HOMICIDE

by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon

 

Our life is a gift which only God gives forth and which only God takes back. You do not have the authority to kill or harm yourself, and certainly no one has this authority over anyone else's life. You receive both your life and your neighbour from God. The other person may live as he wishes and it is your duty to direct him, to keep him company, to serve him and help him improve his situation and attain a better life. In doing this, your own spirit is beautified. Consequently, you have no right to kill another person even if he has requested you to, because he doesn't have the right to put an end to his own life which was bequeathed by God to him. Accordingly, abortion cannot be permissible because a mother doesn't own her foetus. Similarly, as a doctor, you don't own your patient and you have no authority to kill him, no matter how bad his condition. You don't have this authority over your patient's body. You are not to make the decision to allow death for an unconscious patient, even if his condition becomes a complete coma. This is the greatest perversion to the very secret of existence. Your body is not an object for you to use it as you wish. It is a part of your person; it does not belong to the governor to flog or to the judge to execute.

In the situation of human dialogue, the body is the medium of conversation. If a human connection cannot be established between you and the other, then your destruction of his body demonstrates your contempt for his human nature and prohibition of the dialogue between the two of you. Both your body and his grow upward together. God draws you with your bodies to Himself where He becomes your union. Your journey is always upward, and the other will only accompany you through his yearning for the higher. If you and the other are not both drawn to God, then the dual relationship between you is severed; it becomes either abuse or slavery. Slave and master both become objects like any other object. A relationship between two beings is impossible outside the embrace of God. A "being" in the depths of its truth cannot exist without openness towards its Creator and accordingly towards other creatures because it ceases then from saying "I" but affirms "we." The "I" can only be fulfilled in the communion of "we." The same is true for the body. After its self-transcendence and release from slavery, it extends towards embracing and accepting the other. The moment this triune communion between "I", "you" and the divine "He" is achieved, then the whole man [body and soul] and all humanity dwell in Him. Killing abruptly ruptures this tri-unity.

Obviously, by annihilating the other you annihilate yourself in the same measure and you actually renounce the dominion of God over both of you. Every sin is a negation, a denial of one of God's qualities: a denial of His patience, mercy or love. Killing is an absolute denial of God because it is a denial of His existence as the Giver of Life. You annihilate your opponent because you decide that he is obstructing your plan, your business, your passions, your liberty, and anything which issues from this. You decide to become the sole master of your life and you think that in this alone is your protection and guarantee of dominion. Killing is the last stage of separation by projecting your delusions on existence and considering yourself God. Consciously or unconsciously, you replace God. With each transgression, you substitute God in a way — by killing you replace Him completely.

In a movie about Joan of Arc, I appreciated what I saw in the episode where she was grieved by the abundance of bloodshed in the lines of the enemies after the victory in the battle of Orleans against England. Despite her belief that she was delegated from heaven to fight this war, she couldn't endure this waste of blood. The commander explained to her that no war is possible without bloodshed. She had a different logic. I will not analyze here the conversation between a virgin saint and a rationalistic commander, but the horror of bloodshed comes to my mind as I recite Psalm 50. "Deliver me O God from blood guiltiness." Even if you think it is possible to resist, none of us is far from such a temptation.

Because of the importance of blood in the Early Church, any priest who, although unwillingly, caused the death of a human was immediately released from the priesthood. Similarly, canon law prescribed that if a priest or a bishop slapped another person he was to be defrocked. Relationship between humans is language, otherwise no relationship is possible. Language [in Arabic logat], from logos, is that which St. John's Gospel uses to preach the Word. The Word is the relationship between you and the other. Without the Word you annihilate both the other and yourself.

This brings us to the dilemma of genocide. When a group of people proceeds to exterminate another group on the basis of fear, solely because their victims are "different," this implies that these scared murderers think they are re-establishing themselves in existence apart from the context of coexistence. Cain (Kabeel in Islam) killed his brother Abel, who was a herdsman, because he had a "different" occupation. If the "other" is not from your country, your race, religion or political party, he is sentenced to death. Because he cannot be put to death legally, you slay him without a court because any trial is a dialogue. In a way, every massacre is a massacre against the name of God as He is worshiped in heaven or on earth. Every massacre is "religious" in the sense that ethnicity or political ideology are religions, and religion by definition can sustain neither sin nor the sinners. "The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). There exists a "liturgy" of extermination. There exist those who permit or prohibit in the name of God, the "chosen of God" whom God assigned the task of eliminating all those who do not belong to their God.

