Sunday, January 31, 2016

Arab and Templar alliances, early 13th century.

Crusader coin, Acre ca 1230 AD.
By PHGCOM - Own work,
photographed at British Museum
source

Following Salladin's great victory at Hattin and his conquest of Jerusalem, Arab relations with the Military Orders again began to change. The Knights of the Military Orders had been bested in battle and their numbers significantly decreased by combat and by execution. Jerusalem and many of the Order's castles had been conquered. Most importantly, the Dome of the Rock had been purified and restored to the sanctity of muslim rule. The Templars and Hospitallers still remained fierce opponents of Islam, but accommodations can be reached even with the fiercest opponents. Their removal from the Temple Mount meant they were no longer profaning muslim sacred space. Muslims were thus able to begin to make accommodations with the Military Orders.

At the same time, the Orders began to abandon their former intransigence, becoming increasingly willing to make accommodation with the Arabs. Thus, in the decades following the death of Saladin, the Military Orders once again were perceived as just one division of many among the faction-ridden Crusaders. Acting upon this perception Muslim rulers were frequently willing to make trucess, treaties and even alliances with the Orders.

source
This willingness to reach accommodations with the Military Orders was exacerbated in the early thirteenth Ayyubids, Saladdin's fractious successors. Some Ayyubid princes actually began to ally themselves with the Military Orders in an attempt to gain political advantages over their Muslim rivals. In 1240, al-Salih Ayyub,sultan of Egypt, ceded Ascalon to Frankish barons allied with the Templars hoping to undermine their alliance with his rival from Damascus, Isma'il.

This story demonstrates not only an indifference to the ideological threat of the Orders, but at least some degree of understanding of the internal politics of the Crusaders. Fraternization with the enemy was not uncommon; when Sultan Isma'il of Damascus allied with the Orders against Egypt, his general Ibrahim was allowed to stay in the monastic house of the Templars in Acre during the preparations for battle. (...)

For most of the early thirteenth century, the Orders were seen as just one other player in the never ending Machiavellian struggle for power among the various Christian and Muslim princes of Palestine. For Muslim rulers in this period the Military Orders were no longer merely menacing enemies to be despised or attacked but were sometimes potential allies to be cultivated.

This blog draws freely on the paper "Muslim perspectives on the military orders during the crusades" by William J. Hamblin, published in BYU Studies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Christian view on the rise of Islam at the end of the 1st Millennium

 This blog quotes -slightly abbreviated- the paper "How did Christians view the Rise of Islam?" published on www.medievalists.net.

"When Muslim armies came out of Arabia in the 630s and 640s, Christian writers in the Middle East looked to the Bible for understanding about what this invasion meant.

In her article, “Biblical History and the End of Times: Seventh-Century Christian Accounts of the Rise of Islam,” Jessica Lee Ehinger finds that they soon saw this new religion as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

Starting around the year 634, Islamic armies under Caliph Abu Bakr began incursions into Syria, then part of the Byzantine Empire. After a major Arab victory at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636, Muslim forces were able to quickly conquer most of Syria, including Jerusalem, as well as Egypt. For much of the seventh and early years of the eight century, Arab forces continued to expand Islamic rule through much of the Middle East and North Africa. Ehlinger takes a look at several accounts from the seventh-century, which used Biblical imagery to explain the rise of Islam and portrayed these events as signalling the end of time.

By the early Middle Ages, Christians saw themselves as participants in the great cosmic struggle between good and evil, one that would end in the Apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, it would certainly have appeared odd for Christians that the Arabs (or Saracens as they were often called) would play any role in this struggle. Until this time they were considered to be minor characters in the larger struggles between the Byzantine and Persian empires, and not a people that drew much attention from Christian theologians.

Although they had relatively little Biblical material to work with, seventh-century writers could draw upon the Book of Daniel, which referred to a warrior king emerging from the southern kingdom and conquering much of the world. (...)

Ehlinger notes that by seeing the Islamic invasion as part of God’s master plan, it provided a convenient excuse for the failure of the much more powerful Byzantine armies to contain them, “because, if the Muslims were an aspect of the end, their defeat would be neither be possible nor preferable in view of the greater purpose of bringing about the kingdom of God promised at the end.”(...)

