Entries with tag faith matters .

The Ecumenical Way

A few years ago, my parents threw a college graduation party for my brother. I had just finished the first year of my M.Div. program, so naturally everyone’s ice-breaker was the I-don’t-care-I-just-don’t-know-what-else-to-ask question “how was your first year of school?” But hey, it’s better than the I-don’t-care-I-just-feel-obligated question my brother was getting: “so what’s next?”

One of my neighbors was raised Catholic, and not marginally. His family is Polish and his grade-school teachers were nuns. At some point in college however, he met Jerry Garcia and became his disciple instead. Yet, my neighbor still knew enough church-talk to carry on a conversation better than most guests.

He asked me about some of the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, so I began to explain that the breach in communion is not as clear-cut as it often seems. Suddenly, an older relative of mine, who has likely received more catechesis from memes than from any formal religious education program, suddenly interjected, “Yes, you split off from us!”

I sighed. There it was: ignorant Orthodox entitlement. She probably thinks Jesus was Greek too. Her conviction spoke louder than her comment and is a reflection of a common misconception and strong historical bias influencing the Church’s relationships This has a tendency to create an us vs. them mentality toward the rest of Christendom. Even through the Holy and Great Council does the Church seek to amend this understanding by fostering dialogue and taking a lead role in the Ecumenical Movement.

As I attempted to quell the inadvertent hostility her comment may have imposed, my neighbor interrupted to say, “It’s ok, we all believe the same thing anyways.” My relative, in her usual contradiction of thought, agreed.

The conversation ended and I was left baffling over how it swung from the rhetoric of ultra-conservatives to that of John Lennon.

I reflect on this occasion because it likens to the tension an Orthodox can feel when engaging in ecumenical relations. Some are hardened by akribeia and object to interaction, but where is the economia and compassion toward our Christian neighbors who may live truer to Christ’s teachings? Some find certain practices and beliefs of other traditions more appealing and begin to customize their faith, but are they not at risk of diluting the Orthodox way? It can be difficult to navigate, but the perspectives shouldn’t be polarizing.

Every mainstream church in the United States has men and women, ordained and lay, who are responsible for facilitating ecumenical relations on behalf of the greater body. They are the ambassadors constantly in communication about issues of faith, order, and philanthropy.

There are many opportunities for collaboration, but, once a year, the ecumenical officers gather in retreat. Rather than convening to produce a statement or develop a program, the purpose of the retreat is to allow for organic dialogue among communions, which increases personal relationships and promotes comprehension and appreciation.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America with representatives from eleven different Churches and Communions

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America with representatives from eleven different Churches and Communions.

 

Last month, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America had the honor of hosting this year’s retreat and welcomed eleven officers. If you ask them what the goal of the ecumenical movement is, each will tell you it is for the restoration of God’s Church. If that sounds prodigious, it’s because it is. Push them further on how such a lofty goal is to be realized, each will humbly admit they can’t provide the specifics. However, they will likely suggest the following:

First, like all ministries in the Church, a Christ-centered approach is required to meet one another with a clean heart and true intentions. As we seek to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, so too should we strive to fulfill Christ’s prayer “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). Regardless of who has maintained the genuine faith, we must acknowledge that Christendom is fractured and “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). It is our responsibility to put forth effort into uniting all Christians.

Second, it must be understood that the goal is abstract. No one knows how unity will be achieved and expressed, which makes the case for ecumenism difficult to articulate. This lack of a clear vision discourages some and keeps them in the trajectory of isolation. However, those laboring in the ecumenical vineyard agree that unity will be achieved according to God’s will, and that we must take initiative when God provides opportunities for contact and growth. The officers appreciate these instances for retreat as a manifestation of God’s will and a small, yet progressive, part of His plan.

Third, proper and unbiased knowledge of history is necessary to understand why certain divisions in Christianity were forged. In most cases, I would argue, the egos of influential individuals, or reactions to such, are the causes of longstanding divisions. Therefore, we cannot retain the grudge of past generations to further this destruction but instead move forward with reconciliation (see 4B).

Ecumenists know that communication is delicate and words must be precise. They speak with sensitivity so as to advance the movement, not hinder it. The first tangible step is to listen and learn from each other’s story. Such is the intention of their retreat; the ecumenical officers enjoy conversation to better understand the perspectives of each communion. They are open to a diversity of expressions toward God as well as to the Spirit’s presence and abilities. After all, no one can dictate limits on God’s infinite and unconditional love.

