Letters to the Editor
Members of the Grand Priory are encouraged to send in letters, discussing articles that appear in "Abraham’s Tent” or contribute observations dealing with a better understanding of the three great monotheistic religions as they impact Christians in the Holy Land. As an Order, we are singularly blessed with a wide-ranging knowledge of this subject and the “Letters” section may prove as valuable as many of the articles that appear, dealing with this subject.
("Abraham’s Tent" reserves the right to edit all correspondence, in keeping with the nature and direction of the magazine).
We Need Ideas!
Grand Prior V, Chev Daniel Coleman, has provided the following thoughtful letter to the editor, touching on the tragedies now engulfing the Mideast and the role that Abraham’s Tent might play in seeking solutions. This is followed by a powerful contribution to that dialog by Grand Prior XIX Shields, giving a series of statements from the perspective of the Grand Priory USA.
We need ideas! We are attempting to bring about mutual understanding among the children of Abraham. Unfortunately some of these children say; look at God my way and I will see in you my fellow believer. If you don't, however, I am obliged to chop your head off.
We will need to draw the line somewhere, but we need to do this with utmost care. Rather than be driven by emotions we need to consult with reliable experts to the three great religions that sprang up in Abraham's tent.
We need to consider the beliefs and disbeliefs among the many factions that exists within Christianity, Judaism and Islam. After careful study and deliberation we should provide guidelines on what within our Order is the best approach to all this.
Some guidelines need to be developed.
What do our leaders and past leaders, our philosophers and historians think about these ideas? Do they have other viewpoints toward this upheaval? Do they consider that this will play not only in the Middle East, not only in Europe but eventually in our beloved US of A.?
We need to formulate our questions carefully and then seek the answers with equal care.
Above all, we need to find tangible ways to help Christians at immanent risks of their lives, material ways, useful ways, effective ways.
The Chinese have a well known proverb about "interesting times". I am sorry that we live in such interesting times. They bring about a very heavy burden of having to act responsibly. These times provide a challenge, a challenge, indeed! Are we up to it?.
For the Good of the Order,
Response from Grand Prior XIX Buren Shields III, GCTJ, GMTJ
The focus of Grand Prior V Daniel Coleman's letter, as I understand it, is right on and most timely. This alert to the new threat posed by ISIS also seems most appropriate to discussion on Abraham’s Tent. A few thoughts on this.
- ISIS, as we understand it, has a purpose and a credo that is diametrically opposed to all we, as Templars, stand for and to the peaceful co-existence among the Sons of Abraham that Abraham’s Tent seeks to emphasize and protect. ISIS, as GP V Dan notes, says you will believe as we believe or we will exterminate you because that is our religious duty. They are carrying out this religious genocide out in the Middle East with ruthless efficiency and brutality. Their purge is not limited to Christians, but extends to all who oppose them, even fellow Muslims. They do not yet represent the majority of Muslims and we must be careful not to imply this (this in and of itself is contrary to the purpose of Abraham’s Tent.)
- ISIS seeks to take over the world one theatre of attack at a time. Is this threat limited to the Middle East – no! To Europe – no! If it is not stopped, it threatens the world order and our American way of life. It offends a fundamental concept on which the American Republic was founded – Freedom of Religion. Judging by the reaction from the American public – from the world public – one very reasonably is concerned that the world may be asleep at the switch and not wake up until it is too late.
- Must we as Americans, and as Christians, oppose this and do all we can to call attention to the nature of the threat, to generate notice and discussion, and, as citizens, urge our government, through our elected representatives, to wake up and take responsive, responsible action – yes, yes and more yes!
- In GPUSA, we are a Christian fraternal ecumenical charitable organization. Our principle goals are aiding Christians at risk, with primary emphasis on the Middle East, and keeping the road to Jerusalem open to peoples of all faiths within the limited financial and appropriate abilities of our rather small membership. As such, is this religious genocide contrary to everything we as Templars and Christians stand for - yes. Should we reasonably be concerned – yes. Should we be talking about it – yes! Should we strive to keep informed – Yes. From that emphasis and discussion should we expect to see some of our members, as citizens, leading the charge to urge our government to an appropriate wake-up call, to call what is happening what it is, to recognize the strategic, world-wide danger that is posed and the need to take timely appropriate action before it is too late – I think we might reasonably expect that. Should we suggest to our members that they, as citizens and Christians, consider ways to make this voice heard and do so – yes.
- Does there seem to be a deafening silence in the face of this extermination campaign? Does it appear that most people, perhaps many governments, are asleep at the switch or perhaps guilty of what could be viewed as fatal indifference. Yes, one may reasonably conclude those are questions worth raising, discussing and publicizing.
