Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity, Inc.
Harvard Square | P.O. Box 380246 | Cambridge, MA 02238-0246, U.S.A. |


Year 2 No 10 | August 19, 2016


Power: Ritual, Symbol, Violence
editorial by
Marian Gh. Simion, PhD

When the two ISIS jihadists slaughtered father Jacques Hamel inside the altar of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray Church, near Rouen, Normandy, the jihadists not only committed murder. They also conducted an act of symbolic violence as evidenced by the choice of the target and ritual performance. “They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic,” reported a witness able to escape the July 26th ordeal.

Whether used for good or ill, ritual and symbol pervade all religious phenomena, and they stay at the heart of all organized religions.

What is a ritual? Whether used for good or ill, a ritual is a process of meaning-making. Ritual inspires the seeker, brings order in a context dominated by chaos, creates collective certainty in times of ambiguity, and redefines or dismantles an extinct intimation in a spiritually controlled ambiance. As Karen Armstrong wrote recently, “we are meaning-seeking creatures and, unlike animals, fall very easily into despair if we fail to make sense of our lives.” (Fields of Blood)

Rituals are anchored in symbols; that is in their objectification and manipulation. When skillfully manipulated by the ritual performer, a symbol (or system of symbols), allows the imagination of the subjected individual to run its rampant course; thus making the individual vulnerable to taking action. In fact, the strongest social attitudes that trigger social movements are formed and enforced through ritual manipulation of symbols.

Therefore, whether educated or ignorant, gentle or brutal, sane or insane, those who control the ritual and its symbols, control the power of religion. ~~~

Dr. Simion attends IRLA
Annual Meeting of Experts at Harvard


At the invitation of Dr. Ganoune Diop, Secretary General and Dr. Nelu Burcea Deputy Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), Dr. Marian Simion attended the 18th Annual Meeting of Experts, held at Harvard Divinity School, during August 16-18, 2016. (This group of experts make up IRLA's international think tank on religious freedom.) ‎The topic of this year's expert consultation was, "‎Seeking International Religious Liberty Norms:‎ Challenges and Promises,"‎ and it reunited world-class human rights scholars from Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, and USA. IRLA is the world's oldest religious freedom association, and for more than 120 years it has worked to promote freedom of conscience.

IPSEC at the Parliament of Romania


On September 29, 2016, IPSEC will serve once again as an institutional partner in the organization of the international scientific conference titled, “Freedom of Religion and Conscience in the Context of National Security." IPSEC will co-partner with the Romanian Parliament (Chamber of Deputies | Committee for Legal Matters, Discipline and Immunities), International Religious Liberty Association, and “Asociaţia Conştiinţă şi Libertate” (The Conscience and Liberty Association from Bucharest), the leading organizer of the event.

Words of Spiritual Wisdom

“Every thought enters the heart in the form of a mental image of some sensible object. The blessed light of the Divinity will illumine the heart only when the heart is completely empty of everything; so free from all form. Indeed, this light reveals itself to the pure intellect in the measure to which the intellect itself is purged of all concepts.” (St. Hesychios the Priest, “On Watchfulness and Holiness,” 89.)


IPSEC Field Site Orientation
Harvard Divinity School

IPSEC Annual Field Education Site Fair will be held at Harvard Divinity School on September 8, 2016 (4:30-5:30). Attendance is limited to the Harvard Divinity School and BTI students only.

US Library of Congress assigned
IPSEC Newsletter

ISSN: 2473-9146

On August 18, 2016 the Library of Congress from Washington, D.C., officially notified IPSEC that IPSEC Newsletter was registered by the U.S. ISSN Center (ISSN Publisher Laiason Section), as an official online publication, and received the International Serial Standard Number of 2473-9146. The ISSN is a unique, internationally used identification number for serial publications and other continuing resources and can be thought of as the “social security number of the serials world,” providing unique identification of title that can often be the same as, or similar to other titles.

St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute
International Conferences

The Saint Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute of Moscow, Russia, announces two international conferences. The first conference, “Theology of Suffering in Ecumenical Perspective,” will be held in Bose, Italy, during 26–29 October 2016. The second conference, “Theology of Nature: Divine Gift and Human Responsibility” will be held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, during 9–12 November 2016. Detailed information is available at

The world we live in...

For more news about conflicts affecting Orthodox Christians around the world, click here!

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Your donations help us invest into the future of Orthodox Christians, now suffering from conflict, marginalization, and poverty. IPSEC is a tax deductible 501(c)(3) entity under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, Section 170. Tax deductible donations can be made payable to “Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity” and mailed to:

Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity
(Harvard Square) P.O. Box 380246,
Cambridge, MA 02238-0246, U.S.A.

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IPSEC Newsletter (ISSN 2473-9146) is the official newsletter of the Institute for Peace Studies in Eastern Christianity, Harvard Square | P.O. Box 380246 | Cambridge, MA 02238-0246, U.S.A. | | The purpose of this publication is to disseminate information about our institute’s activity, and to disseminate selected news about conflicts affecting the daily existence of Orthodox Christians around the world, as well as various announcements from similar organizations. Focused on research, consulting and education, IPSEC’s goal is to make a positive contribution to the world peace by focusing on the role of religion in international and interreligious relations. IPSEC is affiliated with Harvard Divinity School as a field education agency; offering educational services to graduate students on the role of Orthodox Christianity in international relations, conflict, and policymaking. We welcome your comments, queries, and suggestions; so please direct all correspondence to Dr. Marian Simion at