Altruistic Suicide or Altruistic Martyrdom?
Christian Greek orthodox Neomartyrs: A Case Study
[From Archives of Suicide Research, Volume 8, No 1, 2004].
Altruistic Suicide: From Sainthood to Terrorism as titled poses the question: altruistic suicide or altruistic martyrdom? This article speaks more about martyrdom than suicide. The ancient Greek world and the more modern Christian Greek Orthodox one show that many people preferred death rather than apostasy: The Greek Orthodox neo-martyrs were motivated by categories of martyrdom; being accused of being political offenders or traitors or being charged with being agitators because they advocated a better treatment for Christians. Martyrdom cannot be explained in personality structures and psychological terms, but in terms of Christian Orthodox faith, culture, history, and so on. Altruistic martyrdom by "the neo-martyrs of the Christian Greek Orthodox Church" is martyrdom, not suicide.
Keywords altruistic suicide, martyrdom, Christian Greek Orthodox, neo-martyrs,
Greece, early Christian martyrs, Ottoman Empire Islam.
Altruistic Suicide: From Sainthood to Terrorism as titled poses the question: altruistic suicide or altruistic martyrdom? While there is agreement about the meaning of the term altruistic, there are disagreements on the meaning of suicide and martyrdom. What some cultures call suicide others think of as martyrdom. The September 11, 2001 events and the conflicts in the Near East confirm that cultures speak different languages. What is senseless suicide for some is noble martyrdom for others.(1)
In religious terms for some people suicide is intentional death, the result of a distressed, disappointed and hopeless life. On the other hand, for others martyrdom is heroic death, the result of a commitment to ideals and principles, such as love for family, patriotism, dedication to religious beliefs and practices. Martyrdom becomes synonymous to suicide when one provokes one's death, seeking death for selfish reasons such as glory. This article speaks more about martyrdom than suicide.
1. - For current concepts of suicide see David Lester, Editor, 'Current Concepts of Suicide' (The Charles Press: Philadelphia, 1990 see especially pp. 1-25.