The ecumenical officers engage at a national level and will continue to retreat together. However, there are ways for all Orthodox faithful to interact with and learn about the Christians in their own neighborhoods, such as co-sponsoring an event, contributing toward a common social initiative, or participating in shared worship or a fellowship meal. We each can offer of ourselves to work toward the reunification of God’s Church. As we do so, remember that the task is noble and directed by God, to Whom we constantly ask, “surround us with your holy angels that, guarded and guided by them, we may arrive at the unity of the faith, and the understanding of your ineffable glory.”

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Andrew Calivas is the Coordinator of Ecumenical Programs for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations.

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Faith Witness in Albania

Albania, which is not high on most desirable destination lists, has long competed against a not-so-untruthful global reputation. Having spent 12 days touring most of the country, I can attest that some clichés are rightly earned. But any minor nation that spent 45 years of the last century completely isolated under a repressive and paranoid Communist dictator may have a few issues here and there.

However, despite Albania’s underdevelopment, there is a beauty to the land and the people that is slowly garnering attention. One such dimension is the religious plurality that has blossomed out of the world’s first atheist state.

Due to its history and geographic location, an intricate religious web is woven in Albania. Throughout the first millennium, the territory of modern Albania was essentially split with the northern half belonging to the Western Roman Empire and the southern portion belonging to the Eastern, resulting in Catholic and Orthodox populations, respectively. The territory changed hands a few times as the Bulgarians, Serbians, and Venetians all vied for control in the Late Middle Ages. Finally, the rise of the Ottoman Empire consumed the Balkan peninsula and brought Sunni Islam, from which sprouted the Bektashi order of Sufism. Many Albanian natives converted to Islam, by choice or by force, but Catholic and Orthodox Christians survived albeit in an oppressive condition.

An Orthodox church and a mosque stand side-by-side in Berat, Albania.

An Orthodox church and a mosque stand side-by-side in Berat, Albania.

 

After World War II, Enver Hoxha seized Albania’s government as first secretary of the country’s communist party and held grip until his death in 1985. During his reign, Hoxha pushed communist objectives that makes Joseph Stalin seem like a reasonable man. By 1967, his aggressive agenda officially outlawed the practice of religion. Whereas even the Soviet Union left some wiggle room, Albania became the first nation to mandate strict atheism as government policy.

Churches and mosques were destroyed or converted into hotels and nightclubs, clerics were imprisoned, tortured and murdered, and the people were forced to abandon the faith of their forefathers in fear of their lives. When communism finally toppled in 1991, the religious landscape was decimated. Yet, like tiny seedlings in an arid climate, the consciousness of Albania’s religious communities revived as democracy opened the floodgates.

Learning from its experiences, history has taught Albania the necessity of a peaceful religious coexistence. Now a secular state, the small country does not ignore or repel the importance of its local religious traditions. As the new parliament was forming, civil authorities worked with religious leaders to ensure a smooth, tolerant transition that would minimize the risk of an extremist takeover.

The spiritual leaders of these communities have worked tirelessly over the last twenty-five years to fulfill the underserved needs of the Albanian people. Outreach programs, such as food and homeless shelters, orphanages, vocational schools and medical facilities, were established to fill the gaps of a government trying to get back on its feet. They even helped rebuild each other’s places of worship.

In all that they did, Albanian Muslims and Christians did it freely for the love of God and the love of their neighbor. Herein lies the foundation of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which begins today.

Declared in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Interfaith Harmony Week was proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan after witnessing the ongoing religious turmoil in the Middle East. A common thread of the Abrahamic faiths, King Abdullah reiterated the greatest commandment of loving both God and neighbor with all one’s heart, mind and soul.

From this, the United Nations has proclaimed the first week of February as a time to “spread…the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship…based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.”

World Interfaith Harmony Week serves an important purpose in our increasing secular lives today. It sets aside time to reflect on our relationships with our religious neighbors. How well do we know each other? Are we cooperating for the greater good of society and the honor of God? Do we see Christ in our neighbors?

