Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Constantinian Order - Defender of Christianity

The Order has entered the twenty-first century, some one thousand seven hundred years after its legendary foundation, with renewed vigour and sense of purpose. Its real birth occurred at a time of extraordinary tension across Europe, fomented by the loss of Constantinople and the Protestant reformation; yet what inspired the Order’s founders and early supporters was a commitment to free Christendom from the shackles of oppression. Today in a world dominated by secular concerns, a deeply anti-religious spirit has developed in the western democracies. This may, in part, be attributed to the actions of extremists who have provided a justification for those whose real agenda is to suppress the public exercise of all religious practices by eliminating religion entirely from the school room and workplace. Christians are forced to put their religious beliefs and conscience aside in order to conform to modern laws that deny freedom of speech on grounds of equality – yet this same equality is denied to that large Christian minority whose beliefs are rooted in ancient teachings and doctrines that Catholics in particular consider immutable.

In many parts of the world Christians face danger on a daily basis. In Egypt the Coptic Christians who make up some ten per cent of the population live in increasing fear of Islam extremist violence; a car bomb was placed outside an Alexandria church following the 2010-11 New Year’s Eve Mass killing twenty-three of the faithful and injuring another one hundred. When Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concerns the apostolic nuncio was informed that he was no longer welcome and the Egyptian ambassador to the Holy See was withdrawn. Pakistani Christians have limited employment opportunities and are regularly targeted with accusations of apostasy or purported insults to the Koran justifying murder and assaults; refusals to reconvert to Islam may be met with extreme violence or murder. At Easter 2011 the Catholic church of the Sacred Heart in Baghdad was damaged by a bomb while the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the same city was attacked in 2010, killing fifty-three worshippers. Iran, now dominated by a militant theocracy, has imprisoned Christians accused of spreading Christianity and being linked to Christian organisations outside the country. In Bethlehem, the very cradle of Christianity, indigenous Christians have almost been entirely driven out by hostile activists even though one of the principal sources of revenue for the small city comes from tourists paying homage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. These latter day pilgrims are rarely aware of the real hostility to their faith and the daily discrimination against Palestinian Christians. Kazakhstan, which once gave equality to Christians, has now introduced discriminatory laws whose ultimate aim is intended to force the Christian community into exile. Nigeria where the Christian and Moslem populations for long lived in peace together is now suffering from the brutal excesses of a Moslem fundamentalist insurgency that is ultimately intended to permanently divide the two communities. In much of the Moslem world history is deliberately mis-represented in schools and colleges to justify such assaults while newspapers and blogs claim that a Christian dominated west is engaged in a campaign to impose Christianity by force.   

The active persecution of Christians is found most commonly where governments pay only lip service to constitutional or legal requirements to allow freedom of religion and sometimes actively assist anti-Christian conspiracies. While adherents of any faith are permitted to build places of worship to celebrate their faith in the western democracies, in parts of the Middle East no public expression of Christianity is permitted; even in Kuwait, to whose rescue from invasion the western powers expended much treasure, is now proposing to prohibit the construction of new churches. Meanwhile, in the Christian or nominally Christian west, Moslems and other religious minorities may be accorded protection for their particular religious practices that are not extended to Christians on racial equality grounds. This lack of toleration for Christian beliefs, celebrations and customs has been condemned by moderate Moslem leaders as well as by leaders of the Jewish and other religious communities. The rights of both Jews and Moslems are also under attack by the new secularists who are equally hostile to all faiths but less strident in their criticism of those of ethnic minorities as they are keen to avoid accusations of racism. In Great Britain a cross-party group of members of parliament (Christians in Parliament) has concluded that a lack of religious literacy among judges, politicians and officials has placed the rights of Christians below those attributed on the basis of sexual orientation. The United Kingdom “Equality and Human Rights Commission” according to this report is so infiltrated by those with a strong anti-Christian bias that its rulings can almost always be relied upon to be discriminatory when the rights of Christians are in question. Doctors and other medical personnel are now required to carry out procedures and offer services which directly contravene the teachings of their faith – any who decline to do so are struck off and forfeit their careers. A similar pattern has begun to evolve in other western democracies, particularly those of northern Europe, and in the United States the first amendment to the constitution has failed to prevent the government from forcing Catholic and other Christian bodies to pay for contraception and abortifacients for their employees.  

Constantine the Great’s edict of Milan, which followed the great victory and the vision that inspired him and the founders of this Order, provided for liberty of conscience for Christians living within the Roman empire; the governments of the states that once composed that empire have feebly given in to the vocal demands of minorities to deny modrn day Christians those same liberties. These noisy agitators claim that there should be no freedom of religion for those who deny their demands, and instead insist that their rights supersede those of the adherents of Catholicism or indeed any other mainstream religious body. Hence Christians may be prevented from wearing even the smallest outward sign of their faith (a privilege not yet denied to adherents of other faiths) and may be forced to abjure traditional teachings on marriage, the sacredness of each individual and the defence of the lives of the unborn, the elderly and handicapped. Meanwhile in many parts of the world Christians are actively persecuted for their faith and converts punished with execution, while the leaders of western democracies mumble half-hearted condemnations that carry no sanction for the states that perpetrate these injustices. European governments are reluctant to intervene on behalf of persecuted Christians living in states with which they have profitable trading or strategic relationships, even where national leaders pay token tribute to their countries’ Christian heritage.

The Constantinian Order is committed to defending the rights and liberties of Christians and in particular Catholics, whether they suffer from physical assaults intended to prevent them from practicing their religion or from the insidious hostility of state officials and fanatical atheists that may cause them to lose their jobs or lead to prosecution for publicly enunciating their beliefs. Today the Order is ready to challenge those who encourage or ignore such betrayal of religious liberty and encourage and support those religious leaders who selflessly contribute to society by manifesting their faith without fear of public or media censure. 

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