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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Elder Paisios about moral, love and sweet words


Evil lies within us. There is no love in us, so we don’t feel all people to be brothers and are tempted by [the knowledge of] their sinful ways. But it’s not right when moral failings become known to all. The injunction of the Gospels to “tell it unto the church” (Matt. 18:17) doesn’t mean that everything has to become known to everyone. By exposing the moral failings of our brother we arm the enemies of the Church, give them another pretext to escalate the war against Her. And the faith of the weak is shaken in this way too. If you want to help the Church, then try to mend your own ways, rather than others’. In straightening yourself out you straighten out a particle of the Church. If everyone were to do that then the Church would be in perfect order. But today’s people attend to everything under the sun, only not to themselves, because it’s easy to teach others, while mending one’s own ways requires effort. 

* * *

If we expose someone out of love, with pain in our hearts, then a change will occur in his heart whether he understands us or not. But to expose without love, with partiality, only enrages to object of our exposure. Our hostility strikes against his egoism, producing sparks like flint against steel. If we tolerate our brother out of love, he will feel it. But he also feels our hostility, even if we keep it inside and don’t express it. Our hostility arouses alarm in him. We must always ask ourselves: “Why do I want to say what I’m about to say? What is motivating me? Do I really care about my neighbor or do I just want to show him how wonderful I am, to show off a bit?” If someone tries to solve ecclesiastical problems allegedly out of faith, but really thinking of his own advantage, then how can such a person win God’s blessing?

* * *

Sweet words and great truths have value when uttered by righteous lips. They take root only in people of good will and clean conscience. Truth, when used without judgment, can commit a crime. And he who possesses sincerity without reason commits a twofold evil, first against himself, then against others. Because there’s no empathy in his sincerity. A Christian must not be a fanatic but have love in his heart for all. He who throws words around carelessly, even true words, does evil. Veneration is a good thing, and the predisposition for good is also good, but spiritual judgment and breadth are needed to guard against fanaticism, that false companion of reverence.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fr Basilios Nassar, the New Martyr and the Best Jihad

Fr. Georges Massouh is Professor of Islamic Studies at Balamand University

Fr Basilios Nassar, the New Martyr

He was a fighter, but he was not like other fighters. He was a warrior, but he did not resemble any other warrior. He was armed, but his weapons are not of this world. He was a revolutionary, but his revolution was not of this world, even if it was in this world. He followed the example of his Jesus. His age was on the threshhold of thirty years. His name was Basilios Nassar and it has become the Martyr Basilios Nassar.

He was from the village of Kfarbahom in the district of Hama. He grew up in his village and studied theology in the St. John of Damascus Institute at Balamand University. He obtained a master's degree in theology and then returned to serve his village church. He was killed by treacherous bullets last week while performing  humanitarian work, attempting to bring relief to a wounded member of his flock.

Father Baslios' weapon was the Holy Gospel and his armor the life-giving Cross. His sword was absolute truth and his arrow righteousness and piety. His citadel was the Holy Church which the Lord acquired with His holy blood. He carried love as a banner that sheltered him against hatred and prejudice. He raised up hope as a wall against oppression and coercion. He declared his faith in a teacher who left no law other than a single commandment: "Love each other as I have loved you."

Basilios believed that "the servant is not greater than his Master." Christ spoke these words when He washed the feet of His disciples on the night of His crucifixion. Basilios carried his apron and went around serving the poor, the destitute, the needy, the indigent, the sick, the widows, the orphans, the elderly... On his final trip, he wanted to be like that Samaritan who cared for the one who had "fallen among robbers," wounded and struggling with death. He went beyond what the Samaritan did, since it was not enough for him to give money for the wounded man's care. He paid for redemption with his blood, to save a person from death. He died so that someone else may live and so reached the limits of martyrdom.

Like his crucified teacher, Basilios did not believe in violence as a way to defend the oppressed. He believed in the Word of Truth and in human dignity and in the freedom that is the image of God in humankind. He did not carry a weapon to defend the children of his flock, but he carried his white shroud. He did not carry a white flag with which to surrender before blind hatred and the strife that has ignited among the children of a single nation and a single city and a single village. Rather, he carried the banner of love which alone destroys hatred and conquers it. A person does not conquer hatred with hatred. This is what Basilios said to us in his martyrdom. 

