Τετάρτη, 21 Μαρτίου 2018

"I Am Not Your Immigrant"

Whispers of a Womanist - A Black Female Perspective

My last name is Saunders.
I am a descendant of Africans kidnapped from the continent centuries ago. My last name is a visible reminder of the chains that bound my ancestor’s limbs as they sat, cramped on the ship that literally and figuratively severed them from their motherland. I do not know my original last name, or the faces of my ancestors seized from our indigenous land. America stole that from me, and told me George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were my forefathers.
I don’t know the songs they sang before their abduction. Instead, America made me memorize “The Star Spangled Banner.” America prompted me to sing this song with my hand over my heart,  the heart that pumps the very blood pumped into the ground by enslaved ancestors. Blood, long forgotten if ever acknowledged, by white settlers.
My ancestors sat on dirty boats, bore children from rape, picked cotton for the American economy, then endured poverty for centuries while whites sent their children to college and lived in fancy houses. Fancy houses that blacks would clean for money that would allow them the luxury of poverty. Then we endured segregation, giving us an inferior lifestyle masked with the lie “separate but equal.”
I write to address the term immigrant that dominates so much of contemporary conversation. Namely, this post is a product of a comment I’m hearing more and more: “Unless your native American we are all immigrants.”
As a descendant of an abducted Africans, this statement is not only insulting but untrue. The myth of America being a land of liberty and freedom, seduces migrants to adopt America as their home. The abducted African was not afforded this choice. As writer James Baldwin stated decades ago,  the abducted African is America’s creation– encompassing the “nigger” essential to establish western superiority.
In labeling the ancestors of the abducted African immigrants, whites evoke the social amnesia necessary to alleviate them from their past sins. Dr. Amos Wilson evaluated the affects of social amnesia in The Falsification of African Consciousness. Dr. Wilson states:
“The psychology of individuals and groups may also, in part, be constructed from ‘historical and experimental amnesia.’ That is, when an individual or a group is compelled by various circumstances to repress important segments of his or its formative history he or it sometimes loses access to crucially important social, intellectual and technical skills associated with that history which could be used to resolve current problems” (1).
To label the bodies bred from the abducted Africans immigrants, their fate became a matter of choice, not a product of pure evil. Suddenly, both the settlers and slaves encompass the immigrant labeling, thus appear equal in the plight to belong. This dynamic is as troubling as it is false. Furthermore,  this implied equal footing operates in a manner similar to blackness as a construct—a lie treated as truth to foment a targeted result. For blacks to believe the lie embedded in the “immigrant” label, America becomes the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” not those who raped your ancestors, and lived comfortably for generations on money collected from stolen labor.
The black migrant, or those who came to America from the West Indies, The Caribbean, South America, Central America or the continent itself are in fact immigrants. Although the African Diaspora exhibits a shared white influence in seeing America as a place for opportunity–not the land that stole from their brethren, it was not their direct blood cast into the soil to build America.  To some,  their presence suggests that African abduction could not have been that bad if those with a shared lineage choose to be here. Moreover, the migrant choice to come to America fosters the same ideology that validated our abduction, rape and torture—although they too lost their language and indigenous culture.
Unlike those of the African diaspora, non-black migrants from the Caribbean, Central and South America Asia and the allusive “middle east” have a language and culture  The abducted African lost their language and culture during the process that transformed them into America’s nigger.
To the migrant,  America was, at least at one point, “heaven like.” Namely, many journeyed to America unaware that America the beautiful burned the non-migrant black body alive and hung them from trees for crimes they did not commit. Instead they were shown pictures of wealth and civility. For the non-migrant black, America has always personified hell on earth, where their body is subject to various modes of maltreatment–legally permitted by the American government.
Now, the contemporary world hands the descendants of abducted Africans immigrant labeling. Labeling descendants of the abducted African immigrants works as yet another means to oppress the black mind. For if blacks forget their story, or become convinced that their is no story to tell, “his” story prevails and  blacks eventually ignore the magnitude of their oppression. As Neely Fuller profoundly stated:
“If you do not understand what racism and white supremacy are, and how they are implanted by the white race against the colored people of the world, you are lost, and everything else you know about white people will only confuse you.”
The label “immigrant” cast along the bodies of those descended from enslaved Africans oversimplifies the immensity the transatlantic slave trade had on the black diaspora. This labeling affords the western world another means to dodge any responsibility for their wrong doings, something that the conscious black body must confront every time they open their mouth to speak English.
I would say that whites should be ashamed of themselves, but to do so would reflect a disassociation from American trajectory. A large component of what enables whites to carry on as they have for centuries is the Racial Psychopathic Personality Dr. Bobby Wright outlines in his studies. This personality  results from an absence of conscious, or the inability to feel anything but entitlement.
My assertions are in no way to suggest that America is home to the abducted African. I do mean to declare the label immigrant as cast onto the black body to foment escapism, implemented to bury our story in favor of a story that paints America as “land of the immigrants.” Our kidnapping afforded America its riches. We bred America the liberties white migrants enjoyed in traditional and contemporary settings.  We made America enviable. We provided its fruits yet were never allowed to eat them.
Isn’t it enough that you stole our crowns and handed us chains instead? Isn’t it enough that you stole our language and gave us your own? Isn’t it enough that in spite of taking our language you ridicule us for not speaking yours properly?
Well, you may have stolen our ancestor’s bodies from Africa, but you cannot steal our legacy.
I am not your immigrant, just as you, are not my political leader, representative, sister, brother, fellow American or slave-master. You are however my chief abuser, persecutor and oppressor, a skilled magician that finds new ways to do what you have always done—oppress.
Nevertheless, I don’t hate you, but don’t belong to you either…