In some cases, Christians saw the Muslim invasions as a punishment from God for their sinfulness. During the siege of Jerusalem in 636, the Patriarch of that city preached a sermon where he said to his followers, “For if we were able to live as is dear and pleasing to God, we might laugh at the fall of our adversaries the Saracens, and presently we might make their ruin feeble, and behold their final destruction.”

However, as history marched on, it soon became clear that Muslim invasions were not signalling the coming of the Apocalypse. Ehlinger writes:
In reality, Muslim rule was neither tyrannical nor even particularly invasive for the indigenous Christian communities who they conquered. Thus, in the centuries that followed, apocalyptic imagery disappeared from Christian writing, as these eschatological overtones must have appeared ridiculous to later Christian writers. The world had not ended, the end had not come, and the Muslims were not the demons and monsters that Christian authors of the seventh-century feared they would be. For later Christian writers, history continued to convey the relationship between God and Christianity, but did so with little regard for Islam or for Muslim rule. Instead, Islam sank into the background of Christian writing, appearing in order to give context and environment but with little consideration for the theological significance of its continued presence. These later authors continued to understand contemporary history as playing out the biblical story, but returned to an understanding in which the biblical end was understood as a distant event; in doing so they came to write works which accepted Islamic rule as the new status quo.
Soucre of text and illustration here

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The values ​​of modern chivalry

Bijschrift toevoegen
This blog is a (slightly edited) French-English translation of a contribution to the Facebook-page Les Noveaux Templiers

"I have asked myself about the values ​​of modern chivalry and at first I have contemplated on what might be the actual transposition of a medieval knight to modern times.

The first idea that came to me: it's obvious that the knight of modern times could only be a soldier who defends, at the risk of his life, causes being asked him to defend. In this way he gives proof of courage and loyalty but also of dedication and selflessness.

This was a response overly simplistic for my taste. Certainly the knights were soldiers but not only that. They were also nurses and doctors, because they were able to alleviate suffering. They were at the bedside of the sick, demonstrating a strong commitment. Yes indeed, but what about the religious who provide help, support and comfort without judging? Besides, the Knights Templar were originally soldier monks.

As that thought did not not satisfy me completely, I pushed it away. Perhaps I was on the wrong track trying to transpose to our time the image of the Knight. So I leaned on the values ​​it embodies, but the task has proven difficult.The values ​​of chivalry are in my opinion loyalty and fidelity, the awareness of a common interest above self-interest, commitment and not renunciation but selflessness and humility. Because it can be difficult to continue a task of which oe we knows that undoubtedly it will be doomed to faile. But it would be cowardly to give up because one lacks courage to continue anyway.

A knight is also someone who has a keen sense of honor, ethics and morality. A person who always does his best even if this is not enough. So someone who can stand tall in all circumstances and never has to be ashamed of his actions or his words.

A knight does not judge, he has empathy. I prefer empathy above compassion because for me a Knight is in action. The search for a solution and for compassion in my opinion would be an obstacle to action. Tears and sentimentality are not doing well with the action. But to empathize with others requires an open mind and a good dose of sensitivity. The knight is, above all, a human being with strengths and weaknesses, his beliefs and doubts. The first quality of a Knight is to accept this human condition and to seek to overcome it.

Finally, the values ​​of a modern knight are not just reserved for our soldiers, doctors or priests. They are in all of us if we take the trouble to look for them.

Soror Florence"


source text and illustration

Saturday, January 16, 2016

German OSMTH Chapter supports an "Open Letter to the Governments of Europe" on refugees

source
TemplarsNow investigates the view of modern Knights Templar organisations on the present day refugee situation in Europe. 

In November 11, 2015 the Autonome Komturei OSMTH Regensburg "Leonhard von Noblat" (Germany) supported the following letter published on www.europeact.eu and on their website.

"We, the front-line volunteers who for months now have been helping thousands of refugees, call on all the governments of Europe to act immediately and decisively to alleviate the situation. There are tens of thousands of people moving through south-eastern Europe and the current capacities of volunteer-based help sites are seriously challenged. Given also the rapid approach of winter and problems at various borders, we feel there is a real danger that the situation will lead to serious medical problems and likely deaths among the refugee community.