Basilios comes from a Church that has produced thousands of holy martyrs, from a Church that considers bearing witness with blood to be the loftiest witness. He comes from a Church whose golden age was not an age of alliance with the state. Rather, her golden age was when she lived and spread and evangelized in the shadow of persecutions that the tyrannical Roman state  unleashed against her children. He comes from a Church whose children say, "In Him (that is, the Lord) we live and move and have existence" and in no other.

It is important for us to know which side killed the Father Basilios the New Martyr, even if that is difficult in the midst of civil wars. However, it is more important for us not to traffic in his pure blood and not to profit from it in the bazaar of internal conflict.  That said, the bitter reality indicates that an honorable Syrian citizen was killed by Syrian bullets fired by a Syrian citizen. This is the most painful thing, that the children of a single nation attack each other with bullets.

Blessed is the Orthodox Church to whom the beloved Basilios belongs, in the ranks of her righteous martyrs. Blessed is he because he completed his quest and fought the good fight. Is there anything more glorious than this jihad?


If by Rudyard Kipling (poem)


If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Troparion of Cassiani. Doxastikon from the Aposticha of Matins of Great Wednesday



"The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. ‘Woe is me’, she said, ‘for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea, Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgements, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure."

Arianna Huffington On Christopher Hitchens, Faith And The Afterlife (VIDEO)

When Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington sat down with Canada's George Stroumboulopoulos last week, it didn't take long for the conversation to take a very personal turn.
In fact, it took just one question:
"What do you remember of Chris Hitchens?" Strombo asked, referring to the essayist, journalist and charming "troublemaker" who died of cancer last December.
"Chris Hitchens and I were very close," she began, explaining that she had met him in London. "He even spoke some Greek." "It was tragic," she added. "He had this whole adversarial relationship with God. When you lose the battle with life and you don't believe in anything else, that must make it incredibly hard."
In the interview, which aired Tuesday night, Strombo didn't pass on the opportunity to plumb the spiritual depths with Huffington, asking, "Do you believe there's something else?"
"A thousand per cent," she replied.
"Is it the Judeo-Christian God ... are you down with what the Buddhists are into?" he pressed.
"It doesn't matter for me," she said. "The important thing is the recognition that there is a spiritual reality beyond our material reality — that life is partly this journey to learn more and more about it, understand it more, live it better.
"That for me, is what makes sense of a lot of things that happen in life."
On her most recent visit to Canada, Huffington gave the keynote speech at the Digital Media Summit in Toronto. Read what she had to say about the "fetishization of things going viral" and view Twitter reaction to her remarks in the gallery below.

Four-time Emmy award winner Jonathan Jackson talks about his journey into Orthodox Christianity


 

From General Hospital to the Hospital of Souls:  Interview with Jonathan Jackson


February 27, 2012 Length: 

Four-time Emmy award winner Jonathan Jackson, star of 'General Hospital' and 'Tuck Everlasting,' talks with Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick about his journey into Orthodox Christianity, his family, how he lives his faith as a Hollywood actor, music and writing, on this special episode of Roads From Emmaus.

This is how you elect a pope, a Coptic pope

The funeral service for Shenouda III

For centuries, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt has chosen its leader through a complex, month-long process

 
A blindfolded child will deliver the final word on the election of the successor of Shenouda III, the recently deceased Coptic Pope. According to customary voting practice, the child will pull one of three cards, with various names written on them, out of a silver urn. For centuries, the Coptic Orthodox Church has chosen its leaders through this unique system, at the end of a complex, multi-step process which lasts several months.

The current procedure dates back to 1957, and thus has been used to choose the last two Coptic popes: Cyril VI, who reigned from 1959 to 1971, and Shenouda III, who led the largest Egyptian Church for the last forty years. On 31 October 1971, he, too, was chosen through the “sacred election by lot”: before the entire  community, the smallest of the altar boys was given the task of extracting one of the three cards which contained the names of monks Samuel and Timothy al-Maqarinext alongside Shenouda's name. This is an ancient way to visibly demonstrate that the election has been entrusted to the will of God.