Such interaction does not give reason to compete with other faiths or water down one’s own, but rather it provides the opportunity to bear witness to one’s faith. For an Orthodox Christian, all interreligious engagements should be approached with humility, asking “what can I learn?” And upon observing our neighbor, we then ask “what can I offer?” What we learn and what we offer will depend on the circumstances, yet we always respond with the same embrace the Church offers her children.

Albania is just one of the many parts of the world where the Good Samaritan has strengthened communities and given life to the beaten and downtrodden. World Interfaith Harmony Week invites us all to return to the core of our beliefs, that innate goodness with which Christ created all people—the goodness sought and expressed by all faith traditions—so that we may be the Good Samaritan Christ has called us to become.

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Andrew Calivas is the Coordinator of Ecumenical Programs for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations.

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Sowing Kernels of Truth

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. 

This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Noble Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

 

During his great life, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a multitude of sermons and speeches, both prepared and spontaneous, to audiences as small as a few dozen and as large as a few hundred thousand. Words were his most influential instrument in the struggle for equal civil rights against the systematic segregation imposed by a country claiming “liberty and justice for all.” As he spoke, his words were both Biblical and prophetic, and he was never shy at projecting God’s truth in the face of evil.

Truth is held tightly by the Orthodox Church. Since Christ’s crucifixion and glorious resurrection, the Church has maintained the fullness of the truth of His message, which is, as it relates to human relationships, the genuine communication of love. Such is an innate intention of all the world’s major faiths and traditions. Some might argue this contradicts the claim of Orthodoxy or dilutes the richness and diversity of world religions. However, from the Orthodox perspective, this is completely compatible through the anthropological element of creation. In creating man in His image and likeness, God breathed life into dirt and we became more than just beings, we became temples of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. Therefore, Truth dwells within all mankind, to the degree at which we allow it, and all people are capable of expounding “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

If every person possesses the kernel of truth and love, how then does man allow himself to turn against his fellow man? The Orthodox Church attributes the actions against love to the Fall of Adam and Eve, the moment when humanity thought itself better than to need an authentic relationship with God. With the Fall came the birth of sin, which distorts the treasures of love and truth into desire and injustice. Sin is a heavy veil that proceeds to blind the needs of those around us. Contemplating on the antithesis of love, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania offers the notion that it is not hate that severs relationships but rather the ego. Often interpreted as the opposite of love, hate is merely one of the many ramifications of when the ego within becomes too strong to tame. Jealousy, greed, and lust are also among the consequences. These negative traits are therefore unnatural to the human person in that they draw us away from attaining God’s likeness and keep us away from each other.

Dr. King and other civil rights leaders of his time were acutely aware that the fight for equality began countless generations before them, even before the discovery of the New World. For too long, the ego has sought to manipulate the hearts and minds of those with an advantageous position over another. The ego has infiltrated every society and institution in which man takes part, which is how the government of “one Nation under God, indivisible,” justified the indoctrination of divisibility. King recognized the ego’s puppeteering presence behind segregation, writing, “It not only harms one physically but injures one spiritually. It scars the soul and degrades the personality. It inflicts the segregated with a false sense of inferiority, while confirming the segregator in a false estimate of his own superiority.” The United States, challenged by cumulative egos of apprehensive or racist whites, could not accept the tremendous racial and economic divide to which it had grown accustom.

Thrust into the international spotlight during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, the endeavor for equality of all people catalyzed like never before. King led the crusade against the unjust power of one man over another with his championed combat method of dialogue and rhetoric. Instead of turning to the violent uses of force and defamation which evil invites, King opted for the purity of Christ’s message by “speaking the truth in love.”

Despite the obstacles of prison, physical assault, and death threats, Dr. King remained steadfast in his promotion of love. Like a gardener tending to his rosebuds, King patiently appealed to that kernel of truth within every person, nurturing its growth with every opportune speech, sermon, and interview. That truth, through the power of its natural purity, unravels ego’s veil, and invigorates the Spirit that dwells within. King sought a change in public policy by means of a change in the hearts of the public. He understood that beyond the unjust governmental regulations and discriminatory laws was a dark force obstructing the intrinsic compassion of the opposition: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The illumination of King’s words motivated love, ultimately changing the way racial segregation and inequality is viewed in our country.

