Accepted paper:

Freedom in obedience: negotiating religious authority among Syrian Christians

Authors:

Andreas Bandak (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Syrian Christians have found themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances as the country has been dragged into civil war over the last years. This paper addresses various conceptions of freedom at play among laity and clergy by pondering whether freedom can be found in submitting to authority.

Paper long abstract:

What value is liberty to those that don't use it, Isaiah Berlin once pondered. This question of liberty, or freedom, informs part of this paper's engagement with Syrian Christians and their current anxieties. Syrian Christians have found themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances as the country has been dragged into civil war over the last three years. Here freedom could harbour dangers beyond control if it means the fall of the current regime and the victory of islamism. This paper addresses various conceptions of freedom at play among laity and clergy by pondering whether freedom can be found in submitting to authority. This has often been the way proposed by the great number of Syrian churches - both Orhodox and Catholic - and in an authoritarian setting can be reflected in light of Jesus' way of putting things: give Caesar what belongs to him, and God what belongs to him. However, as Christians find themselves more and more vulnerable, what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar? And what happens when freedom is sidelined as the least desirable thing to hope for? In times of social upheaval enlightened answers may be difficult to find.

panel P36
What is (religious) Enlightenment? Kant, freedom and obedience in religion today