In 1095, Pope Urban II told a large gathering of knights in Southern France that it was their responsibility to avenge the Islamic conquest of the Holy Land (he did not mention that the conquest had occurred nearly 500 years earlier). Urban’s sermon led to the First Crusade, and it forever changed the dynamics between Western Europe, Eastern Christianity, and the Islamic world.
From a Christian theological perspective, Urban introduced an entirely novel—some might say heretical—way of thinking about the relationship between Christian piety and violence. Near the end of his sermon, Urban declared, “Set out on this journey and you will obtain the remission of your sins and be sure of the incorruptible glory of the kingdom of heaven.”
For nearly a millennium, Orthodox Christians have condemned Urban’s perversion of Christian teaching, just as they have condemned the historical events that flowed from it (especially the Fourth Crusade, which destroyed Christian Byzantium). Given this backdrop, Patriarch Kirill’s most-recent effort to curry relevance in Putin’s Russia is nothing short of remarkable: Kirill declared in a recent sermon that Russian soldiers who die in Ukraine will have their sins forgiven.
Over the last thirty years, Nigeria has been plagued with numerous terrorist upheavals that have sometimes bordered on the apocalypse, of which Boko Haram is one. While key attention has been paid to the killing of Christians in the Middle east and other parts of the world, very few works have examined the nature of Christian massacre in Nigeria over the last few years. The manifold mayhems perpetrated by Boko Haram are not just limited to the northeastern part of Nigeria but have global ramifications. By and large, terrorist groups like Boko Haram do not use conventional tactics except on very few occasions when they confront the Nigerian military; their tactics that are often meant to engender fear, intimidation, and death in the communities they target.
While the localized effects of devastation, dislocation, and death have been born by both Muslims and Christians, my focus in this essay will be on Christian victims of Boko Haram. Christians in the northern part of Nigeria are among the voiceless minorities who have lived in a marginalized status in the midst of an overwhelming Muslim population, especially in states that have embraced sharia law over the last twenty years. It is the voices of these victims that beckon the larger global community of Christians in particular, government and non-governmental organizations and social activists in general. Continue reading →
In 2015 the victims of the Armenian Genocide—long referred to as martyrs—were formally acknowledged as Christian saints, as the world marked the passage of a century since their suffering. Authorities of the Armenian Church proceeded with the canonization ceremony despite some indeterminacy about the precise number of saints being identified, on the assumption that clarity would arise over time.
Nevertheless, with the Armenian Church having identified Christian martyrdom as the deepest meaning of the Armenian Genocide, it’s worth considering how, and to what extent, this theme arises in a new film set during the Genocide, The Promise. Continue Reading…