See also

Ferguson, MO vs. Malcolm X: Are We Chasing Our Tails? - It is time for us all to come home...
The Least of These
The Desert Fathers: A Sad Omission of the Black Church - A Beacon for Evangelism

Native American Pathways to Orthodoxy
The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place  

Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black
St Mary of Egypt, a multi-cultural orthodox community in Kansas City
St Nicholas of Japan, a multi-ethnic orthodox parish in Johannesburg

African Women

Orthodox Women Saints
Womens' Orthodox Blogs
Male and Female Created He Them...

"THE WAY" - An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life
«African needs to be helped, to find his divine roots, for his soul to be at peace, to become united with God...»

Τρίτη, 20 Μαρτίου 2018

The Holy "Black" Fathers who martyred at the Monastery of St. Sabbas (March 20)

Note of our blog: I do not know why these holy Fathers are called "Blacks". In the story of their martyrdom I do not see any information about it. You can see this name here (in Greek).
Orthodox Church in America
Saints John, Sergius, Patrick and others were slain in the Monastery of Saint Sabbas (St Sava's Lavra). During the eighth century the area around Jerusalem was subjected to frequent incursions of the Saracens. The monastery of Saint Chariton was devastated and fell into ruin. Twice the Saracens tried to plunder the Lavra of Saint Sava the Sanctified, but God’s Providence protected the monastery. The monks would have been able to escape the barbarians by going to Jerusalem, but they decided not to forsake the place where they had sought salvation for so many years.
On March 13, the Saracens broke into the monastery and demanded all the valuables. The monks told them that there was nothing in the monastery but a meager supply of food and old clothing. Then the Saracens began to shoot arrows at the monks.
Thirteen men were killed and many wounded, and monastery cells were set afire. The Saracens intended also to torch the monastery church, but seeing a throng of people in the distance, they mistook this for an army sent from Jerusalem. The Saracens managed to get away, carrying off the little they were able to plunder. After the enemy fled, Father Thomas, an experienced physician, began to help those who remained alive.
Photo from here
On Great Thursday, March 20, the Saracens again descended upon the Lavra with a larger force and began to beat up the monks. The survivors were driven into the church, where they were tortured in order to force them to reveal where any treasure might be hidden. The monastery was surrounded, so no one could save himself by fleeing. The barbarians seized Saint John, a young monk, who had cared for vagrants. They beat him fiercely, then they cut the sinews of his hands and feet and dragged him over stones by his feet, which tore the skin from the martyr’s back.
The keeper of the church vessels, Saint Sergius, hid the church vessels and attempted to flee, but he was captured and beheaded. Several of the monks nevertheless managed to hide themselves outside the monastery in a cave, but they were spotted by a sentry on a hill, and they ordered everyone to come out. Inside the cave Saint Patrick whispered to the brethren huddled with him, “Fear not, I will go alone and meet my death. Meanwhile, sit and pray.”
The Saracens asked whether there was anyone else in the cave, and Patrick said that he was alone. They led him to the Lavra, where the captives awaited their fate. The Saracens demanded of them a ransom of 4,000 gold pieces and the sacred vessels. The monks were not able to give such a ransom. Then they led them into the cave of Saint Sava inside the monastery walls. They lit a fire on which they piled up dung in front of the entrance to the cave, hoping to suffocate the monks with the poisonous fumes. Eighteen men perished in the cave, among whom were Saints John and Patrick. The Saracens continued to torture those who were still alive, but got nothing out of them. Finally, they left the monastery.
Later, on the night of Great Friday, the monks hidden in the hills returned to the Lavra, they took up the bodies of the murdered Fathers to the church and buried them there.
The barbarians who plundered the monastery were punished by God. They were stricken with a sudden illness, and they all perished. Their bodies were devoured by wild beasts.
The martyrs of Saint Sava’s Lavra commemorated on May 16 suffered in the seventh century, during the reign of Heraclius (610-641).