It should be noted right away, though, that the child’s role only comes into play at the end of a lengthy selection process. The first step - which must take place within seven days after the death of the Coptic pope - is the appointment of a regent, chosen by the Holy Synod (the assembly of Coptic bishops) to lead the Church until it chooses a successor. Usually it is one of the eldest of the bishops. Under his leadership, within the space of a month, a committee consisting of fourteen members of the Synod, has the task of preparing, based on reports received, an initial list of five or six candidates for the election. There are specific criteria that need to be met: the future Coptic pope must be over 40 years old, he must have lived as a monk for at least fifteen years, and must never have been married.

Once chosen, this list is then published in Egypt's three major Arab-language newspapers, communicating the names of the candidates to all the faithful of the Coptic Church. For this reason, the next step takes place only after three months. At that point a grand assembly is called, including the 74 bishops of the Coptic Church and twelve representatives from each diocese, chosen from elders and leaders of associations. This is a large body, consisting of one thousand people who will be voting for the candidates. The three that receive the most support will have their names on the ballot during the ceremony of the “sacred election by lot.” The ceremony is held during a public ritual which the entire community of the faithful is invited to attend.

Thus, the 119th Coptic pope will be named just four months from now. And, interestingly, the procedure for his appointment in Egypt coincides with the campaign for the election of the President of the Republic: that vote is set for 23 and 24 May, with possible run-offs on 16 and 17 June. Another interesting problem will be to find out to what extent the Coptic diaspora communities will take part in the election of a new pope. Today, members of the diaspora are more numerous than in 1971 and have their own bishops.

Both the funeral of Pope Shenouda III and the election of his successor will take place in Saint Mark's Cathedral. The new cathedral, opened in 1968 in the Abbasyia district, holds the relics of the Evangelist who - according to tradition - was the founder of the Church of Alexandria. In 1968, in a gesture of profound ecumenical significance, Paul VI donated part of the remains of Saint Mark's, venerated for centuries in Venice, to the Coptic Church. In 1973, following this gesture, Paul VI and Shenouda III signed a joint declaration in which they gave “thanks in the Holy Spirit to God for the fact that, after the great event of the return of the relics of St. Mark to Egypt, relations between the Churches of Rome and Alexandria have continued to grow.”

Since the age limit for the election is relatively low - just 40 years of age - it is not unusual for a Coptic Pope to reign for very long periods of time, as with Shenouda III. The record, however, belongs to his predecessor, Cyril V, who led the Coptic Church from 1874 to 1927 - 53 years. This period of time was not only long, but vital to Egyptian history: it witnessed the end of Ottoman era, British domination, the independence movement of Mustafa Kamil Pasha, the First World War, the revolution of 1919, and the independence of 1922.

The Confessions of St. Patrick

Unlike most pre-schism Orthodox saints, St. Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland left us a description of his conversion and apostolic labors in his own words. They are known as his “Confessions”.

  

