as Seen in the Lives of a Number
of Orthodox Saints
by Dr. David C. Ford
Welcome! Thank you for coming!
May I state right from the start that I am far from being an expert on Islam, or even specifically on the interaction of Islam and
Orthodox Christianity through the centuries. I approach this topic with great trepidation, keenly aware of my lack of thorough knowledge.
I also approach it with a certain sense of wonderment, for the topic itself seems to demand an answer to a very difficult question, “Why did our Lord
allow Islam to arise, and to spread so far, and to cause so much suffering and destruction for so much of the Christian world for so many centuries,
even to the present day?” Has the Lord used the spread of Islam mainly to chastise His people for their sins? Or in His mysterious Providence, has
He also used Islam to help protect His Holy Church in a number of very significant ways?
Some more questions for us to consider: Has the interaction between Islam and Orthodoxy always been characterized by military, political,
and religious conflict, with mutual despising, hostility, rancor, and hatred prevailing? Or have there been significant times of mutual respect and
cooperation? How have Orthodox Christians managed to find a way to coexist with Muslims without hatred and resentment poisoning their souls?
In particular, I have been wrestling with one further question concerning Orthodox Christians who have lived in direct contact with
Muslims: To what extent have they put into practice Jesus’ commands to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us,
and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us? (Matt. 5:44).
So, it is with such questions as these in mind that I would like to devote our time together here tonight. And rather than trying to give
a comprehensive summary of the history of the relations between Islam and Orthodox Christianity through the centuries, I think it will be more
helpful, as we look for possible answers to these question, to turn to the Lives of some of the Saints of our Church who had direct contact with
Islam. As we know, the Saints are our constant examples and guides for living the Christian life. As St. John of Kronstadt (a great Russian priest
who died in 1908) urges us,
further reading.........link below.