Posts Tagged ‘Syriac Church’

Anti-Kipper Meme: St. George Is an Immigrant

April 23, 2015

I found this meme against rising xenophobia, and, by implication, UKIP over at the SlatUKIP site. It follows a number of similar posters that have been put up around the country, showing individual immigrants, and the vital work they do. Like firemen, lifeboatmen, internet entrepreneurs and so on.

This one is of England’s very own patron saint, St. George.

St George Immigrant

Yup. St. George is an immigrant. His cult was brought to England and popularised by knights returning from the Crusades. Before then, England’s patron saint was St Edmund, an Anglo-Saxon king, who had been martyred by the invading Vikings.

The real St George was a Roman soldier from what is now Turkey, who was executed during the Roman persecution of Christianity for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Over time, the legend grew up around him that he was a knight, who rescued a damsel from the dragon.

Along with St George, the Crusades saw other influences from the Eastern Orthodox churches enter England and the Roman Catholic West. The churches built by the Knights Templars, the crusading order made notorious through later accusations of devil worship and works of pseudo-history like Holy Blood, Holy Grail, were built in a beehive shape, like those of the Syriac and Armenian churches.

And across the Channel in France, several of the new churches built in the 12th century were for Coptic Christians from Egypt, or were at least built according to their churches’ plans.

A few years ago, one of the Beeb’s programme on medieval history also showed that there were clues that some, at least, of the masons working on England’s cathedrals in the 12th century – I think it may have been York minister – were Arabs, due to Arab influences in the building’s design and possibly some remains of Arabic script found on some of the stones. Certainly there was a artisan recorded in London, as ‘Peter the Saracen’. It’s also about this time that the first images and written records of Black people in England appear. There used to be a section about Black people in England on the website of the National Archives, including a miniature picture of one from a 12th century manuscript.

And one of England’s medieval kings even received communion from a Syriac clergyman, Rabban Sauma, when he visited England in the 12th or 13th century.

Which all shows that people of Black and Asian descent have been around in England much longer than Nige and the other Kippers think.

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A Prayer for the Persecuted Church from Ancient Iran

June 4, 2013

I was saddened and disgusted by recent reports of the persecution of Christians in Iran. The Iranian regime is cracking down on evangelical Christianity. Worship, preaching and Christian literature in Farsi is forbidden, churches have been closed and their pastors arrested. The most notable of these are Pastors Youcef Naderkhani and Abedini. They have been imprisoned and sent to the notoriously brutal Evin prison, where their captors are placing them under considerable pressure to convert to Islam. This is not the first time by any means that the Revolutionary regime has persecuted Christians. The Ayatollah Khomeini promised freedom for all religions in Iran, not just Islam. Despite this, the son of the Anglican bishop of Tehran was murdered in the 1980s, apparently by agents of the regime. Several Armenian clergy have also been killed.

Persecution of Christians in Iran down the Centuries

The persecution of Christians in Iran goes back centuries. The church was persecuted under the Sassanid emperors. The Mongols, after their conversion to Islam in the 12th/13th centuries persecuted and destroyed a flourishing Nestorian church that had spread across central Asia to China. Then in the 20th century there was the Armenian massacres. Although this was launched by the Ottoman Turks, it extended into Iran, where members of the Armenian minority were butchered by the Kurds. The massacres were not an isolated event, but part of a ‘Day of the Sword’ that also saw other Christian minorities attacked and murdered across the Middle East. The British traveller, Robert Byron, records an appeal by a Syriac mar in Iraq for help against the jihad declared against his people.

Persecution of Baha’is in Iran

Christians are certainly not alone in being persecuted in Iran. The most severe persecution has been inflicted on the Baha’is. These are, like the Admadis, considered an Islamic heresy, and are therefore regarded as outside the dhimmi designation that provides a limited tolerance for Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Because one of the religion’s foundes, Bahaullah, was exiled by the Turkish authorities to Haifa, there is now a large body of conspiracist theorising that falsely accuses them of being an Israeli plot to undermine Islam. In Iran there have been a series of pogroms that have killed an estimated 50,000 Baha’is. Baha’is have been imprisoned, tortured and female believers gang-raped in order to force them to renouce their beliefs. Baha’is travelling to Iran have been forced to sign documents stating they have left the faith in order to enter the country. Any mention of this persecution inside Iran is also strictly forbidden. A Western businessman with dealings in Iran and Iranian friends and business partners was arrested when he returned to the country after writing a book on the pogrom against the Baha’is.