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.
5. He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’
6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.
7. I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: ‘You destroy those who speak a lie.’ And again: ‘A lying mouth deals death to the soul.’ And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘On the day of judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.’
8. So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling, this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.
9. And therefore for some time I have thought of writing, but I have hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures equally and have never changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove from a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of my preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, ‘wisdom shall be recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in the learning of truth.’
10. But why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own? But who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A young man, almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew what I should desire and what I should shun. So, consequently, today I feel ashamed and I am mightily afraid to expose my ignorance, because, [not] eloquent, with a small vocabulary, I am unable to explain as the spirit is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate.
11. But had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not have kept silent, and if it should appear that I put myself before others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is written: ‘The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and distinctly.’ How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is said: ‘You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth . . . written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’ And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was created by the Most High.
12. I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.
13. Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be—if I would—such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.
14. According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.
15. And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor imagined.
16. But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.
17. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship.
18. And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them; and the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: ‘By no means attempt to go with us.’ Hearing this I left them to go to the hut where I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and before the prayer was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly after me: ‘Come quickly because the men are calling you.’ And immediately I went back to them and they started to say to me: ‘Come, because we are admitting you out of good faith; make friendship with us in any way you wish.’ (And so, on that day, I refused to suck the breasts of these men from fear of God, but nevertheless I had hopes that they would come to faith in Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.) And for this I continued with them, and forthwith we put to sea.
19. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: ‘Why is it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see another human being.’ In fact, I said to them, confidently: ‘Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.’ And with God’s help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them, and remained there for two nights, and the men were full of their meat and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly. They discovered wild honey, besides, and they offered a share to me, and one of them said: ‘It is a sacrifice.’ Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.
20. The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in the spirit, to call upon ‘Helias’? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in the sky, and while I was crying out ‘Helias, Helias’ with all my might, lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I hope that it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says in the Gospel: ‘In that hour’, the Lord declares, ‘it is not you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.’
21. And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘You shall be with them for two months.’ So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their hands.
22. On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.
23. And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.
27. They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated on a day—nay, rather in one hour—in my boyhood because I was not yet proof against sin. God knows—I do not—whether I was fifteen years old at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I believed, since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief until I was severely rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by hunger and nakedness.
28. On the other hand, I did not proceed to Ireland of my own accord until I was almost giving up, but through this I was corrected by the Lord, and he prepared me so that today I should be what was once far from me, in order that I should have the care of—or rather, I should be concerned for—the salvation of others, when at that time, still, I was only concerned for myself.
29. Therefore, on that day when I was rebuked, as I have just mentioned, I saw in a vision of the night a document before my face, without honour, and meanwhile I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘We have seen with displeasure the face of the chosen one divested of [his good] name.’ And he did not say ‘You have seen with displeasure’, but ‘We have seen with displeasure’ (as if He included Himself) . He said then: ‘He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.’
30. For that reason, I give thanks to him who strengthened me in all things, so that I should not be hindered in my setting out and also in my work which I was taught by Christ my Lord; but more, from that state of affairs I felt, within me, no little courage, and vindicated my faith before God and man.
31. Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear now and hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words to you.
32. But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because of him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I entrusted my soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren, before the case was made in my defence (in which I did not take part, nor was I in Britain, nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence he would fight in my behalf. Besides, he told me himself: ‘See, the rank of bishop goes to you’—of which I was not worthy. But how did it come to him, shortly afterwards, to disgrace me publicly, in the presence of all, good and bad, because previously, gladly and of his own free will, he pardoned me, as did the Lord, who is greater than all?
33. I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal God’s gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for then I sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved me from all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his Spirit, which works in me to this day. Again, boldly, but God knows, if this had been made known to me by man, I might, perhaps, have kept silent for the love of Christ.
34. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently offer my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives.
35. But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by one. I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me, from slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was threatened, from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to put into words. I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God as witness who knew all things even before they happened, that, though I was a poor, ignorant waif, still he gave me abundant warnings through divine prophecy.
36. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I should lose homeland and family?
37. And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might hear scandal of my travels, and endure many persecutions to the extent of prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the advantage of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready [to give] even my life without hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I choose to devote it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.
38. I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, “Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.”’ And again: ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.’
39. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled, just as it is promised in the Gospel: ‘Many shall come from east and west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Just as we believe that believers will come from all the world,
40. So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently, just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,’ and, again, through the prophets: ‘“Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters,” says the Lord,’ et cetera. So it behoved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.’ And again he says: ‘Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned.’ And again: ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end of the world shall come.’ And likewise the Lord foretells through the prophet: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.’ And in Hosea he says: ‘Those who are not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they will be called ’Sons of the living God.”’
41. So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
42. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few days later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be to God, six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the course that all virgins of God take, not with their fathers’ consent but enduring the persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their parents. Notwithstanding that, their number increases, (we do not know the number of them that are so reborn) besides the widows, and those who practise self-denial. Those who are kept in slavery suffer the most. They endure terrors and constant threats, but the Lord has given grace to many of his handmaidens, for even though they are forbidden to do so, still they resolutely follow his example.
43. So it is that even if I should wish to separate from them in order to go to Britain, and most willingly was I prepared to go to my homeland and kinsfolk—and not only there, but as far as Gaul to visit the brethren there, so that I might see the faces of the holy ones of my Lord, God knows how strongly I desired this—I am bound by the Spirit, who witnessed to me that if I did so he would mark me out as guilty, and I fear to waste the labour that I began, and not I, but Christ the Lord, who commanded me to come to be with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord shall will it and shield me from every evil, so that I may not sin before him.
44. So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself as long as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily to turn me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until the end of my life for Christ my Lord, but the hostile flesh is always dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions. And I know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers, but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God’s favour, I have kept the faith.
45. What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew everything, even before the beginning of time.
46. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as not to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I did not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was urging; and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times, because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant of what to do in view of my situation; because many were trying to prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: ‘Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know not God?’ Not from malice, but having no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.
47. Now I have put it frankly to my brethren and co-workers, who have believed me because of what I have foretold and still foretell to strengthen and reinforce your faith. I wish only that you, too, would make greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for ‘a wise son makes a proud father’.
48. You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth in the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the heathen among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them trust. God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for the sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about] persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord’s name be blasphemed because of me, for it is written: ‘Woe to the men through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.’
49. For even though I am ignorant in all things, nevertheless I attempted to safeguard some and myself also. And I gave back again to my Christian brethren and the virgins of Christ and the holy women the small unasked for gifts that they used to give me or some of their ornaments which they used to throw on the altar. And they would be offended with me because I did this. But in the hope of eternity, I safeguarded myself carefully in all things, so that they might not cheat me of my office of service on any pretext of dishonesty, and so that I should not in the smallest way provide any occasion for defamation or disparagement on the part of unbelievers.
50. What is more, when I baptized so many thousands of people, did I hope for even half a jot from any of them? [If so] Tell me, and I will give it back to you. And when the Lord ordained clergy everywhere by my humble means, and I freely conferred office on them, if I asked any of them anywhere even for the price of one shoe, say so to my face and I will give it back.
51. More, I spent for you so that they would receive me. And I went about among you, and everywhere for your sake, in danger, and as far as the outermost regions beyond which no one lived, and where no one had ever penetrated before, to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm people. Conscientiously and gladly I did all this work by God’s gift for your salvation.
52. From time to time I gave rewards to the kings, as well as making payments to their sons who travel with me; notwithstanding which, they seized me with my companions, and that day most avidly desired to kill me. But my time had not yet come. They plundered everything they found on us anyway, and fettered me in irons; and on the fourteenth day the Lord freed me from their power, and whatever they had of ours was given back to us for the sake of God on account of the indispensable friends whom we had made before.
53. Also you know from experience how much I was paying to those who were administering justice in all the regions, which I visited often. I estimate truly that I distributed to them not less than the price of fifteen men, in order that you should enjoy my company and I enjoy yours, always, in God. I do not regret this nor do I regard it as enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more. The Lord has the power to grant me that I may soon spend my own self, for your souls.
54. Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not lying; nor would I write to you for it to be an occasion for flattery or selfishness, nor hoping for honour from any one of you. Sufficient is the honour which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has confidence. He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.
55. But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me this, while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me better than wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our sakes; I certainly am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted wealth I have no resources, nor is it my own estimation of myself, for daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.’
56. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the least of his ministers.
57. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me. But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I, alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let him search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even too much, and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his chalice, as he has granted to others who love him.
58. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.
59. And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.
60. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ’s will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever and ever. Amen.
61. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.
62. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die. 


