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Hagia Sophia, the West and Islam - The other side of jihad

Featured Hagia Sophia, the West and Islam - The other side of jihad

by Archbishop of Albania Anastasios

The conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque brought to the fore the West's troubled relationship with Islam. Usually, in such a position on the problem, a special tone is given to political-military Islam, especially radical Islam. While, directly, or indirectly, the religious nature of Islam is relegated to second place. It is the religious nature, however, which feeds, inspires and innervates political Islam (with specific metaphysical principles and beliefs, with a system of dogmatic official positions, ethical codes, a text that is sacred, of an absolute, non-negotiable prestige).

The term "West" includes specific cultural and political-economic elements, which were initially formed by the influence of Christianity and evolved from various other tendencies of a multifaceted rationalism. Today these have led to a secularized West. On the other hand, the confrontation with Islam - in its complex dynamic religious-political form - poses to the West an invitation for self-criticism on its self-consciousness.

The West's growing religious indifference reduces its spiritual defense system. But the term West does not include the whole Christian world. Russia is also being targeted by Islamist terrorists. The terms "West" and "Islam" used, therefore, are not in complete correspondence. One, literally, is geographical, while the other is purely religious, without being limited by geographical borders. G. Weigel insists that the West must take seriously the religious roots of jihadism, in order to confront those who act violently in the name of God.

In an interview, historian Edward Luttwak, author of the excellent work "The grand strategy of the Byzantine Empire", explaining the success of Byzantine resistance to pressure from the expansive wave of Islam, pointed out that in the resistance put up by Constantinople "the triple and very strong identity of the Byzantines, which considered themselves, at the same time, Greek, Christian and Roman played a decisive role. This identity made them feel proud and strong representatives of an important civilization. They had a deep knowledge of ancient Greek education, so they were able to understand the world around them. They were deeply Christian: they had such a strong belief in Christianity that we can hardly comprehend later. And they were based on the strong Roman institutions, the laws, the army, the state ".

The Byzantine Empire and Islam

At the same time, the Byzantines used diplomacy with special skill to deal with threats. The conditions, of course, have changed, but the bases - education, religious faith, institutions - continue to be of great importance for the proper resistance to modern terrorism. If we want to make a self-criticism, both education and faith have significantly eroded the traditional Christian world. And, unfortunately, they continue to be undermined.

While in the Islamic world there is support and growth of religious sentiment, and often enthusiasm for the imposition of Islam in new areas through economic and political means, in the so-called Christian world one can discern a significant degradation of the significance of religious consciousness and doubt as to its value.

It is time to realize that technological progress is not enough to ensure the cohesion and resilience of our society. The revival, the revitalization and not the marginalization of the Christian faith, the experience of its essence, its power and its beauty will help Christians, and especially Orthodox Christians, to preserve our identities and develop the ecumenical values that constitute the core of Christian culture, its amazing endurance, as well as its creative dynamism.