Religion and Conflict

This Is Not the World We Are Taught Of

Published on: November 20, 2023
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Image: Armenian martyrs ask justice of the crucified Christ. Painting by Mardiros Altounian, museum of the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia

We are living in a time when wars and conflicts consistently occur. Whether we are in the midst of the war physically or mentally, in any case, we are damaged. Different states and the media can present the events occurring under different names and categories, yet the violence against human life is at the core of the conflicts. We speak up, we advocate, we protest, we post on social media platforms, and we speak from different media channels. Still, the world is in the same place. I cannot believe that in the 21st century, we witness genocides, ethnic cleansing, wars, and conflicts, where children and women are largely the primary victims.

Two months ago, with a heavy heart, I wrote an article about how the Armenian people in Artsakh were under a prolonged blockade—an open-air prison without food, medicine, or gas supply—in their own homeland. Today, I write a new article about Artsakh, which is already ethnically cleansed, with 120,000 Armenians having been forcibly moved out of their homes. Moreover, the Russia-Ukraine war is not yet extinguished, the attacks against Syria have not come to a halt, and another war is taking place in the Middle East, in Gaza, under the name of the “fight against terrorism.” Hospitals and churches are bombed, and thousands of innocent people, including children and women, are killed; hostages are detained, and our ecosystem is being damaged. It is unbelievable to see that world leaders openly support the war in every way, financially and morally.

I am thinking to myself, what happened to “No war,” “Say no to hate,” “No to racism,” and many other similar slogans that used to cover sports and concert stadiums, were shown on billboards, and even on TVs? Are we living in a century where attacks and violence are acceptable? How can we accept this? How can we speak about Black Lives Matter, the rights of Indigenous peoples, women’s rights, and many more social injustices when we are not able to stop crimes against humanity?

Sadly, democracy is the guiding system in numerous countries, but again, we are led by the power of the world leaders or political parties, which are making our lives a mess. It is time to realize for whom we have voted or to whom we have given the power of authority. Are these people making our lives better and building a better future for the next generation, or are they guided by money-based agendas? How are we going to teach our children and students that violence is not the solution to conflicts? How are we going to teach them to be ambassadors and advocates of peace and justice? When are we going to treat all people, especially children (who are the most vulnerable people in society), of all races and nations equally, defending their right to live and ensure the fulfillment of their basic needs? This is not the world that we were taught of. This is not the world we want to live in presently and in the future.

It is time for the Church leaders to define the true path that people need to take. Under the name of secularization, the Church is excluded from interfering in political issues, but human lives are in danger. Church leaders should serve as torchbearers in difficult times, addressing the stigmas that cause human suffering. While their positions may vary due to their specific circumstances, when it concerns the collective wellbeing of humanity, there should be no alternatives. We cannot place our trust in politics, which at times values political advantages over human life. Furthermore, the Church, as a unity in Christ, cannot remain silent or take no stance when innocent humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is suffering. And if Church leaders choose to remain neutral, then the people must become the voices for the unheard and suffering. People make up the Church; therefore, it is incumbent upon people to implore their Church leaders not to remain silent but to embody the healing grace for the wounds afflicting the body of Christ.

We have to realize and believe that if we come together to heal the stigmas of this world, then we will be the voice for the vulnerable and those who are negatively impacted by the conflicts and the attacks. We cannot allow world leaders to dictate our lives with their war rhetoric, through the support of our votes and tax payments. Christ’s embodying message of love and peace is the most needed medicine today in the midst of a messy world. If we allow any kind of injustice anywhere and remain silent about it, assuredly the mist will reach our doors, and it will be too late. If we truly carry the name of Christ, the Lord of Peace, then it is in our human vocation to be the ambassadors of peace and love. Moreover, the grace of love is the most powerful weapon that can heal any kind of human stigma that bleeds from evil, because the Kingdom of God is the unity of love and peace under the shadow of the Holy Cross. It is high time that we put into practice what we preach. It is imperative that we unite our efforts to spread the virtues of peace and love we have been raised with and have vowed to safeguard in our personal and collective lives.

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

About author

  • Very Rev. Barouyr Shernezian

    Very Rev. Barouyr Shernezian

    Dean of Armenian Theological Seminary of the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia

    Very Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian, an Armenian Orthodox Priest, was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He studied at the Armenian Theological Seminary from 2004 to 2012 and was ordained as a priest in 2012 by the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia. He served as the director of the "Cilicia" Museum and sp...

    Read author's full bio and see articles by this author

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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