Every person has the legal right to seek asylum. If Europe is not able to provide safe and legal routes for asylum-seekers, it is obliged to provide aid to those who took the dangerous route. We do not want to see a single refugee dying while waiting in endless queues at European borders, literally in our own hands.

Volunteers have been providing a wide range of activities so far, in many places completely replacing the absent government facilities and aid. We are distributing food and water, undertaking crowd management, providing critical information about registration and borders, referring vulnerable people to UNHCR or medical services, caring for children, managing stocks of clothing and blankets, cleaning waste, raising funds and providing shelter to the most vulnerable few.

We have been doing all this for months in Lesvos, Athens, Gevgelija, Budapest, Röszke, Belgrade, Eidomeni, Hegyeshalom, Nickelsdorf, Wien, Salzburg, Heiligenkreuz, Zakány, Botovo, Calais, Preševo, Berkasovo, Bregana, Harmica, Trnovec, Mursko Središće, Bapska, Opatovac and a number of other places around Europe. We have proven that volunteers can do a lot, but we will be unable to keep thousands of people warm once the winter weather closes in.

Winter is coming quickly and we all have just a few days to respond in a humane way.
  • We call on all European countries to provide immediate help to all those countries affected by the refugee crisis, instead of helping those countries that are building fences.
  • We call for the building of safe reception and transit centres with facilities that can cope with the harsh winter conditions of the region.
  • We also call for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the people that need it, for the provision of appropriate medical services and for the coordination of all efforts on a pan-European level.
  • We also call on the EU to immediately implement other mechanisms which aim to provide safe passage to the EU.
    source

This is advance notice to all of you, the leaders of Europe, that people will be freezing to death soon on our borders if you do not act now.

​ We have done our best up to this point and we will continue to help for as long as is necessary. But now it is your turn, governments of Europe. Please respond and demonstrate to the world that humanity is still at the core of European values."
 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Noble Knight" - the Scandinavian OSMTH Knights Templar on the refugee situation

TemplarsNow investigates the view of modern Knights Templar organisations on the present day refugee situation in Europe. 

Today a (shortened) Swedish-English translation of the position of the Scandinavian OSMTH Grand Priorate, published in the 2015-2 issue of their magazine "Tempelherren", downloadable from their website.





"An actual question: How good do we manage and cope with unexpected changes?

In recent months, we have in a most concrete way been reminded that we live in an incredibly fast changing world. A current example is the challenge we now face in the form of the huge stream of refugees that seems to have surprised all of Western Europe. It puts our decision makers faced with a difficult humanitarian dilemma.

The number of refugees that already came, and the number still underway, compares well to the crowds that were in motion un the Great Migration time. Only during the month of October it was estimated that some 220,000 people were on their way to Europe. (....) The majority comes from areas affected by war in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Another part consists of young people that we do not directly classify as refugees or asylum seekers. They are coming from poorer conditions, seeking a better life. This has always been the case, but the numbers are higher now.

The functions and mechanisms which we have over the years set up in our societies for normal conditions are tested to the limit. More resources, action and new costly measures are needed to keep the grip. Expensive measures that many "Old citizens and taxpayers" are dissatisfied of, and which provide a breeding ground for a protectonistic mindset. Various rumors and populist half truths may, unfortunately, all too easily spread in the social media. Fear of the unknown,selfishness and ignorance create intolerance and excesses in the form of violence and hate speech.A frightening development in our communities that must be resisted.

A development that we, Knights of a 900-year old Order on the charitable and attitude level, should inlfuence into a more humane direction. It is in times like this that our Knightly Ethics are on trial. Our communities change and regardless of the opinions we may personally have on the issue, we shall in our Christian ethos stand tall in following our guide. We shall endeavor to objectively, in speech and action, assist the weak and vulnerable. What we experience in the ritual of our Order's chapter, we put in everyday life. Thereby, hopefully, creating respect for ourselves and our words. Every single act of kindness is the Noble Knight worthy! (....)."

Illustration from the 2015-2 issue of the magazine "Tempelherren" of the Tempelherreorden Storpriorat Skandinavien, downloadable from their website.