Κυριακή, 18 Μαρτίου 2018

The guards of the heart (and St John of Climacus)

Impulsivity, Addiction, and the Passions

By Hieromonk Alexis Trader
Ancient Christian Wisdom 
Death to the World (about)
It should come as no surprise to those familiar with individuals struggling with addiction that impulsivity is a core issue. In technical terms, there is a certain fundamental correlation between addiction and impulsivity. People who are impulsive are more vulnerable to developing addictive behavior, because they give little regard to adverse consequences (Impulse Control Disorders and Co-Occurring Disorders, Potenza, p. 51) or to be more precise, they prefer immediate reinforcers to delayed ones, instant gratification to long-term satisfaction. Being impulsive means acting without forethought. And although those struggling to be free of an addiction know full well that not acting on impulse is in the long run more beneficial than giving in, when temptation arises, forethought that motivates becomes a nigh impossible task and impulsivity takes over, impulsivity that in its pathological form can be defined as “a failure to regulate, monitor, or control behavior and emotional expression” (Impulsivity in Neurobehavioral Disorders, Holmes, Johnson, Roedel, p. 309).
The first step in all the many 12 step-groups begins with “we admitted that we were powerless over _______ that our lives had become unmanageable.” This certainly fits the above definition for pathological impulsivity and clearly expresses the strong link between addiction and impulsivity. And the impulsive life can certainly become unmanageable. In fact, left unchecked, impulsive behavior will eventually take on the characteristics of infantile behavior without any of the innocence of childhood (Gratifying Impulses, Toch & Adams, p. 145) becoming increasingly destructive and even potentially violent. Toch and Adams note the danger in gratifying the impulses: “Gratifying impulses is by definition a destructive enterprise, because other people become objects of need satisfaction. Less obviously, impulse gratification can be self-destructive, because the reactions the person invites compound his or her problems and can escalate into ugly, no-win confrontations.”

In the ascetic literature, the closest notions to that of impulses are provocations (προσβολή) and momentary disturbances (παραρριπισμός). These particular thoughts or λογισμοί assail human beings from the outside and call forth, if not demand, a response. They are temptations, which if repeatedly acted on, become passions that automatically direct hapless souls down crooked paths away from God. The ascetic struggles of the Church fathers have been directed at recognizing and rooting out the passions in all of their manifestations. And though provocations or impulses still come, the soul remains steadfast in cleaving to God and fulfilling His holy will. Whether the problem be addiction, impulsivity, the passions or some combination of the three, the starting point for healing is always rigorous honesty, “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” Thus, Saint Mark the Ascetic writes, “Do not say, ‘I don’t want it, but it happens.’ For even though you may not want the thing itself, you welcome what causes it” (On the Spiritual law, 142). The welcoming of impulses is the real problem that needs to be addressed.
Whether the problem be impulses, addiction, or the passions, real change requires a new way of life, a new way of engaging with the world, of relating to others, and of relying on God. The Fathers, in their ascetic works, describe in detail this life in which one need not be at the mercy of impulses. Early on in his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint John Climacus writes, “At the gate of your heart place strict unsleeping guards. Restrain actions and movements of your limbs, practice noetic (intellectual) stillness. And, most paradoxical of all, in the midst of commotion, be unmoved in soul. Curb your tongue which rages to leap into arguments (4:37).” 

