“For the Peace from Above” – An Orthodox resource book on war, peace and nationalism

Peace from Above

A new edition of For the Peace from Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism, is now available from the Orthodox Research Institute here.

Edited by Father Hildo Bos, a priest of Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Jim Forest, founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, the book was originally published by Syndesmos, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, in 1999.

Through a multitude of articles, liturgical and canonical texts, official statements, and essays by noted hierarchs and theologians, the book traces the Church’s struggle to come to terms with Christ’s words of peace and His example of peace.  In Christ’s life, as recorded in the New Testament, it is striking that He neither killed anyone, nor summoned any of His disciples to kill.  Indeed, the final miracle Christ performed before His execution was to heal an enemy’s wound, an injury caused by the Apostle Peter in an attempt to defend his master.

Yet, the editors observe, in the course of more than twenty centuries of Christian history, we see Christians often involved in war and, in surveying the calendar of saints, one finds not only those who refused to take part in war, but also those who served in the military, though no one has been canonized due to his skill as a soldier.  Besides the millions of Christians who have fought in armies, often against fellow Christians, we also find many priests, bishops and theologians who have advocated war and blessed its weapons.

The editors contend that many people today live either near conflict areas, in regions in which terrorist actions may suddenly occur, or in areas directly touched by war.  Everyone on the planet is in some way affected by wars in progress or wars in the making, as well as the consequences of past wars.  Every day thousands of Christians struggle in thought and prayer with some of the most difficult of questions: May I fight injustice by violent methods?  Am I allowed to kill in combat?  Are there limits on what I can do in the defense of my country?  Am I as a Christian allowed to disobey demands that I believe are unjust or violate the Gospel?  When the demands of my country seem at odds with the demands of the Kingdom of God, how do I respond to this conflict?  Rarely do we find easy answers to these and similar questions, the editors note.  Thus, those of us in the Orthodox Christian tradition search for help in Holy Scripture, the canons provided to us by ecumenical councils, the witness of the saints, the writing of the Fathers of the Church as well as theologians of recent times.

Imitation of saintly forebears alone, the authors observe, will not solve our problems.  Different eras have adopted different attitudes, and many of today’s problems never existed before, not least the changed character of war in an era of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and mass propaganda.  Yet knowledge of the thought and action undertaken by the Orthodox Churches on the issues of war and peace in recent decades surely can help us find ways out of the dead ends that many communities are experiencing today.  This is the aim of For the Peace from Above.

The book is available at www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/store/books/bos_forest_peace.html.