April 4, 1968 was a day when darkness overcame one man’s heart so much so that he acted on the desire to take Dr. King’s life. King foreshadowed his death the night before while offering his final sermon in Memphis: “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” The shock of his assassination was not enough to stifle his message nor stir hate among his followers. His words were powerful, moving, and germinated the kernels of truth of even those strewn on rocks and among thorns. To this day and for generations more, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s God-inspired message lives on despite his untimely death, proving that indeed “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

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Andrew Calivas is the Coordinator of Ecumenical Programs for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations.

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Prayers for our Planet: World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

Photo Credit: Catholic News Service photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Over the past few centuries, human activities have contributed to more environmental degradation than ever before in history. Pollution is raising the planet’s core temperature, tainting what little clean drinking water remains, and rendering air unbreathable. Melting ice caps, ocean acidification, and disappearing coral reefs are just a few more effects of pollution and climate change. Constant wars and irresponsible mining techniques are shaking the earth’s plates causing earthquakes and watershed destruction in the most unnatural places. Corporations and other businesses are aggressively trying to buy and control the remaining clean water sources, and, therefore, effectively 70-80% of your body which is made of water. I know what you’re thinking:  this guy is a downer! And you’re right, this topic is bleak. But it’s a situation that we humans have created, which means it’s a situation that we humans have the power to mend.

There are too many great organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to mitigating environmental destruction to mention in one blog post. Therefore, this occasion will focus on the work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a trail blazer in the area of environmental protection. Rather than bore you with lengthy paragraphs, though, here is a simple timeline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s major contributions over the past three decades:

1986 – The 3rd Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambésy expressed concern for the abuse of the natural environment, especially in affluent western societies.

1988 – “Revelation and the Future of Humanity” conference recommends the Ecumenical Patriarchate designate one day each year for the protection of the natural environment.

1989 – Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios publishes first encyclical letter on the environment, proclaiming September 1st the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

1990 – Monk Gerasimos Mikrayiannanites composes a service of supplication for the environment.

1991 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering entitled, “Living in the Creation of the Lord.”

1992 – The Orthodox Christian Primates endorse September 1st as a day of pan-Orthodox prayer for the environment.

1992 – The Duke of Edinburgh visits the Ecumenical Patriarchate for an environmental convocation at the Theological School of Halki.

1993 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace where they sealed a friendship of common purpose and active cooperation for the preservation of the environment.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and religious education.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew establishes the Religious and Scientific Committee (RSC) for dialogue with Christian confessions, other religious faiths, as well as scientific disciplines.

1995 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and ethics.

1995 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium I entitled Revelation and Environment under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Prince Philip.

1996 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and communications.

1997 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and justice.

1997 - The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium II entitled The Black Sea in Crisis under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission.

1998 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and poverty.

1999 – The Halki Ecological Institute is created for inter-disciplinary vision and dialogue, implementing the ecological theory of the Religious and Scientific Committee into practice.

1999 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium III entitled River of Life – Down the Danube to the Black Sea under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium IV entitled The Adriatic Sea – a Sea at Risk, a Unity of Purpose under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew co-signed a document of environmental ethics entitled the “Venice Declaration.”

2003 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium V entitled The Baltic Sea – A Common Heritage, A Shared Responsibility under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2003 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Norway co-sponsor the North Sea Conference.

2006 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VI entitled The Amazon: Source of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2007 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VII entitled The Arctic – Mirror of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and H.E. Jose Barroso, President of the European Commission.

2008 – The World Council of Churches recognizes the leadership of the Orthodox Church and designates an annual “Time for Creation” from September 1st to October 4th.

2009 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VIII entitled The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

2012 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit I at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and business.

2015 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit II at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and literature.

2015 – Pope Francis recognizes the September 1st World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and designates it for the Roman Catholic Church, as well.

2018 – Stay tuned for the next great event, namely a symposium.

The most basic takeaways from these initiatives as well as other publications include: 1) all people from every discipline and every sector must work together to save the planet; 2) moderation of all people everywhere is essential; and 3) we must continuously build a loving relationship with our planet, being ever cautious not to exploit her.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that just this morning, continuing on this long history and in celebration of the mutually recognized World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis released a joint statement reaffirming the need for all people to be stewards of creation rather than lords over creation:

Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our voracity to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our rapacity for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs … [w]e urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and to support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.

