September 13, 2013

Semiotics of Modern Terms of War

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Every period has particular features and characteristics which are expressed in a few terms - key words. Lately, after the events of September 11th, there are three terms that we often encounter in the media, which are "terrorism", "holy war" and "enduring freedom".

Terrorism: Everyone is talking about terrorism, but one thing is sure - there is no definition for it that can be found. Etymologically "terrorism" means the state and reign of terror that reflects an event or a group who cause terror in society. But as experts point out, an exact definition of terrorism has not been found. And this is compounded further by the fact that there are some cases where older leaders of liberation movements were characterized as terrorists and today are official partners of the large Nations and speak formally at the UN. It has been aptly noted: "The fact is that the scientific community is fighting for years to define terrorism." "In recent years conventions on combating terrorism were signed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), African countries (OAU) and the so-called non-aligned countries... The prehistory of deadlocks already looks back to 1937, when the League of Nations noted that the issue of terrorism was one of the most controversial in the international political arena and thus navigated an attempt to create an international convention to combat it" (Nikos Paraskevopoulos, Eleftherotypia, 10/24/2001).

Holy War: This term is attributed to Islam, since it is used in the Quran. Of course, there is an interpretive development in the term "holy war" in the Quran by Sunnis, Shias and Sufis. But what we can say is that the term "holy war" is not found only in Islam but also in misinterpretations and misrepresentations of Christianity. We cannot forget that Latins have in their history holy wars, called Crusades, and there are holy wars in nationalist contexts created by the fascists and Nazis, the mentality of which with different variations are a result of the whole European culture from the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. This means that the West also made ​​holy wars and therefore has no right to criticize the holy wars of others.

Enduring Freedom: The war of the Americans and British in Afghanistan at the beginning was marked as a "Noble Eagle" and "Infinite Justice", but then received the name "Operation Enduring Freedom". The question raised by Professor Manolis Drettakis is "Enduring freedom: for whom and for what?". It is obvious that enduring freedom is "translated" from America, and whichever Powers might support it, as "decision-makers to conduct operations with their own forces and any other countries that agree with them", while in other countries "enduring freedom" is "translated" as "continuing allegiance or consistent tolerance to unilateral decisions and actions " (Eleftherotypia, 10/22/2001) .

It is obvious that everyone gives these three terms of "terrorism", "holy war" and "enduring freedom" whatever meaning they wish. And this shows the great problem in using such words and terms, especially when circulated into a social level.

But in the Church we know what they mean on a personal existential level, with terrorism, holy war and enduring freedom from the effect and influence of demonic situations. In this way we Orthodox, because it is not possible to define these social terms and for them to be accepted by everyone, can give an existential definition to them, so that with the term "Terrorism" we can talk about the war fury of the devil, who is the biggest terrorist. With the term "Holy War" we can mean the war against the old man with its passions and desires. And the term "Enduring Freedom" can mean the unceasing effort for the acquisition of existential freedom, which is the union with Christ Who is the true liberator.

To terms like these, and similar ones, we should give existential semiotics, because it will be closer to the truth of things.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Σημειολογία συγχρόνων όρων", November 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.