orthodox priests particularly supporting anti-government fighters in eastern Ukraine, radical activists have distributed leaflets with alarming threats addressed to the clergy and parishioners.

The rhetoric is worth noting:

Every coin given to the Moscow Patriarchate Church – is a bullet for a Ukrainian soldier. Every candle burnt in a Moscow Church – is your citizen burnt alive.

and:

For every Ukrainian soldier killed in Crimea, one priest from Moscow Patriarchate will be killed. Blood for blood.

As to authorship? Even RT admits it is uncertain:

As the fliers have been widely distributed, the Security Service of Ukraine has issued a warning, saying that citizens should not “fall for this primitive provocation.” Some Ukrainian mass media went as far as saying that “Russian special forces” were behind the distribution of the leaflets.

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Sheikh Imran Hosein on Islamic Apocalyptic, sorta

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- shifting the eschatological focus from Syria to Ukraine, with thanks to Stephanie ]
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Stephanie Chenault pointed those of us who follow her FB page to an amazing video by Sheikh Imran Hosein, of whom I have written more than once [eg: 1, 2]:

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Here’s a taste…

We are now moving towards the Malhama (Great War) prophesied by Nabi Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam). If you do not have Islamic Eschatology (knowledge of the end times) you will go to work in the morning, face the morning traffic, come home in the evening, face the evening traffic, have your Biriyani for dinner, watch TV until you go to sleep. And you will have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever that you are standing on the door of the Malhama (Great war/World War 3); that’s where we are today with our scholars of Islam (no knowledge about the reality of the world today). It is sad for me to speak these words. Once the Malhama (World War 3) takes place, we don’t have as Muslims any significant role to play in the Malhama. No, we don’t have Nuclear weapons. When these Nuclear weapons explode, that’s going to give us the Dukhan (Smoke, one of the major signs of the last day). Most of mankind will die. But they (angels) must be saying up there; most of mankind deserve to die. Israel is calculating; the rump that will be left behind would be easier for Israel to rule (the world). And it will be very convenient for Israel if the two powers (NATO alliance and Russian alliance) destroy each other…”

If you’ve read my article on Dabiq 3, you’ll know that it too talks about the Great Final War — but with a perspective that focuses on Syria and Iraq rather than Russia and the Ukraine. In this respect, the Islamic State hews far more closely to the traditions and strategic playing out of the end proposed by Abu Musab al-Suri in his Global Islamic Resistance Call [excerpt linked is from Brynja Lia's book] and described in concentrated detail in pages 186-193 of J-P Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam.

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The video purports to be about Islamic Eschatology, certainly, while in fact it “connects the dots” between Sheikh Hosein’s own version of that eschatology and current events as he sees them. It is a fascinating piece, with Sh. Hosein towards the end admitting that he is the only Muslim scholar holding his particular view.

This view makes the Ukraine and Russia / Rom central to the events now unfolding, rather than al-Sham / Syria and Iraq, and puts great emphasis on an alliance between Islam and Orthodox Christianity, with Russia as the bastion of Orthodoxy. “Thank god for Vladimir Putin,” Hosein says at around the 1 hour mark.

You really have to hear the whole thing to appreciate it — and must then understand that a second 80 minute tape could describe an entirely different Sunni Islamic end times scenario, Abu Musab’s for instance, while an umpteenth ones might offer a Shiite version, etc etc.

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Some high points, with approximate times in the video for reference:

  • 38 Islam the religion did not come to conquer the world. It never came to establish its rule over the world. But it most certainly came to liberate the world from oppression.
  • 45-48 Constantinople and the Orthodox & Islamic alliance, alliance with western Christian prohibited.
  • 51 Dajjal’s Ottoman empire teaching perpetual, unjust, bogus jihad against Rum to rule the whole world
  • 56 Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople turned into a masjid in conflict with Allah’s command
  • 58 For centuries Dajjal was at war attempting to prevent Islamic-Orthodox alliance — also Russia is Rum
  • 1 hr 03 Why the importance of Crimea becoming part of Ukraine
  • 1 hr 11 The Black Sea as eschatological focus.
  • BTW, that comment about perpetual jihad to conquer and rule the entire world being a bogus doctrine receives some pretty strong repetition!

    Sh Hosein also offers us a number of interesting asides along the way:

  • 36 where he explains what “incline to peace” means not just ceasing from battle but also giving back all “fruits” of aggression and oppression
  • 42 where he suggests that those “closest to you in love and affection” (Q 5.82) is a predictive, futuristic verse.
  • I can’t do more than note these particular points in passing, but any one or two of them might make a ine and detailed post.

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    For the basic “signs of the times” which are what we normally think of as basic Muslim eschatology, see Sh. Hosein’s own page.

    For further research, the basic readings on Islamic eschatology are:

  • J-P Filiu, Apocalypse in Islam
  • David Cook, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic
  • David Cook, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature
  • The best account of Mahdis and Mahdist movements:

  • Timothy Furnish, Holiest Wars
  • You may also find some of my own early posts helpful for background:

  • Apocalyptic Vision: Guest Post by Charles Cameron
  • Guest Post: Iran or Afghanistan? The Black Flags of Khorasan
  • Guest Post: Connecting the Dots: Light on Light
  • — or perhaps Filiu’s recent posts in French, which Google can translate somewhat less than clearly:

  • L’État Islamique agit comme un rouleau compresseur
  • L’Etat islamique ou les chevaliers de l’apocalypse djihadiste
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    DoubleQuotes as claim and refutation: Ukraine

    Friday, August 15th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- DoubleQuotes as an alternative to "on page 16, below the fold"]
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    All too often when mass media are caught propagating falsehoods, the apologies and refutations if any get buried away in an obscure corner where few of those who saw the original claim will run across the correction. This tweeted DoubleQuote in the Wild gives “equal time” to claim and refutation:

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    So there’s another useful use for the DoubleQuotes format -=- and my hat’s off to Mannfred Nyttingnes.

