Reynolds on the Minarets and Fr. Sysoyev

Dr. John Mark Reynolds

Dr. John Mark Reynolds

Writing on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, John Mark Reynolds wonders at the umbrage taken against the Swiss for voting a ban on new minarets — and the silence about the murder of a Russian priest in his church.

Father Sysoyev is dead in Moscow, but by all means let us condemn the Swiss voters loudly enough that we cannot hear his blood cry out for justice. If we look into it too hard, it might complicate the European energy picture.

Read it all:

Real religious oppression in Turkey, not Switzerland

Switzerland should not have banned minarets. It was both wrong and stupid, which is something even for government. Condemnations will be loud and are deserved. Meanwhile in November a Russian priest has been martyred in Moscow for the temerity of disagreeing with the Islamic religion or Putin’s oligarchy.

Few will notice or care.

It is sad commentary on the state of Europe and America that a few minarets not built will generate more outrage than a dead priest. It is wrong to keep someone from building a place of worship, but it is worse to kill their religious leaders to silence them.

If we are to condemn violations in Europe of the right to build religious structures, and we should, then we must raise our voices against Turkey.

If you can build a building, but your cleric is not safe there, then you have no religious freedom. We should seek out the murderers of Father Daniel Sysoyev who tried to silence a brave religious man for his opinions.

The titular leader of the world’s millions of Orthodox Christians cannot build a seminary in Turkey. Christians cannot build adequate churches in that European nation, a situation that is not about to change. Surely centuries of brutal second-class citizenship for Turkish Christians are as serious as the wrong-headed actions of the Swiss last week.

The Swiss voters were wrong and the Turkish government is wrong, but the Swiss voters were wrong this week and the Turkish government is now into decades of keeping an Orthodox seminary closed. Our condemnation should, therefore be proportional, but it will not be.

The Swiss voters were foolish to try to solve an inner problem with cosmetics, but the fears of the Swiss voters are not with a basis. A brave, but dead priest in Moscow stokes their fears. Centuries of Christian history may soon end in Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, because the government of Turkey will not allow a seminary to replenish the Turkish priesthood–and this aggravates the worries of the Swiss voters.

By all means, however, let us loudly condemn the voters of Switzerland with their long record of warfare, religious intolerance, and violence against believers. Let us gloss over the Turkish practices, or study them in yet another fruitful EU conference, because of the long record of tolerance for religious minorities in Turkey.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is old and the problem may solve itself, like many problems in Europe, through the inevitable truths of the actuary table.

There is a double standard and the Swiss voters knew it. The martyrdom of Christians in the Sudan, the work camps for Christians in China, the yearly martyrdom of Christians in North Korea, and the destruction of Coptic Christianity in Egypt is hardly a topic for polite conversation let alone passionate condemnation. Islamic radicals can kill Christians, the “secular” Turkish government can inhibit their freedom of religion, and Communist states can massacre them, and too little will be said.

Let Swiss voters ban minarets and we will rally to do something. Two wrongs do not of course make a right, but in a world of wrongs some are worth more outrage than others.

Father Sysoyev is dead in Moscow, but by all means let us condemn the Swiss voters loudly enough that we cannot hear his blood cry out for justice. If we look into it too hard, it might complicate the European energy picture.

If a good priest was killed for his opinions about Islam, it is far worse than a bad-zoning decision by fearful Swiss voters. If a good priest was killed for his opposition to the corruption in the Putin government, then this is far worse than banning minarets.

Christians should unite and ask the Swiss people to reconsider their foolish decision. They should even more loudly demand that European Turkey allow churches and seminaries to be freely built.

Christians should pray that the soul of our father in Christ Daniel Sysoyev rest in peace and the faithful in Moscow should see that justice comes to the killers.


  1. John Couretas :

    In the Christian Science Monitor, Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the Swiss and the minarets:

    Islam is an idea about how society should be organized: the individual’s relationship to the state; that the relationship between men and women; rules for the interaction between believers and unbelievers; how to enforce such rules; and why a government under Islam is better than a government founded on other ideas. These political ideas of Islam have their symbols: the minaret, the crescent; the head scarf, and the sword.

    The minaret is a symbol of Islamist supremacy, a token of domination that came to symbolize Islamic conquest. It was introduced decades after the founding of Islam.

    In Europe, as in other places in the world where Muslims settle, the places of worship are simple at first. All that a Muslim needs to fulfill the obligation of prayer is a compass to indicate the direction of Mecca, water for ablution, a clean prayer mat, and a way of telling the time so as to pray five times a day in the allocated period.

    The construction of large mosques with extremely tall towers that cost millions of dollars to erect are considered only after the demography of Muslims becomes significant.

    The mosque evolves from a prayer house to a political center.

    Imams can then preach a message of self-segregation and a bold rejection of the ways of the non-Muslims.

    Men and women are separated; gays, apostates and Jews are openly condemned; and believers organize around political goals that call for the introduction of forms of sharia (Islamic) law, starting with family law.

    This is the trend we have seen in Europe, and also in other countries where Muslims have settled. None of those Western academics, diplomats, and politicians who condemn the Swiss vote to ban the minaret address, let alone dispute, these facts.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Is it possible that we are at a turning point? I’m thinking the movie Braveheart here. I know it was historically inaccurate (wildly so), but as a piece of socio-cultural theater, it was a mythic tour-de-force. It’s brilliance was what it said about the Scottish resistance to English tyranny. My point is that there was one scene in which Wallace tells the captured English soldiers to go back to their king, telling him that “Scotland’s sons and daughters are no longer yours.” It is too much to hope that this is what the Swiss did for Europe? That they said “Enough! No more! You want religious freedom, fine! But conform to our laws. And by the way, are we allowed to build churches in your lands?” This dialogue must be forced on Islam, otherwise, Islamic immigration must stop to Western countries.

  3. Stopping Islamic immigration isn’t going to stop Islam. As long as full mosques contrast with empty churches, Europe is in trouble. Given the symbolism of the minaret (and yes, dominance is an essential part of it: notice how they are erected around a church when it is expropriated to be turned towards Mecca), I have no trouble with the ban. But in the long run, the only effective cure is demonstrating that the Sermon on the Mount surpasses anything the Quran has to offer.

  4. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, that’s absolutely the case. “You can’t fight something with nothing.” Having said that, this incident could be the goad that pricks Europe’s conscience or knocks it out of its paganistic stupor. If not, then Europe will continue to Islamify. It is also a prick to our consciences as well (and most especially) to our bishops, some of whom would still rather play games than spread the Gospel.

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