Guards are aware that burglars may try to enter and know precisely what to do if they appear. This kind of awareness then is the first treatment for impulsivity. The second is paying strict attention to your hands and legs and not allowing them to move according to the dictates of impulses. Though difficult this is certainly possible. If this battle is won, one can find stillness by turning again and again to Christ. Finally, what applies to the limbs can apply also to one’s tongue. Saint John of Climacus continues, “Stillness of the body is knowledge and composure of the habits and feelings. And stillness of soul is the knowledge of one’s thoughts and an inviolable mind. (27:2); Bring out the staff of patience, and the dogs will soon stop their insolence” (27:70). Again watchfulness over what one does and how one feels as well as watchfulness over the thoughts, with patience, can make us less impulsive.
In combating the manifestation of impulsivity in a particular destructive behavior or passion as the fathers call it, the holy fathers have a specific strategy to combat each behavior/passion. For example, Saint John Climacus counsels those who have a problem with anger by first describing it, “An angry person is a willing epileptic, who due to an involuntary tendency keeps convulsing and falling down.” (8:11) and then offering a healing strategy, “The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of the soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds” (8:4). The description is meant to wake the reader up to the reality of the negative consequences of the passion. The healing strategy is meant to offer tools that can be used at the time of the struggle.
Rather than focusing on the passion, the fathers often counsel their spiritual children to focus on the corresponding virtue to the passion that assails them. In the case of anger, Saint John counsels the cultivation of meekness by keeping the tongue silent, the mind undisturbed (by not focusing on the object of the anger), and finally calm in spite of the circumstances. Of course, no virtue is achieved on one’s own but only through synergy with the grace of God, which is something 12 Step Groups struggling for recovery from addiction acknowledge when they say “we turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” With God’s help, with wise watchfulness, with control over our limbs, and with much patience, the addicted, the impulsive, and the passionate can all hope to say, as once did Saint Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phillipians 4:13).

See also
St John of Climacus (4th Sunday of the Great Lent) 

Σάββατο, 17 Μαρτίου 2018

The Sins of a Nation

Can a nation ever sin? If so, how can it be forgiven?
The stories and prophetic writings of the Old Testament are replete with examples of national sin. There are certainly stories of God dealing with individuals, but, on the whole, His attention seems to be directed to Israel and other nations as a whole. The promises and pledges are made to a collective people and the chastisement falls on the whole nation as well. Our modern sensibilities, rooted in a fundamental commitment to individualism, recoil from this collective treatment. And we are not the first to complain.
In Genesis 18, Abraham argues with God about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord has threatened to destroy the cities on account of their sins. Abraham raises the troubling question:
“Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:23-25)
Thus, this question has had a prominent place in the thoughts of the faithful since the very beginning. In Abraham’s conversation with God, he asks if God would spare those cities even if only fifty righteous were found. God agrees. With continued pleading, Abraham takes the the number down to 10 righteous (and stops). And the Lord says that He would spare the cities for the sake of just 10. Alas, less than ten were found. But we do not upbraid God that He was willing to spare the unrighteous for the sake of a mere handful.
There is a mystery contained within the entire exercise of that conversation. For the truth is, none of us stands alone. No one stands free of the actions of others. Our lives are deeply connected. We are ourselves the offspring of many generations, and we carry within us ever so much that was not of our own choosing. Our inheritance is tainted – both for good and for ill. 