Cyprus: Stolen Byzantine Frescoes Return Home



Byzantine frescoes, dating back to the 13th century, illegally exported from the island’s Turkish occupied northern part, are now back home, being exhibited in Nicosia.
The frescoes finally arrived home a fortnight ago, decades after their removal from a church in the occupied areas following the 1974 Turkish invasion, and are now on exhibition at the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation, at the Archbishopric Palace in Nicosia.
The frescoes had been stolen from the church of Saint Euphemianos in Lysi village and were cut into 38 pieces by thieves intending to sell them on the black market.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos pointed out that the ultimate goal of the Cyprus Church and the Government is for the frescoes to return to their home, the Saint Euphemianos church in Lysi, where they belong.

Abbot Ephrem will be released

Athens, March 29, 2012
 

Athens Court of Appeal changed the measure of restraint for the Archimandrite Ephrem, abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos.
He will be released on bail of 300 000 euros, subject to the prohibition to leave the country and the monastery Vatopedi. Also he must report to the police regularly. 

As reported earlier, from December 28, 2011 Abbot Vatopedi was imprisoned in Korydallos.

 source 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ecumenical Patriarch Paisios: Epistle to Patriarch Nikon of Moscow May 15, 1655

 

You complain strongly regarding disagreements in certain practices which exist in local churches, and you wonder whether these various practices damage our faith. We praise this notion, for whoever is afraid of falling into minor sins protects himself from also falling into large sins. But we correct this thought, for, with regard to heretics, we do in fact have a commandment from the Apostle to avoid them as perverted after the first and second admonitions (Tit. 3:11), just as schismatics who, although they agree with the Orthodox in the most important dogmas, still have certain peculiar beliefs foreign to those accepted by the entire Church. 