- Are there secondary effects from ISIS’ military activities of equal, but distinct concern –yes. Do these secondary effects also implicate potential world-wide security concerns? – yes. Are they more indirect and, therefore, perhaps more difficult to see? Most likely so. Arguably, these secondary effects pose the greater strategic threat to the US and the world. The refugee situation is a secondary effect of ISIS military action. In GPUSA, we have distributed videos to our members in which many of the Moslems emigrating to Europe openly profess their intent to re-populate European countries and take control of them through the existing political process in those countries. The EU countries are contending with this distinct threat as we speak. These advocates say very clearly, we do not have to impose our beliefs on you by armed conquest, we will infiltrate your countries and use your own political processes to impose our will (and law) upon you. Is this a threat that any message to our members should make clear is (a) distinct; and (b) perhaps more dangerous? I would suggest yes. When GP V Dan suggests we should ask what we, as citizens, will tolerate is he speaking of this distinct threat as well and to the seeming indifference of the world to it? Again, I understand the answer to be “yes.” He may also be referring to additional possible secondary effects. We have received reports that, in certain areas in Europe where refugees are forming Muslim enclaves, there is increased violence and danger to non-Muslims in the vicinity of these areas.
- Notwithstanding the cogency of GP V Dan’s alert, GPUSA is not “sitting on its hands.” GPUSA continues to look for additional ways to aid Christians at risk and to urge its Priories (and members) to find new ways to do so (e.g., through local churches and in execution of OSMTH’s general plan for facilitating this). In addition, GPUSA continues to look for additional opportunities for the Priories to have fund-raising opportunities with Canon White and Father Peter. The Grand Chancellor is dedicated to identifying and getting those opportunities to the Priories. Should we keep all that emphasis up? Yes. In all this, are we careful to avoid diluting our members’ generosity that enables the Jerusalem Mite to do what it now does so well? Yes. But that does not prevent this continuing effort to help all grow in Christian charity. Should the Grand Prior (and others) continue to write and talk about these threats and GPUSA’s positive efforts for Christians at risk in the Templar Times and email blasts, and as officiants? - yes.
- Are there a few reasonable considerations that do not interfere with this alert and call to action, but avoid unnecessary risk to GPUSA that we can employ in our discussions and actions regarding GP V Dan’s message? yes. Can they easily be incorporated into such messages, discussions and action and still get the message delivered? – yes. Is such caution, particularly as these situations evolve, a prudent approach? I believe so.
- GPUSA is not the Order or the voice of the Order. OSMTH is the international face of the Order and is the voice of the Order. OSMTH is the Order’s diplomatic arm and has the status as an NGO in the UN to make what the Order determines are appropriate position statements there and elsewhere to the world. Lately, and for some time, OSMTH has been focused on determining what statements and positions the Order should take, and make, in response to these current and still evolving threats. At the last GMC, OSMTH responded with 2015 Resolution 12. Respectfully, I suggest that GPUSA should honor (and be careful not to undercut) this role of OSMTH as the face of the Order – as the spokesman for the Order. Nonetheless, GPUSA discussion of these issues will come to the attention of OSMTH and, therefore, the Order and its dynamic as to its position.
- Can the very important alert and call to action that GP V Dan emphasizes be delivered effectively without calling it an official position of GPUSA, an organization subject to scrutiny as a NJ corporation and a IRC 501©(3) and © (10) organization? Yes, it can. Can we Templars deliver, discuss and act on his message as Christians and citizens (and even urge congressional action) without claiming to do so on behalf of GPUSA – yes, I believe we can. If GPUSA issues a position statement or its members claim to represent the organization when they exercise their rights in this most urgent matter does that carry a potential risk? – Yes, it is -- it creates a risk that others may decide to cause difficulties for GPUSA. If we as citizens and Christians do not portray our efforts and concerns as an official position of GPUSA (at least until OSMTH clarifies the position of the Order), does it dilute the effect of our response to what GP V Dan urges is a level of missing action and awareness which we, as citizens and Christian Templars, should not tolerate and respond to – at this point, I do not believe so. If that is so, is not any risk of such action unnecessary? I believe so.
- Let’s remember in our call to action and our response, we are modern Templars. GPUSA is not urging our Templars to go to the Levant and take up arms against ISIS? We are a Christian charitable organization. We seek to deliver aid and comfort. Despite our name as a “Sovereign Military Order,”we are not urging our members to send support to war fighting units or to fund military equipment and ordnance. As an 501©(3) or (10) organization (as opposed to private citizens), we are not criticizing our government’s foreign policy. Should we take reasonable care to guard that others do not misinterpret our call to conscience and action, or our responses, as this kind of request by GPUSA? I believe we should. Yes. Will taking such reasonable care hurt our message? Again, I suggest that it will not.
Onward my Brothers and Sisters to new awareness and well thought out responses to new risks to Christians and to world peace.
Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam -
COL Chev Buren Shields III, LLM, GCTJ, GMTJ,
Grand Prior XIX
Jeffrey Peter Agnes
LTC Thomas P. Curtis II
Rev. Michael P. Forbes
David D. Fautua
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