Fr. Thomas Hopko describes some of this as “generational” sin. To understand this requires that we remember that sin is not a legal problem. It is not about what is fair or unfair. It is about a mystical burden that we experience as debt, hindrance, oppositional weight, weakness, brokenness and corruption, or just the starting place of our lives. Virtually everything in our lives is gifted to us, and there are many “gifts” that we would prefer never to have received. It is part of our incarnational existence. We are the offspring of others. To have an embodied existence in space and time is to have a body burdened with the DNA of eons and a family and culture that is both the product and carrier of history. Our own existence is a consequence of everything that has come before us. We cannot rightly suggest that such a contingent existence comes free.
Of course, many historical burdens become the targets of political attention. No human being, no ethnic or national group is without sin. Some sins are more recent and obvious than others. But our accusers can never plead innocence. Acknowledging this does nothing to remove our burdens.
In the 20th century, there have been some notable national crimes that have, in some way, been acknowledged. Japan renounced its military in response to the atrocities and errors of the Second World War. Germany paid reparations to Israel and enacted numerous laws renouncing and restricting the scourge of Nazism. Many war criminals were punished. The Russian government, with no outside political pressure, not only acknowledged many of the crimes of its Communist past, but also built memorials and rebuilt churches (often returning properties that had been taken away) in an effort of public repentance. 

Photo from here
It has rightly been noted that “history is written by the victors.” It is therefore the case that we more easily repent for the sins of history’s vanquished and leave the writing to the victorious. But the burden of sin as historical reality remains. Unaddressed, the sins of the past become the problems of the present. Many of the most enduring conflicts in the modern world represent centuries of unresolved issues and the inherited burden of our ancestral legacy.
Often the legacy of history is carried on in competing narratives. We do not always know or rightly remember the details of what happened, but we know all too well the emotional burden of its trauma. Hatred can be a very ancient thing.
And it is to trauma that I want to direct our attention. Trauma is a word for the damage we suffer in extreme circumstances. It can occur as a result of natural disaster, or war – any time and place in which we are endangered, injured, or exposed to terrible actions. People do not experience war and then walk away as though nothing had happened. The war stops outwardly, but it continues inwardly. This experience is as old as mankind itself. Trauma sometimes leaves people emotionally and even physically crippled.
Among ancient peoples, the trauma of life was met with liturgy – rituals, both public and private that sought to restore them to their right minds, to appease the wrath of the gods or the spirits of their enemies. The collective psyche of a whole people was set right through various actions and beliefs that worked to make peace and re-establish righteousness.

Modernity has very few such rituals. The secular state, presiding over competing and disparate groups has almost nothing to which it can appeal that serves as catharsis or repentance, or even thanksgiving. Sport (such as the Super Bowl) comes closest to public liturgy in modern America, but it serves nothing transcendent, nothing permanent. It cannot heal or speak to the needs of a nation.
The outcome of this lack is an inability for nations and often individuals to be healed of their trauma. The wounds of lost wars or historical sins remain unaddressed, erupting from time to time as renewed trauma in the national psyche.
Studying parish ministry in seminary, I was introduced to the phrase, “recurrent latent cycling.” It was meant to describe a struggle within the life of a parish that erupts periodically, that is, in fact, the same struggle. It might be around a new presenting issue – but it was still the same struggle. Healing the parish required a discernment of what was actually going on – to bring something that was latent into the light of day.
Nations (and individuals) who ignore their wounds and griefs do not leave them behind – they bring them forward and repeat their battles endlessly. Subsequent generations who never knew the first cause, become the unwitting bearers of the latent violence and destruction that they have inherited.
 Icon from here
Though Orthodoxy does not generally use the term “original sin,” it doesn’t thereby deny the reality of the inherited burden of sin. The growing study of epigenetics would suggest that we may even inherit such burdens genetically.
The medicine we have received from Holy Tradition for this on-going sickness is repentance. Of course, it is very difficult for nations to repent, though there would easily be services for such in the Orthodox tradition. However, the shame associated with national or collective sin is often denied or retold in other ways. Without repentance, nations are doomed to relive, repeat or act out the bitterness of their trauma.
There is, of course, another way. It was first expressed in the prophetic words of the High Priest Caiaphas as he contemplated the Jesus problem:
“You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (Joh 11:49-50)
The death of Christ on the Cross becomes the public liturgy for the sin burden of Israel. Of course, He was the public liturgy for the sin burden of the whole world. But there was a principle articulated in His sacrifice – that one man could die for the whole. This is not a substitutionary legal event. Rather, it is the mystery of coinherence and koinonia. “He became what we are that we might become what He is,” the Fathers said. It has also been the knowledge of the Church that we are invited into that selfsame sacrifice. Buried into His death in Baptism, we are united to His very crucifixion. United with Him in the grave, we journey with Him into Hades, and there, brave souls make intercession for the sins of the whole world, and with Him set souls free. The Elder Sophrony describes such brave souls as Christ’s “friends.”
For at least as long as the days of Abraham, we have had intercessors who saved the cities and nations of the wicked. Their prayers were effective because they prayed in union with the one mediator and true advocate, Christ our God.
Abraham was God’s friend. As God visited with him, He said:
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Gen 18:17-18)
This is God’s inauguration of Abraham as an intercessor for the nations. The greatest friends of God have always taken up this same intercessory role. Through Christ and the prayers of our holy fathers, God preserves the world and saves the nations from the full brunt and weight of their history.
There are thus two kinds of people: those who are the weight of history, and those who join themselves to Christ in their repentance and bear the weight of history. This latter role is the true life of the Church and the heart of her who prays, “On behalf of all, and for all.”