But if it happens that a certain church differs from another in certain practices which are not important and essential to faith, or which have nothing to do with the chief articles of faith, but only in insignificant practices, such as for example the time celebrating the liturgy, or which fingers a priest uses to give the blessing, and the like, then this should not cause any division, as long as one and the same faith is preserved. This is because our church did not receive the entire present typikon from the beginning, but little by little



St. Chrysostom on Church Music and Why did the early church not use instruments

 

The New Testament Church did not use instruments in their worship until well into the Middle Ages. Western culture began to use the organ in the year 666 A.D. (funny date). Its popularity gained momentum over the centuries, and after the split from the East it became the norm in the western churches.
Why did the early church not use instruments? Because we are to become natural instruments of God for worship. God says in Hebrews 13:15 that it is the “fruit of our lips” that He wishes to hear. So, yes, it is not always ideal to use instruments in worship. The society of the ancient Church was just as passionate about musical instruments as our society; drama as well! They resisted the temptation to commit what God calls syncretism, the polluting of the sacred. Here is what one of the greatest pastors to ever live has to say about this subject:
“David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed but much more in accordance with piety. Here there is no need for the cithara, or for stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the members of the flesh and making a full harmony of mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts against the Spirit, but has submitted to its orders and has been led at length into the best and most admirable path, then will you create a spiritual melody.”  (Chrysostom, 347-407, Exposition of Psalms 41, (381-398 A.D.)

source 

St. Justinian the Empero and Byzantine Law on Homosexuality


St. Justinian the Emperor ca. 483-565

Preamble: Though we stand always in need of the kindness and goodness of God, yet is this specially the case at this time, when in various ways we have provoked him to anger on account of the multitude of our sins. And although he has warned us, and has shown us clearly what we deserve because of our offenses, yet he has acted mercifully towards us, and, awaiting our penitence has reserved his wrath for other times — for he “has no pleasure in the death of wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way an live”. Wherefore it is not right that we should all despise God’s abundant goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering kindness and, hardening our hearts and turning away from penitence, should heap upon ourselves wrath in the day of wrath. Rather, we ought to abstain from all base concerns and acts — and especially does this apply to such as have gone to decay through that abominable and impious conduct deservedly hated by God. We speak of the defilement of males (de stupro masculorum) which some men sacrilegiously and impiously dare to attempt, perpetrating vile acts with other men.
#1: For, instructed by the Holy Scriptures, we know that God brought a just judgment upon those who lived in Sodom, on account of this very madness of intercourse, so that to this very day that lands burns with inextinguishable fire. By this God teaches us, in order that by means of legislation we may avert such an untoward fate. Again, we know what the blessed Apostle says about such things, and what laws our state enacts. Wherefore it behoves all who desire to fear God to abstain from conduct so base and criminal that we do not find it committed even by brute beasts. Let those who have not taken part in such doings continue to refrain in the future. But as for those who have been consumed by this kind of disease, let them not only cease to sin in the future, but let them alos duly do penance, and fall down before God and renounce their plague [in confession] to the blessed Patriarch; let them understand the reason for this charge, and, as it is written, bring forth the fruits of repentance. So may God the merciful, in abundance of pity, deem us worthy of his blessing, that we may all give thanks to him for the salvation of the penitents, who we have now bidden [to submit themselves] in order that the magistrates too may follow up our action, [thus] reconciling to themselves God who is justly angry with us. And we also, wisely and prudently having in reverence the sacred season, entreat God the merciful that those who have been contaminated by the filth of this impious conduct may strive for penitence. Next, we proclaim to all who are conscious that they have committed any such sin, that unless they desist and, renouncing it [in confession] before the blessed Patriarch, take care for their salvation, placating God during the holy season for such impious acts, they will bring upon themselves severer penalties, even though on other counts they are held guilty of no fault. For there will be no relaxation of enquiry and correction so far as this matter is concerned, nor will they be dealt with carelessly who do not submit themselves during the time of the holy season, or who persist in such impious conduct. Lest if we are negligent we arouse God’s anger against us. If, with eyes as it were blinded, we overlook such impious and forbidden conduct, we may provoke the good God to anger and bring ruin upon all – a fate which would be deserved.  
(Novel 141)