Trapped Between War and Nationalism: the Precarious Situation of Millions on the Move

 

Imagine you’re sitting at home on a peaceful Wednesday evening, relaxing after a long day at your medical practice. Your children are working on their homework and your husband grades his university students’ papers. Suddenly you hear bombs in the distance, perhaps 2-3 miles away. You recognize that sound; it’s the extremist group you hoped would never arrive at your doorstep. Not only your government but the world’s “great powers” said they wouldn’t let this happen. You’ve heard stories from neighboring villages of how they enslave the women and children, kill the men, and force the boys to fight – all coerced by violence and drugs. Convert or die! Join or be enslaved! If you don’t flee, these are your only choices. Pandemonium ensues as you and your family stuff backpacks with the bare minimum to survive and set out to escape what would otherwise be hell on earth. You drive your car as far as you can safely go and continue your journey on foot. Fear, which has motivated you all the while, drives you to spare no expense, paying smugglers and foregoing your dignity. Along the long journey, you and your family are extorted, threatened, and generally maltreated. Finally, after many months and great risks, you reach Greece. You collapse on the ground as humanitarian aid workers flock to your side. A few days of rest later, you begin the arduous process of seeking asylum – something international law has declared a given in your circumstance. But soon you realize that while you cannot stay in your own country for fear of death and slavery, you are also not welcome anywhere else in the world. The global citizen fears you. Though a very general and mild account, this picture is the reality described to me by those on the move.

Having a clear picture in your mind’s eye of what it is like for refugees, hopefully a little data and current international policy happenings will be easily consumed. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that nearly 100 million people – or 1.4% of the world’s population – are currently caught up in aforesaid situation. Therefore in September 2016, “[t]he UN General Assembly [convened] a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach,” which resulted in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration “contains bold commitments both to address the issues we face now and to prepare the world for future challenges.” The main take away is that the UN General Assembly has agreed to create two global compacts – common principles and approaches to a particular issue that all participants commit to implement: 1) the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and 2) the global compact on refugees. Both are to be adopted in 2018.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was involved in the negotiations for the New York Declaration and remains involved in the negotiations for the global compacts, advocating for the following:

Equal emphasis on bringing peace to the origin of mass migration by ending global conflicts, particularly manifest in the Middle East and Africa, as well as providing humanitarian aid to all those on the move indiscriminate of race, religion, or any other factors.

Asylum hearings in a timely manner and the granting of asylum to anyone fleeing from the persecution of war in accordance with Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sates, “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Immediate and urgent provisions for the care of unaccompanied minor migrants and refugees, including but not limited to special housing, integrated education, pediatric healthcare, and reunification services.

Reallocation of resources, financial and otherwise, to countries and civil society organizations on the front lines of the refugee crisis.

But what does it all mean? Will this really have an impact? As with all international policy, global compacts are soft law which means there’s no mechanism to keep Member States accountable. In other words, adherence to the agreed principles and approaches is voluntary and, therefore, the success of the global compacts remains in the hands of each individual nation. Subsequently, in democratic countries, the outcome remains with each and every one of us. It is our responsibility and right to push our national, regional, and local governments to implement and adhere to the agreed terms of the global compact. When engaging in this way, the following are some points to keep in mind:

Before taking a position on the matter, reach out and befriend immigrants in your local neighborhood that began their journeys as refugees. As the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras often said, “come let us look one another in the eyes,” before engaging in “business” matters. In other words, it is important to develop relationships with people before attempting to influence laws that will affect their lives.

Thoroughly research the issue via primary and accredited academic sources. Unfortunately, most news sources today are polarized, reporting opinionated facts rather than pure facts. Therefore, they aren’t reliable sources of information.

Call and write your representatives – at the national, state, and local levels – encouraging them to propose legislation in line with international laws and standards regarding migrants and refugees. This will be particularly important in the fall of 2018 once the global compacts are finalized and ratified.

Finally, I’ll leave you with the encouragement of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis, and Archbishop Ieronymos from their Joint Declaration at the Mòria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece: “Together we solemnly plead for an end to war and violence in the Middle East, a just and lasting peace and the honourable return of those forced to abandon their homes. We ask religious communities to increase their efforts to receive, assist and protect refugees of all faiths, and that religious and civil relief services work to coordinate their initiatives.”

 

#refugeecrisis #refugees #PopeFrancis #EcumenicalPatriarchBartholomew #UN4RefugeesMigrants #UN4refugees #UN4migrants

 

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