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    REVIEW: The Orientalist by Tom Reiss

    Monday, August 4th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    The Orientalist by Tom Reiss 

    Some biographies are as much about the era or the milieu as the man. The Orientalist is one of them.

    This is not to say that Tom Reiss has written a bad book. On the contrary, it is an enlightening and informative one, even for someone well read in the history of Russia and Germany in the twentieth century, will find that The Orientalist has a rich store of little known anecdotes. In an effort to unlock the mystery of “Kurban Said“, the alleged author of the modern Azeri national epic, Ali and Nino: A Love Story, whose identity is hotly disputed, Reiss became a cultural archaeologist excavating the graveyards of Empires, Tsarist, Wilhemine and Ottoman. It was a search that brought Reiss to a remarkable character, Lev “Essad Bey” Nussimbaum, who had narrowly escaped the Bolshevik CHEKA, made fame and fortune as a literary freebooter in Weimar Germany only to sink into obscurity during WWII, dying in poverty and illness in Fascist Italy.

    Lev, who was the son of a millionaire Russian-Jewish oil magnate from Baku, was a cultural chameleon, reinventing himself numerous times, converting to Islam, passing himself off variously as Muslim prince, a Transcaucasian “Wild Jew”, Orientalist scholar, monarchist and anti-Communist writer, briefly a literary star on Germany’s radical far Right. Even in the early days of the Third Reich, despite accusations of being a “Jewish story-swindler”, the many anti-Soviet books of “Essad Bey” were warmly endorsed by Josef Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda for reading by the Nazi Party faithful. The famous individuals who reputedly crossed Lev’s path are remarkable - Joseph Stalin, Fyodor Vinberg, Vladimir Nabokov, Walter Benjamin,  Giovanni Gentile, Walter Mehring,  Benito Mussolini, Egon Kisch, George Sylvester Viereck, Grand Duke Cyril Romanov, Max Brod, Stefan Zwieg, Hertha Pauli, and Ezra Pound among others.  “Essad Bey” was the denouement of the respectable intellectual tradition of 19th century Orientalism, particularly that of Jewish European scholars and ethnographer-explorers. Lev Nussimbaum was less a Martin Buber (whom Lev knew) than he was the Karl May of the East, a dime store mythologizer of  Transcaucasia, old Qajar Persia and Islam for popular audiences accustomed to a tabloid press.

    Essad Bey as a character reflects the contradictions and juxtapositions of an interwar Europe, especially Germany, ravaged by the Great War and Communist Revolution in ways that would be highly improbable today.  Lev was a talented writer, a  Jewish refugee who was an exponent of Islam and an admirer of Fascism, more glib than insightful, more clever than wise, at home playing the outsider but his place never secure. When the official black sedans of the Fascist secret police rolled up to an ailing Lev’s hotel and found him dead, villagers assumed the OVRA men where there to arrest “the Muslim”; in reality, it was to take Lev to make wartime propaganda broadcasts for Italy in Persian.

    Recommended.

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    War on the Rocks: A New Nixon Doctrine – Strategy for a Polycentric World

    Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    I have a new piece up at the excellent War on the Rocks site that is oriented towards both history and contemporary policy Some Excerpts:

    A New Nixon Doctrine: Strategy for a Polycentric World

    ….Asia was only the starting point; the Nixon doctrine continued to evolve in subsequent years into a paradigm for the administration to globally leverage American power, one that, as Chad Pillai explained in his recent War on the Rocks article, still remains very relevant today. Avoiding future Vietnams remained the first priority when President Nixon elaborated on the Nixon Doctrine to the American public in a televised address about the war the following October, but the Nixon Doctrine was rooted in Nixon’s assumptions about larger, fundamental, geopolitical shifts underway that he had begun to explore in print and private talks before running for president. In a secret speech at Bohemian Grove in 1967 that greatly bolstered his presidential prospects, Nixon warned America’s political and business elite that the postwar world as they knew it was irrevocably coming to an end [....]

    ….China was a strategic lodestone for Richard Nixon’s vision of a reordered world under American leadership, which culminated in Nixon’s historic visit to Peking and toasts with Mao ZeDong and Zhou En-lai. In the aftermath of this diplomatic triumph, a town hall meeting on national security policy was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute that featured the Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird squaring off with future Nobel-laureate, strategist and administration critic Thomas Schelling over the Nixon Doctrine and the meaning of “polycentrism” in American foreign policy. Laird was concerned with enunciating the implications of the Nixon doctrine as an operative principle for American foreign policy, taking advantage of the glow of a major success for the administration. Schelling, by contrast, was eager to turn the discussion away from China to the unresolved problem of the Vietnam war, even when he elucidated on the Nixon doctrine’s strategic importance. [....]

    ….What lessons can we draw from the rise of the Nixon Doctrine?

    First, as in Nixon’s time, America is again painfully extricating itself from badly managed wars that neither the public nor the leaders in two administrations who are responsible for our defeat are keen to admit were lost. Nixon accepted defeat strategically, but continued to try to conceal it politically (“Vietnamization,” “Peace with Honor,” etc). What happened in Indochina in 1975 with the fall of Saigon is being repeated in Iraq right now, after a fashion. It will also be repeated in Afghanistan, and there it might be worse than present-day Iraq. [....]

    Read the article in its entirety here.

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