Brothers and sisters,
Every day we speak and try to listen to the Lord’s word and be taught by examples from the Holy Gospel. We persistently talk about praying for our neighbors and not only for our neighbors but for the whole world, for all people. We are talking about the necessity of doing good, the Lord’s love, and Christ Who is love Himself and Who, out of that love for man, suffered on the cross for all people, for the life of all people.
The man-loving word of Christ, which, thank God, is spread today through various means of communication, is drowned out by the general exploitation of violence in the public. Some media show us every day, even at the level of entertainment, the most diverse types of violence, up to savagery, using them to achieve better viewership and earnings, so much so that in this era of electronic networking we are willingly and unwillingly exposed to the promotion of violence. By this highlighting of violence and immorality in certain media, films, on some pages of newspapers and the Internet, even in the world of children’s play, in video games and harmless almanacs, the figures of sexually depraved people, murderers and thugs become role models for young generations, real manifestations of the most terrible things that can be done to another. In a world of this so-called “new normality”, the public is informed on a daily level that a husband has killed a wife or a boyfriend has killed a girl, that a parent, God forbid, has killed a child, and what is also terrible, the other way around. Violence is also publicly called for, unfortunately from unexpected positions, and even from our holy Church, where only messages of peace should echo! And in the multitude of news that pops up on our smart devices, headlines about violence against women, about beating, embarrassing, raping and killing our sisters, daughters, wives and mothers stand out.
The Orthodox Church of Christ, and I believe all Christians in the whole world, but not only Christians but all people who, according to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, feel in their hearts and in their consciences the unwritten law of God, cannot be more determined in rejecting this so-called “new normality”, especially in the condemnation of violence. For the Church, every human being is an icon of God. And the most worthy and revered of the entire human race is the Mother of God. What more proof than this do we need to understand how immensely the Church respects every woman, sister and mother as sacred and as an icon of God? For Christians, our mothers, wives and sisters are sacred. Violence against them is inconceivable and painful, and the fact is that men – cowards and weaklings – have killed more than 40 women in Serbia in the last two years alone, and about 300 in the last 10 years! God knows how many more of them are exposed to all kinds of torture in their families, workplaces and elsewhere. What kind of people are we when our wives run away from home to safe houses? How many safe houses should we build in order to reduce the number of abused and murdered women? How many various shelters do we need to establish in order to help every abused being?
For the Church of Christ, it is quite clear that the violent urge stems from diminishing God’s idea of oneself and one’s neighbor as the image and likeness of God, which by itself is considered a great sin. Because people do not see true and eternal dignity in themselves and in others, their relationship can take the form of brutal rivalry that can easily end in the worst violence. Therefore, I feel the responsibility and the need for the Church to analyze this problem in all its terrifying dimensions, so that God’s grace can be awakened where it is needed. The Serbian Orthodox Church will do this because her traditional understanding of human dignity obliges her to do so.
At least here in the Archdiocese of Belgrade–Karlovci, the Church will help safe houses. She will encourage the faithful to voluntarily participate in the work of existing institutions and centers that care for victims of violence. Priests will have a recommendation that, as far as they can, recognize domestic violence in their parishes and that, in cooperation with social workers, they try to influence so that tragic outcomes do not occur. They will also be encouraged to speak more often in their sermons about the problem of all forms of violence that are present in our society and families today. I will personally engage in helping women who have taken refuge from violence in safe houses. Through her media, educational institutions and publishing, the Church will endeavor to actively raise awareness of these painful topics and the possibilities for recognizing and preventing such crimes and perversions. And to all who confess Christ the Lord and consider themselves Orthodox Christians, we say that every act of violence against the weak and unprotected is an additional wound on the body of Christ! We are called to humility, meekness and love, and we strive to be worthy of being called to the community of eternal life to which God has called us.