About sin

"We are embittered, for we have succumbed to the serpent! We are embittered, for we are fettered in chains!" 

An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross
Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife Acc. To The Bible
Salvation and atonement (& The significance of the “Antilytron”)


Παρασκευή, 16 Μαρτίου 2018

The Holy Martyrs Nicander & Sabinus of Egypt (March 15 & 16)

Martyr Nicander of Egypt 

The Holy Martyr Nicander suffered in Egypt under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). He was a physician and during a time of persecution he visited Christians in prison. He assisted them, brought them food, and buried the dead.
Once, he came to the place where the bodies of the martyrs were thrown to be eaten by wild beasts. Fearing to bury them by day, he waited for night and buried the bodies under cover of darkness. They discovered Saint Nicander and subjected him to terrible tortures: they skinned him alive and then beheaded him in 302.
Martyr Sabinus of Egypt
The Holy Martyr Sabinus was administrator of the Egyptian city of Hermopolis. During a persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Sabinus and some like-minded companions hid in a remote village.
His hiding place was revealed by a certain ungrateful beggar who had brought him food. The saint used to feed him and help him with money, but the man betrayed him for two pieces of gold. Sabinus was seized with six other Christians, and after torture they were all drowned in the Nile in 287. 

From here & here.

See also

The Orthodox Church of Alexandria & the Patriarchate of Alexandria 
The holy anarchists... in the Egyptian Desert


Πέμπτη, 15 Μαρτίου 2018

"The African man is the stranger of our time... He is the man whom our Lord Jesus Christ describes"

The Orthodox Arusha church of “Evangelismos” lived on Sunday one of the most majestic and dignified moments in its history. It is a relatively small parish of a hundred local people coming from Orthodox traditions.
It was a strong spiritual moment of unity in Christ, common witness (martyria) and hope, as archpriests and priests from almost all Orthodox WCC member churches celebrated the holy eucharist [photo from here & here]. The serious orthodox missionary work that started in Tanzania with Archbishop of Albania Anastasios is continued today from the Orthodox Metropolitan of Arusha Agathonikos and several priests.
“We are here to teach – only in sacrifice - love and truth by example, we are here to support organically those in need. In Africa we are truly carrying the cross of mission and there is no easy path to follow”,  Agathonikos said.
The church was founded in 1953 and is delivering important work in the field of education, by operating at the same space the “Saint Constantine International School”. Students from several African communities and others coming from several orthodox countries are following a very high-level international curriculum that equips them with important assets for their future. A place of giving and promise for a better future in Tanzania based in knowledge and faith.