Five Interesting Historical Facts About Islam - truly interesting story

WHILE READING about things totally unrelated to the counterjihad movement, I have occasionally come across some interesting historical facts about Islam. I was surprised to discover that Islam had a hand in many important historical events I already knew about without ever knowing Islam had anything to do with them. Here are a few of the most interesting:

1. The creation of the U.S. Marine Corps was initiated in response to Islamic warriors. The Barbary Coast pirates were following in Mohammad’s footsteps, raiding caravans (in this case, oceangoing ships), taking slaves, capturing people to hold for ransom, and demanding “protection money” from any kafirs who didn’t want to be raided. This had been going on for centuries along the North African Mediterranean coastline.
Any ships that wanted to do business in the Mediterranean were at risk. Many European countries did the easy thing and paid the protection money to the Muslims to avoid being raided, which, of course, helped fund their operations against anyone who wasn’t paying. The U.S. did not have enough military resources to protect its ships, so it paid the protection money too. This bothered Thomas Jefferson. Before he was president, when he was an ambassador to France, Jefferson had a chance to meet with an ambassador from Tripoli, and he asked why Tripoli did this. The Muslim explained it was written in the Koran.
So Thomas Jefferson did something every leader of the free world should do: He bought himself a Koran and read it. Then when he became president, he knew what he needed to do: He formed the United States Navy, created the Marine Corps, and sent them to the shores of Tripoli, where they soundly defeated the Muslim warriors.
This was the first foreign war fought by the United States. America’s victory was the beginning of the end of the “Barbary Coast Pirates.” The military aggressiveness of Islamic countries remained contained and weakened for over a century.
2. The New World was discovered because of Islam. Christopher Columbus was looking for a new trade route to the East. But why was he looking for a trade route?
During the Second Jihad, Islam invaded Central Asia and defeated Constantinople in 1453, cutting off the overland route for Europeans. Islamic armies continued their jihad northward, and conquered much of what is now Eastern Europe, until they were finally stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. (Read more: The Second Major Wave of Jihad: the Turks, 1071-1683.)
Europe had been trading with the Far East for centuries, and their old overland route now went through territory that was hostile and dangerous to anybody but Muslims. The economy of Europe was threatened.

 
So, in 1492, the year Islam was finally defeated in Spain, ending Islam’s 780-year occupation, Columbus set off to find a passage to the Far East by boldly sailing West into the unknown. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
3. The .45 caliber 1911 semiautomatic pistol was created to stop Islamic warriors. From 1902 until 1913, the United States fought a war with the “Moro Warriors” in the Philippines. These Islamic warriors were named “Moros” by the Spanish. Their unstoppability was legendary. “In one instance,” writes Robert Boatman, “a Moro warrior received 14 bullet wounds in five minutes, three of which penetrated his brain, and yet he fought on.”
At the time the army was using .38 caliber guns, which were unable to stop the Moros, so in 1906, they began testing different guns to find something better. In 1911, they chose the .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol. It had enough stopping power to kill even a Moro warrior with one shot.
4. The Great Pyramid of Giza looks unfinished because of Muslims. The pyramid was once covered by a smooth, beautifully polished layer of white stone. This outer layer was removed by Muslims, who used the white stone for mosques and palaces, leaving the ancient pyramids with their somewhat unfinished appearance.
The physicist, John Zajac, wrote: “This protective covering was made up of…hard, white limestone, similar to marble but superior in hardness and in durability against the elements…The casing stones, 144,000 in all, were so brilliant that they could literally be seen from the mountains of Israel hundreds of miles away…The people of the area had viewed the pyramid and its polished stones with awe for centuries. But when a 13th century earthquake loosened some of these casing stones, the Arabs recognized a great quarry of precut stones that could be used to finish off palaces and mosques. For instance, the casing stones were used to rebuild the new city of El Kaherah plus Cairo mosques and palaces, including the Mosque of Sultan Hasan.”
Historically, this is Islamic standard operating procedure. Wherever Islam established itself throughout the world, it destroyed or defaced monuments that represented the previous (conquered) culture and replaced it with Islamic structures and mosques. Afghanistan used to be Buddhist. Turkey used to be Christian. Pakistan used to be Hindu. The former cultures and any symbols of them were annihilated and replaced by Islam.
5. The Crusades were a limp, late, defensive response to four hundred years of Islamic war against what was then largely Christian lands (the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe). Four of the five main centers of Christianity, including the Byzantium and Constantiople, were eventually conquered by the Islamic warriors’ relentless conquests, and the countries were forcibly converted into Islamic states. But before the Crusades, Byzantium was still fighting to defend itself, and repeatedly appealed to Rome for help.
The different nations of Europe were largely competitors with each other. They were not a united force — far from it — but the Pope thought he could unify Europeans if he made it a matter of “defending Christians,” so that’s how he made his appeal. It helped unite Europeans against a common threat, and it may have saved Europe from the forcible Islamization suffered by the nations of the Middle East, part of India, and North Africa. Read more: What About the Crusades?
Here’s another interesting historical tidbit about Islam’s influence: The defense of Europe during the Crusades was devastatingly expensive, and the Church of Rome tried many ways to raise funds. Some of these fundraising efforts were deeply offensive to Martin Luther, so he intitiated the Protestant Reformation.
Islam has had a profound impact on important historical events throughout its history, and it is still being felt today.

