Following Jesus' hardest command
In all of the back-and-forth since the recent beheadings of Coptic Christians by ISIS, one reaction is startling — that of Coptic Bishop Angaelos, who extended forgiveness. See here. Forgiveness is hardly an obvious or natural response and is certainly not an easy one. It is not something to which anyone has a right and it does not preclude condemning or fighting ISIS. Why did Bishop Angaelos forgive? He explains:
It may seem unbelievable to some of your readers, but as a Christian and a Christian minister I have a responsibility to myself and to others to guide them down this path of forgiveness. We don’t forgive the act because the act is heinous. But we do forgive the killers from the depths of our hearts. Otherwise, we would become consumed by anger and hatred. It becomes a spiral of violence that has no place in this world.
Bishop Angaelos was able to see a purpose in these horrific deaths:
He calls for united efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians — and all those who are denied their religious freedom.
His and other reactions to persecution on the part of Christians, ranging from non-violent protest to behind-the-scenes diplomacy to taking up arms, will be the subject of a major conference that the Center for Civil and Human Rights is holding in Rome on December 10-12, 2015. Entitled “Under Caesar’s Sword: An International Conference on Christian Response to Persecution,” the conference commemorates the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty.
Daniel Philpottis Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and Director of The Center for Civil and Human Rights. This article was originally published on the blog Arc of the Universe and is reprinted here with permission.