World Council of Churches

See also 

by Theodoros II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
to the International Congress on Mission and Evangelism,
of the World Council of Churches, on the topic:
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25)
(8 –13 March, Arusha Tanzania)

Orthodox Archbiscopic of Zimbabwe & Angola

Pope & Patriach Theodoros. Photo from here.
Dear Delegates,
On the occasion of the deliberations of the World Conference on Mission and Evangelism of the WCC on the African Continent, from the See of the venerable Ancient Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, the Great City of Alexandria, we greet the delegates coming from all countries in the world, from the five Continents and pray with you, with God’s help, for the success of the issues to be addressed by the Congress, for a better future for the Global Community, with the contribution of Christians, for the peaceful coexistence of Peoples and social well-being.
The contribution of the World Congress on Mission, which began in 1910, was the first important step to bring to maturity the initiative of our Churches, after the great tragedies experienced by Humanity with the two World Wars, to establish the WCC in the same year that the UN was organized, in 1948, for the protection of Global Security and the peaceful solution of complex problems through dialogue.
As rightly emphasized by my Predecessor of the Presidents of the WCC, the late Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria, "The proponents of the Ecumenical Movement, as genuine disciples of Christ, realized their responsibilities for the unity of Christianity and the strengthening of the visible unity of the Church". The deliberations of the World Congress on Mission and Evangelism, which took place for the first time 60 years ago in Ghana in Africa, were also based on this framework. 

We especially congratulate the Members of the Mission and Evangelism Commission, the Members of the WCC and the Central Committee, on the subject and the preparation of this important congress, which, as we know, will move in four directions.

Α. The ministry and Theology of Mission today and its role in the unity of Christians, the re-evangelization of those who are called Christians but whose works are far removed from the works of Jesus Christ and His Disciples, as well as the evangelization of People who have not yet had the opportunity of hearing the Word of Christ.
Β. The Ecumenical Dimension of the Conference on the Role of Mission and Evangelization, to strengthen the visible unity and cooperation of the Churches to address the problems currently threatening the cause of world peace and the prosperity of the People. All Christians must reflect on the role of mission, reconciliation, social justice, eradication of poverty, equal opportunities for education, health and nutrition for the needy and orphaned children, as well as the priority of a dialogue of love and understanding of mutual respect and tolerance for dealing with, and preventing, ongoing war and violent conflicts.
C. This important conference, being held in Africa, is an opportunity for the voice of the African continent to be heard, not only to highlight the problems that the African People are currently facing, but also to realize the reasons that cause them, so that the social injustices we are currently experiencing on our Planet against millions of defenseless children, particularly in Africa, are eliminated.
D. It is important that among the participating delegates at this Congress, our young people have a special presence and, for the first time, a remarkable initiative of organizing a Theological Seminar, for a hundred new theologians from all Continents, in order to staff our Ecclesiastical Schools, for Christian education.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25: 34-36, from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (the 3rd Sunday of Triodion in the Orthodox Church - see here). The icon from  In Communion (page in Facebook).

On the occasion of my communication with you, allow me to turn your attention to the responsibilities of Christians for the problem of Immigrants and Refugees, which is today a top problem in the world we live in, and we should all, through our missionary ministry, give priority to it, not just as a Christian duty, but as the self-evident moral responsibility of every person. I am glad that, as the representative of our Patriarchate and us, has informed me, His Eminence Seraphim Metropolitan of Zimbabwe, a member of the WCC Central and Executive Committee, this issue will have a central role in the deliberations of your Congress. I would therefore like to emphasize that for every Christian who wishes to experience the theme of your conference, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25), we should, with the virtue of discrimination, to view every immigrant and every refugee, as a blessing from God.
Christian teaching shows a particular sensitivity towards the migrant and the refugee, Besides, its founder, our Lord Jesus Christ, begins His earthly life as a refugee when the holy Family flees to Egypt to be saved from the threat of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15) and continues His earthly activity, as an immigrant, having nowhere to lay His head. For this reason, the respect of the human person, the recognition of Christ Himself in the refugee and the migrant, and therefore the rejection of any form of conduct that offends, degrades, harms or threatens the refugee and the immigrant, who is made in the image of God, becomes a question of the authenticity of his faith and the attestation of his proper path in the steps of Christ, the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.
So who is the "other", the immigrant, the refugee, the "stranger" for the Church?
The "other", the immigrant, the refugee, the "stranger," is my brother/sister.
Therefore, since he is my brother, then there must be no opposition and quarrel, not even in the area of intellect: “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). And not only do not hate, but do not even cultivate the lie at the expense of your brother. On the contrary, you should open your hand and help him: ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor” (Deuteronomy 15:11). The "other", the immigrant and the refugee, the "stranger," are Christ Himself. In the face of "the other", the "stranger" I meet Christ Himself. The "other" is my salvation, and my entry into the Kingdom of Heaven depends on the relationship I have with him. Christ places Himself in the face of "the other", the "stranger," of my fellow man.

