Miroslav Volf tells a personal story of resisting not only the pain but also the temptations of being victimised.
Yeah, I grew up in former Yugoslavia and my father was a Pentecostal minister, which meant that at that place we were kind of a minority of a minority of a minority of a minority. The dominant force were obviously the communist party and the entire apparatus of military police and so forth that ruled the country, but then there were dominant Christian groups as well: Catholic and Orthodox, there were even more reputable Protestant groups like Reformed Lutherans and maybe slightly less, like Baptist, and then we were at the very bottom of the rank.
And so in some ways the situation of living in such a place was not just a situation of marginality but also of [an] attempt to kind of push the church out of the public space at all, and from my childhood school experiences to my obligatory service in [the] military, I have experienced persecution – I think that’s fair to say. And I think one of the challenging things there is, obviously … you know, torturers, Emil Cioran said, are recruited from victims not quite beheaded. Right? A persecuted can easily become persecutors, and it was always central then for us to nurture the sense of the love of enemies and emulating Christ’s self-giving love in situations of this sort – even maybe not primarily for the sake of obedience to Christ in kind of more generic terms, even not for the sake of our public engagement, but for the sake of first of all the purity of our own soul. The sense was, we do not want to become that which other people do to us and so you have this dual allegiance to a Christ who is the self-giving love and, in the light of that, care for one’s own soul that turns you into, I think, or that’s required to turn you into an agent of peace in a situation in which you are a persecuted minority.
I think that’s probably the most important lesson that I have learned from our saintly nanny, or from my father and from my mom.