Category Archives: Religion and Politics

Orthodoxy and the Rule of Law in Russia

by Paul Valliere and Randall A. Poole

book cover

Scholarly study of the interaction of law and religion is well established in Europe and America, but it is not evenly distributed across the religious and ecclesiastical spectrum. There is a vast literature on some aspects of the subject, such as religion in the American constitutional order and law in the history of Roman Catholicism. Issues of law and religion in the Orthodox world, however, have not received much attention. Law and the Christian Tradition in Modern Russia (Routledge, 2022), a volume sponsored by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and edited by Paul Valliere and Randall A. Poole, seeks to promote awareness and further investigation of this subject. Since law is an essential ingredient of the public sphere in every developed society, the topic is of obvious relevance to scholars and activists exploring public Orthodoxy.

Our book focuses on the most creative age in the history of Russian law—the century stretching from the Napoleonic wars to the revolutions of 1917. A team of North American, European, and Russian scholars presents twelve concise portraits of outstanding Russian jurists and philosophers of law of the period. A few of these figures, such as Mikhail Speransky and Vladimir Soloviev, will be familiar to Orthodox readers, but most are not well known beyond the circle of specialists in Russian law and legal thought. Also included in our volume are chapters describing the historical and ecclesiastical background of law and religion in Russia.

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Liturgy and the Limits of Minority Rights
The Opening of the “Taşhoran Church and Cultural Center” in Malatya, Turkey

by Christopher Sheklian | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Tashoran Church
Tashoran Church. Source: Wikimedia Commons

“To find something that is lost is always a happy occasion!” So said Patriarch Sahak II Maşalyan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, during his sermon at the first Divine Liturgy to be celebrated at the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Malatya, Turkey, in over one hundred years. Reconstructed through joint efforts of the “Malatya Hayırsever Ermeniler Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği” (Malatya Armenian Culture and Solidarity Philanthropic Association, known as “HayDer”) and the Malatya Municipality, the reconsecration of the Սուրբ Երրորդութիւն/Surp Yerrortutiun (Holy Trinity) Church on Saturday, August 28, and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy the day after was a momentous, historic, and, indeed, happy occasion. Patriarch Sahak II deftly connected Christ’s famous parables from Luke 15 and the weekend’s “Feast of the Finding of the Holy Belt of Saint Mary” with the historic occasion. He emphasized the monumental event of restoring an Armenian Apostolic Church that had been abandoned during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and left to ruin not only being renovated by a Turkish municipality, but again hosting Armenian Christian liturgical life. Joy at recovering something lost and the promise of new life, the themes of the Lukan parables, were palpable in the videos and news from the weekend.

Malatya, an ancient central Anatolian city known historically as Melitene, had a notable Armenian presence since at least the time it served as a Roman provincial capital. While the church, known colloquially in Turkish as Taşhoran, was left to ruin after the 1915 Genocide, Malatya was one of the few urban centers that maintained an Armenian presence throughout the twentieth century. Today, Malatya is famous among Armenians as the birthplace of Hrant Dink, the journalist and intellectual who founded the influential paper Agos and was assassinated outside of its offices in 2007. Several of the articles about the reconsecration mention the proximity of the church to the neighborhood where Hrant Dink was born.

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The Tigray Crisis and the Possibility of an Autocephalous Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church

by Habtom Yohannes | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Tigray Orthodox Church
Debre Selam Kidist Selassie Church before and after the War

The ongoing war in Tigray, the cradle of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity, might lead into yet another split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EtOTC), this time into an Amhara-based Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church and a Tigray-based Orthodox Tewahdo Church, weakening further the second largest Orthodox Church after Russia and the largest church of the Oriental family. The first split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church took place in 1994, when the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (ErOTC) was granted autocephaly by the late Pope Shenouda III following Eritrean independence from Ethiopia on May 24, 1993 (Stéphan, Bonacci, & Persoon, 2014). If Tigray opts for secession from Ethiopia and establishes its own independent nation-state like the Eritreans, then Alexandria has no option but to grant Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church (TOTC) autocephaly. Both options, autocephaly or continuation as part of the Ethiopian Synod, entail immense challenges.

Ironically, the current Ethiopian crisis started to surface in April 2018, when Abiy Ahmed Ali became Prime Minister[1] of the second most populous African country after Nigeria. Immediately after Abiy Ahmed ascended to power, he released all political prisoners and granted amnesty to all disgruntled exiles to come back to Ethiopia, including opposition groups and their media outlets who were stationed in Europe and the United States. Some of these Ethiopian opposition groups had their army in neighboring Eritrea. After Abiy Ahmed and the Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, signed a peace agreement in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on July 9, 2018, eight rebel groups returned to Ethiopia. Furthermore, Ahmed went all the way to the United States to convince Patriarch Abune Merkorios (an Amhara) and his synod to return home after 27 years in exile and reconcile with the Ethiopian Synod under Patriarch Abune Mathias. All these earned Abiy Ahmed the Nobel Peace Prize of 2019. However, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had dominated Ethiopia for the last 27 years, felt alienated by the velocity of transformations.  

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Violence in Georgia and the Ambivalence of a Cross

by Tamara Grdzelidze | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Русский | Română | Српски

St. Nino's Cross

In the aftermath of erecting a metal cross to replace the flag of Europe in front of Georgia’s Parliament on July 5, my intention was to write only on the ambivalence of this cross, but things took a horrifying turn.

World media and social platforms gave an ample coverage to the events that unfolded around the days of Gay Pride, especially to the developments on the last day when Pride organizers decided to avoid clashes and canceled the March of Dignity on the 5th. This decision was a result of the unprecedented aggression against journalists and media persons on the same day. They were reporting on the counter-Pride demonstration—masterminded by anti-Western, i.e. pro-Putinist Russian forces—strongly encouraged by the Orthodox Church of Georgia.[1] A young cameraman from one of the opposition TV channels, Lexo Lashqarava, severely beaten and injured, was found dead at home on the 11th. Thus, my original intention has been overshadowed by the tragedy of the loss of a human life.

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