The logic of genocide is that the world should be of one colour. This is totally different from the logic of the national army, which doesn't say, "I am going to kill" but says, "I wish, if it is within my power, to restore order and justice and to defend the country without killing anyone and I regret the death of the enemy." The army has no enemy; it only has temporary opponents. The army is not supposed to do premeditated harm or invade because occupation causes mental harm and humiliation. This is why the greatest leaders were always those who walked the paths of peace because they detested bloodshed. The philosophy of the military is that it defends the entire nation and that it is not, in its essence, hostile to any other nation. Civilized nations do not brainwash their own citizens with hatred and propaganda, and their military exemplar is that of the Byzantine Empire where offensive wars were totally excluded and where the armed forces were solely used as a shield for peace and a defence force.

Apart from this logic, the militia exists because it is the "military" of a certain group. The militia does not support the general cause of the nation. A militia is always set against another militia. A faction has no cause because it exists specifically for extermination. This is why a civil war, any civil war, is always most difficult to reconcile. Using this philosophy we should put the war which waged in Lebanon on trial. Unless every group which committed a massacre is brought to repentance, none of us can repent to our motherland and to the human integrity it symbolizes. God cannot be the Victor unless every group comes forward and confesses its sins to the other groups in the presence of the entire nation. In the context of this logic, there is nothing worse than this popular saying we use: "God forgave the past!" No, God does not forgive us, and it is not in His nature to forgive unless every one of us has acknowledged and repented from his own sin of murder in thought and deed against the other. Whoever dipped his hands in blood or wished the death, displacement, desolation or diminishment of the other is an accomplice in the sin of extermination. Every victim, no matter what his belief, is innocent because he is a part of God. God does not want anyone to fight in His name. God knows how to put to death whomever He wants. No one is the representative of God in the domain of death.

He who wants to bring others to life dies himself. This is why Christ is the Life-Giver: His humble submission ["Islam" in Arabic] on the Cross totally destroys any "theology of killing," any military "sanctification" for any ideology of persecution, any dogma of "revenge," any punishing "hand of God" and any divine mission using the sword. "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). God did not delegate His authority to anyone. Only He judges the hearts of the people and lets them be free to obey or disobey. He does not yet separate the blessed from the accursed "for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Hopefully, each of us will receive in proportion to his capacity.

I don't see any possibility of teaching man peace if he doesn't believe in God. If God does not exist then you become a god. This should explain the ever-growing wave of murder worldwide where people, individuals and groups alike, worship themselves. Certainly, sometimes restraint from crime may be based upon the fear of punishment, but this remains strictly within the domain of individual relations. Where no punishment is available — in the context of ethnic and religious wars — the only reasonable explanation is that your god exterminates the other god. I mean by this that your understanding of this god embodied or expressed within the movement of your group invalidates the other embodiment and the other movement.

The concept that came to be called a "multicultural society" is none other than the culture of variety, acknowledging that there may be another understanding of the one God, or that He has multiple revelations within one society composed of a variety of small groups. Today's so-called "culture for peace" may be very ambiguous especially as it is practised in many countries worldwide where it is basically an acceptance of treason. But the idea in itself, in its pure form, states that every nation must live in freedom to be able to cooperate. Within this same nation, no ethnic or religious group is beyond error and repentance. Repentance is the God-given fruit to initiate dialogue as the means out of trouble, through mutual acknowledgment of one another's rights of existence. This means that coexistence and mutual life must be based upon something non-pragmatic and I don't see any foundation other than God.

God died in our midst and we made ourselves God. This is why we allowed everything. Will God return?

I believe that when the Gospel says, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace," it demonstrates that your glory to God is conditioned by your love for peace. Peace is one of God's names in Christianity and in Islam. When will He grant us to love this quality in Him?

Published Saturday May 06, 2000 in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese newspaper
http://www.annahar.com.lb/htd/pdfed2.html -Translated from Arabic

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