The Lord taught us that the only criterion for every believer to be next to Him, in His Church, is Love. In particular, he taught us that, as Christians, we must feel the need to give unlimited love to our neighbor, especially the suffering, especially the refugee and the immigrant, the "stranger", whom we are called to "draw in" and care for.
Our philanthropic care towards refugees and immigrants must be one of the most important tasks of the Christian because it is motivated by love for the neighbour.
But what is the meaning of “neighbour”?
Neighbour “according to Christian teaching is not only one who is locally or socially close, a relative, a compatriot, of the same faith and religion (…). A neighbor is not identified by external elements but is created with love and served with contribution and sacrifice. Christ came to the world as Messiah, in other words as Saviour and intercessor between God and man. And he accomplishes this work by approaching mankind as a neighbour. He appears as one who is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, imprisoned, one who needs help, hospitality and support. It is up to mankind to accept to respond to His coming. And if mankind offers Christ food, drink, a home, help, then Christ Himself will become for us food, drink, a home, help and eternal life. On the face of our neighbor is Christ Himself. That is why any offer to the neighbor is ultimately an offer to Christ, just as any refusal to offer to the neighbor is a refusal to offer to Christ. The real life of mankind lies in the face of his neighbour".
Let us come now, to the Africa of today, an area within our jurisdiction. The African man is the stranger of our time, an immigrant because of poverty, drought and disease and a refugee due to the ongoing warfare and terrorist phenomena. He is the man whom our Lord Jesus Christ describes.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, through its presence throughout the African continent, is far from intolerance, chauvinism and propaganda. Its basic aim is to unite all in multiformity and diversity, cultivating respect for the human person, harmonizing the polar oppositions of societies and peoples, "in the bond of peace", and by basing the love of Christ "who is the bond of perfection".

Today, Europe is shudders and balks at the wave of refugees and immigration, but the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria is experiencing this everyday on the vast African continent, where warfare, civil conflicts and biblical natural disasters create waves of impoverished refugees and immigrants.
This terrible need is experienced by tens of thousands of our African brothers in Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Congo, South Sudan and many other regions. Homeless and persecuted, refugees and migrants in their own country. Seeing these souls of God, the thousands of children who look at you with their great tearful and frightened eyes, we see the need for Church involvement in addressing and solving social problems. And this is natural, because the purpose of the Church is not to remain on the outskirts of life, but to approach man in all aspects and manifestations of his life.
Only in this way does he minister according to the example of Christ, who did not come to serve, but to serve and offer his life "as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45).
The purpose of Mission is the salvation of all people in Christ. At the same time, Mission cannot be indifferent to its contribution, to the extent that it is able to, in addressing the social problems of our fellow human beings. We must as Christians take care of solving the problems created by the current way of organizing and operating economic, political and social life. Exploitation, social injustice, violence, tyranny, unemployment, war, terrorism, migration, racism, environmental pollution, etc. are essential social problems that are naturally of concern to the faithful. And the interest in them remains mute, unless it is founded on man as a person "in the image of God"
As Christians, we must accept the stranger and the immigrant as a blessing and a gift from God.
To acknowledge that we are all made in God's image and have the same human rights for life, work, freedom.
To support the pain and sorrow of the victims of discrimination and to pray that Churches will welcome people of every race, color and nationality.

With prayers and love in Christ
Theodoros II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa

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