Muslim Iranians Outraged against Khomeinist Regime’s Violence and Persecution

This intolerance and persecution is not shared by many Iranian Muslims. John Simpson in his book on Iran records that the congregation for the funeral of the Anglican bishop’s son included the Christians’ Muslim friends and colleagues. The Shah was a thug and a tyrant, but older Iranians who lived under his rule state that they all considered themselves Iranians, regardless of individual faith. Iranian Muslims did have Baha’is and Zoroastrians amongst their friends. The rioting and demonstrations against the cartoons of Mohammed published in Denmark outraged many genuinely liberal and tolerant Iranians. The Iranian correspondent for the British magazine, Private Eye, reported a counter-demonstration against the riots at the remains of the Danish embassy the day after it was razed by a mob. Their members included many whose patriotism and love for their country cannot be denied. One of these was the quadroplegica veteran of the Iran-Iraq. This man was a mouth-painter, and painted a picture of Our Lady, who is also a revered figure in Islam. The magazine also noted that the blog of one of the Basiji commanders, who helped organise the riots and destruction, was flooded with comments from Iranians denouncing his actions. One even said that it was people like him, who were responsible for the suspicion and hatred of Islam in the West.

Life and Prayer of Simeon of Persia

The prayer is by Simeon of Persia, alias Simeon Barsabba’e. He was bishop of Ctesiphon, and was martyred there in 341 during the campaign against Christianity by the Persian Emperor, Shapur II. Just as the contemporary Iranian regime accuses Christians of treachery and disloyalty, so Simeon and his fellows were then. Amongst other crimes, he was accused of plotting treason in correspondence to the Roman emperor, Constatius II. He was ordered to convert to Zoroastrianism, but refused. He and a large number of other Christians were thus executed on Good Friday, 341. After his death, his sister, the virgin St. Pherbutha, was accused of witchcraft and martyred with her sister and another woman. The two bishops, St. Shahdost, and St. Barba’shmin, who succeeded Simeon to the see were also martyred in 342 and 346 respectively. The prayer by Simeon of Persia describes his despair at seeing his church destroyed and its people turned against him. Yet he is determined to continue in his faith so that he will win the crown of glory in heaven, where there will be no earthly persecutors.

‘Give me this crown, Lord; you know how I long for it,
for I have loved you with all my heart and all my being.
When I see you, I shall be filled iwth joy and you will give
me rest. I shall no longer have to live in this world and see
my people suffering, your churches destroyed, your altars
overthown, your devoted clergy everywhere persecuted,
the weak defiled, the lukewarm turned from the truth, and
my flock, that was so large reduced at the time of testing to
a handful.

I shall not see the many that seemed to be my friends
undergo an inward change, become hostile and seek my
death; or find those that were my friends for a while taken
from me by persecution, at the very time when the killers
are snapping their fingers at our people and lording it over
them.

Yet I mean to persevere in my vocation like a hero and
to walk bravely along the parth marked out for me, so that I
shall be an example to all your people in the East. I have
had the first place at table, I will have the first place too
whien it comes to dying; I will be the first to give my
blood. Then with my brethren I shall enter on that life in
which there are no cares, no anxiety, no solicitude, a life
where there is neither persecutor nor persecuted, neither
oppressor nor oppressed, neither tyrant nor victim of
tyranny. No threatening kings, no blustering prefects shall I
see there. No one there will cite me before his tribunal or
upset me with repeated menaces; there will be no on eto do
me violence or bully me.

I shall stumble no more, when once I have gained a
firm footing in you, the Way we all must walk in. My
weary limbs will find their rest in you, for you, Anointed,
are the Oil that is to anoint us. The grief in my heart will
be forgotten when I drink of you, the Chalice of our
salvation. The trears in my eyes you will wipe away, OJoy, O
Consolation’.

We pray that this current persecution will soon cease without the deaths of pastors Naderkhani, Abedini, and the other clergy and worshippers, as will the attacks on other religious minorities, such as the Baha’is and liberal Muslims. We pray that the pastors and other Christians and prisoners of conscience will soon be freed from jail, to live freely. We pray that God will sustain the pastors and their community in their faith, and that soon all Iranians will live in peace and friendship, regardless of their faith.

World without end, Amen.