My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"A TIME FOR WAR AND A TIME OF PEACE" (Ecclesiastes 3:8).
Mankind’s history is replete with conflict and war. War and the killing in times of war are contrary to the teachings of Christianity. Violence is contrary to the commandments, ethics, and principles of the Christian Faith. Saint Basil the Great states clearly that although the act of violence may be required for the "defense of the weak and innocent… it is never justifiable."
Christianity is credited for introducing the belief of non-violence. The early Church was very negative towards the participation of Christians in war. Also, the Church has always upheld her fundamental resistance towards war and does not permit clergy to be engaged in any military campaign. A genuine Christian would rather be killed than to kill. The reality, however, is that inevitably the will of the state will conflict with God’s will over time, and it is important to understand that "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
The holy Fathers of the Church’s position on war, was that it is the lesser of greater evils, but nonetheless evil. In Orthodoxy, there is no such thing as a "just war" or a "good war." The Christian clergy and lay Christians were to remain pacifists and not engage in killing. There are those times, however, when under certain circumstances and in order to protect the innocent, war was unavoidable.
Christians ought to be focused on peace and should work towards maintaining a loving attitude that is not contrary to God’s commandments. The Holy Scripture states, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Our Lord, God and Savior reveals Himself as the Reconciler, the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:14, 16). God the Holy Spirit gives peace, the sign of His presence, to all those who imitate Him. Peace bestows communion with God and concord with all creation, the sign of our sanctity. Thus, "peacemakers" share God’s peace with those around them, participating in the divine work of God’s Only-begotten Son Jesus Christ.
The holy Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans says, God is referred to as a "God of peace" (Romans 15:33). War is a result of a separation from our Creator, which is also a separation from peace and love. Since the Almighty God is the Source of our existence, separation from Him leads to annihilation. As the Holy Scripture says, "…for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).
According to holy Canon 83: "If any Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, is engaged in military matters, and wishes to hold both civil and a holy office, let him be deposed. For ‘render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and unto God the things that are God’s" (Matthew 22:21).
In the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire, the enemies of the State were also enemies of the Church. Therefore, the defense of the Empire also became the defense of the Christian Church. The Empire was believed to be protected by God since it was a Christian Empire. The Church has upheld its position on war and has never deserted its stance. The Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas (963-969 A.D.) asked the Church to recognize the Christians killed in battle to be included as martyrs.
The answer to the Emperor’s request from the Church was, "How could they be regarded as martyrs or equal to the martyrs those who kill others or die themselves at war, when the divine Canons impose a penalty on them PREVENTING THEM FROM COMING TO Divine Communion for three years."
The Orthodox Church has always condemned war, but has been tolerant of the Christian soldiers that served in the military. War may be unavoidable under certain conditions to protect the innocent and to limit even greater destruction and evil.
"Following the traditions of the Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the Orthodox Church teaches that peace is divinely ordained condition for human existence and that every form of conflict and strife is a manifestation of sin. War as the antithesis of peace, therefore, belongs to the realm of human sin. Thus, warfare as an activity belongs to the realm of fallen human existence and can in no way embody the justice, righteousness, and, indeed, peace that is the very essence of the reconciliation of God and humanity."
From a personal perspective, war goes against human nature and human dignity. War has never been a solution to the human condition. Millions upon millions have been killed over the centuries without lasting solutions. World War I was expected to be the war that ended all wars, but it has happened. Wars continue and innocent people are killed and referred to as, ‘collateral damage." It seems that the world has not learned anything from the experience of war. Humanity has been desensitized and accepts the devastation of war as a way of life.
I can honestly say that I, along with my parents and siblings, were victims of the civil war in Greece. The civil war immediately following World War II in Greece was caused by the communists who wanted Greece to be part of the Soviet Union. This civil war was more vicious and horrific than the war with the Axis powers, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. During this war, our family was devastated and it was only by the grace of God that we survived. Nevertheless, we were victims of this war along with thousands, if not millions, of other Greeks. We were made homeless and we became known later on as "displaced persons," or D.P’s. It forced our family to be uprooted from the homeland and emigrate to a distant and unknown country, America.
It is one thing to see war taking place in a faraway land, and another to be in it and on the receiving end. It is a most traumatic experience to see death all around you and for your house to be bombed and annihilated before your eyes while your entire family is still in it. Hearing the wailing and crying of people who lost their loved ones and the horror of seeing dead soldiers all around you, is horrific. The memories and scars of war stay with you for the rest of your life.
Peace should be the norm and goal of all Christian life for everyone. At the Divine Liturgy, we offer the Litany of Peace. The priest says the peace supplications: In peace let us pray to the Lord, for the peace of the whole world, the stability of the holy Churches of God and for the union of all mankind, let us pray to the Lord, etc. War must be avoided at all cost and peaceful resolutions of human conflicts must be pursued. However, there are situations when evil powers seek your destruction and the destruction of one’s country and conflict cannot be avoided. In this case, one has to defend it from oppression and enslavement. If allowed, the hostile enemy attacking would definitely deprive you of life and freedom. In such situations, an Orthodox Christian has no other choice but to defend himself, his family, and, of course, his country. It is considered to be a "necessary evil". It is necessary, because the innocent and good people must be protected. It is considered evil, because such protection requires the taking of human life, which is considered to be a grave sin.
As everyone knows, we do live in a perfect world, but a fallen world. Evil cannot be permitted to take the world hostage, control its destiny, and destroy humanity altogether. Everyone must be alert and vigilant and always seek God’s help, guidance, and protection. The good and faithful people of God must be willing to die for Christ, if need be, just as the millions of Christians died at the hands of infidels throughout the centuries. Let us not forget the war that was fought in heaven with Lucifer and his angels, when evil was expelled from heaven forever. Evil cannot be ignored or tolerated and allowed to dominate God’s world. The warfare against evil is fought not only by us here on earth, but also with the help of the Angelic powers of God.
"Glory Be To GOD