source 

Halal Food Disclosure in the UK - Ministers prepare to change law

No Halal Sign 


Ministers are preparing to change the law to ensure that meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law cannot be sold to unwitting members of the public.
The Government is drawing up plans to prevent schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues from serving halal meat secretly to customers.
The move will be welcomed by animal rights campaigners, who argue that the traditional Islamic way of preparing meat – which involves killing animals by drawing a knife across their throats without stunning them first – is cruel and causes unnecessary pain.

'Cruel': Under the halal method, animals are slaughtered by being slashed across the neck without being stunned
'Cruel': Under the halal method, animals are slaughtered by being slashed across the neck without being stunned

It follows a Mail on Sunday investigation in September 2010 which discovered that beef, chicken and lamb had been sold to fans at Wembley without them knowing it had been prepared in accordance with sharia law.
Cheltenham College was found to  be one of several public schools  serving halal chicken to pupils without informing them, while Whitbread, Britain’s biggest hotel and restaurant group, admitted that more than three- quarters of its poultry was halal. MPs were furious to discover halal meat had even been sold in House of Commons canteens without them knowing.
Now Environment Minister Lord  Taylor of Holbeach has said that if the European Union fails to agree on a new food labelling scheme, the UK will take action. The European Commission is considering the matter as part of its animal welfare strategy and is expected to report by the summer.
Lord Taylor told peers: ‘The Government welcomes this approach as  it will allow consumer information to be considered alongside measures  to minimise the suffering of animals slaughtered without stunning. In the meantime we are considering how we can use domestic legislation.’

Investigation: The Mail on Sunday's report about halal meat sold at Wembley 
 
Investigation: The Mail on Sunday's report about halal meat sold at Wembley. MPs were furious to discover halal meat had even been sold in House of Commons canteens without them knowing

Sharia law expressly forbids knocking out an animal with a bolt gun – the method normally used in British slaughterhouses. Instead, the animal must be sentient when its throat is cut, with the blood allowed to drip from the carcass while a religious phrase in praise of Allah is recited.
More than 40 million cattle, calves and sheep and more than 850 million poultry are slaughtered every year in Britain. The vast majority are stunned before slaughter. In 2003, Government advisory body the Farm Animal Welfare Council published a report declaring that the halal method of killing ‘would inevitably trigger a barrage of sensory information to the brain in a sensible (conscious) animal .  .  . such a massive injury would result in very significant pain and distress in the period before insensibility supervenes’.
Muslim leaders insist that animal welfare measures are observed during slaughter.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: ‘This sounds like a very progressive move. We have been pushing the EU to act for some time. If the Government is going to take this step, it will help  consumers to make an ethical choice.’
A Defra spokesman said: ‘We believe people should continue to be able to buy meat prepared in accordance with their religion, but that people should also be able to find out how a product was prepared when they are buying in shops or eating out.
‘We are keeping all policies under review, including our approach to labelling.’

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