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'And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled

Matt. 24,6

In Old English the word 'Middle-Earth' was used simply to mean the inhabited world, the dwelling-place of men, the oikumene or vselennaya. Here we use the word with a new meaning: to signify the lands based north and south, east and west, around the spiritual centre of the Planet, in Jerusalem. This Middle-Earth runs from Russia and the Ukraine, down through Jerusalem and the Middle East to Egypt and the Sudan, then into East Africa and onwards. This is the region where a majority of Orthodox Christians live, or once lived, and it is this region which is at present sorely troubled.

First of all, there is the Middle East, with the 100,000 victims of the invasion of Iraq, Ancient Babylon, and highly unstable Palestine, which has recently lost its leader Yasser Arafat. At least three nuclear-powered states, Israel, Iran and Pakistan, are to be found in or near this region. Other surrounding countries, from Egypt to Turkey and from Syria to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, are also volatile, each in its different way. The whole area is a powder-keg of discontent and grievance. Certain local states, and not only distant Western 'democracies', eye with envy the oil-rich territories of unstable Iraq.

To the south of this area in Africa, lies the Sudan with its ancient Christian traditions. Here genocide has taken place, as fanatical Muslims have for decades massacred, tortured, robbed and raped Christians. Sadly, the world has stood by, for the Sudanese government possesses oil. To the south lies Uganda with its massacres carried out by fanatics, the Lord's Resistance Army, who operate under the camouflage of religion, training kidnapped child warriors, raping and pillaging. And further to the south, in stricken Black Africa, lies Rwanda, where ten years ago French-backed rebels hacked nearly a million Rwandan peasants to death. Beyond that lie starving and tyrannized Zimbabwe and the AIDS graveyards of South Africa. In September a new spiritual trial came to affect Africa, when the Patriarch of All Africa and many fellow-clergy, including the Bishop of Madagascar, were killed in the still mysterious crash of an apparently unblessed helicopter.

In the north of Middle-Earth, Eastern Europe has suffered continuously since the American and German-backed Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. After the twentieth-century massacres by the Communists all over Eastern Europe, more recently came injustice and poverty, together with the war against Serbia and the NATO-encouraged massacres by Muslim and Catholic fanatics. After horrible injustices allowed by the 'international community', came the ethnic cleansing of Slavs by Albanian drug-dealers in Macedonia and Kosovo. But now comes a new challenge in Eastern Europe.

This new temptation is the Ukraine. Here two political parties are fighting for power, and the words 'Civil War' have been spoken. Orthodox instincts tend perhaps to veer towards supporting the pro-Russian party of Viktor Yanukovich, but he would appear to be little more than a Mafia Communist. He has a criminal record and is under suspicion of the attempted murder of his opponent. On the other hand, his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, has a pro-Western stance, his wife is an American citizen and he has at least one pro-American adviser, who has urged him to play 'the American card'. Yushchenko too has a suspect background and appears to be no more palatable than Yanukovich. Both are backed by multi-millionaire oligarchs, supported by groups abroad, who want the Ukraine's rich natural resources, including oil, for themselves. With a member of my family closely involved, how can I not pray for the victory of the least bad? The Ukraine needs not only a man of peace - the sign of a man of peace may be that of Antichrist - but above all a man of righteousness, who can heal foolhardy divisions between brother-peoples.

And the name of the star is called Wormwood. (in Ukrainian: Chernobyl) (Rev 8,11). Little wonder that a certain monk from Vatopedi Monastery on Mt Athos, has prophesied the outbreak of the Third World War, if there is no repentance. God forbid that such a war take place. But man has freedom and, under demonic impulsion, man can do his utmost for such a war to break out. The fate of the world has hung by a thread ever since 1945. As the American President Kennedy said at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis forty-two years ago, a sword of Damocles hangs over the world. Then the end was averted by the prayers of holy people. We can only pray that this will be so once more.

The fact is that Middle-Earth, the region where most Orthodox Christians live, is to be crucified. The Church of Christ has to be persecuted from the West by fanatical Materialists, and persecuted from the East by fanatical Islamists. The spiritual balance provided by the Orthodox Church has to be destroyed - so that Antichrist can be enthroned on Sion, in the Holy City of Jerusalem. It was so 800 years ago in the Christian capital of Constantinople, when it was menaced by Muslims and sacked by Catholics. It was so in Russia under St Alexander Nevsky, who fought off the Teutonic Knights of the Vatican, but also played diplomacy with the Tartars. Threats from East and West have always been, and will always be.

Nonetheless, now is the time for Orthodox to unite, as never before. Ever since 1917 the Orthodox world has stood weak and shaken. Now is the time to throw off the compromises made all over the Orthodox world since, the foolishness of 1925 in Greece, the weakness in Romania, the decadent decade of the 1960s and the spiritual paralysis that followed this enfeeblement. Now is the time to reject the interference in the affairs of other Local Churches, unnecessary strife and conflict among brothers and sisters. It may be that War, in the Middle East or in the Ukraine, will be averted for now.

In any case, now is not the End. The End will come only when the last Orthodox Liturgy has been served. Since Christ still comes back in the Liturgy, He will not yet come back in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24,30). However, if we do not pray for the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the holy churches of God and the union of all people, we will see the end. In the demonic liturgy they beg Satan for: the war of the whole world, the destruction of the holy churches of God and the disunity of all people. For much of the twentieth century the demons had their way. And if, in the twenty-first century, there is no prayer and repentance to God, the demons will have their way again. Then the day will come when the Liturgy will no longer be celebrated, no longer will the Body and Blood of Christ be present on Earth, and so He will return for the End.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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