April 25, 2014

Archbishop Hilarion responds to U.S. State Dept. report on religious freedom

In late October, the State Department released the 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom, a study annually submitted to Congress. Remarks on the study by Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, are available here. (The country report for Turkey is available here.) The Russian foreign ministry said, on publication of the report, that it was compelled "to reiterate our previous repeated assessments of the U.S. State Department report as a politically engaged, garbled document which intentionally distorts the real situation of religious freedom in Russia and keeps silent about positive developments in this field." Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk issued his own response to the State Department study (full text at the bottom of this post) which amounts to a summary of the Moscow Patriarchate's position on religious freedom in Russia. While much more temperate than the Russian government's response, the archbishop's letter did, … [Read more...]

Robert P. George on the Manhattan Declaration

Robert P. George

Princeton professor Robert P. George, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration, is interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online. LOPEZ: Why just Christians? GEORGE: For too long, the historic traditions of Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy have failed to speak formally with a united voice, despite their deep agreement on fundamental questions of morality, justice, and the common good. The Manhattan Declaration provided leaders of these traditions with an opportunity to rectify that. It is gratifying that they were willing — indeed eager — to seize that opportunity. Of course, as Cardinal Justin Rigali observed at the press conference at which the Declaration was released, the foundational principles it defends “are not the unique preserve of any particular Christian community or of the Christian tradition as a whole. . . . They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of goodwill even apart from divine … [Read more...]

Turkey and the minaret ban (Updated 12-02-09)

Not quite related but powerful nonetheless because of the artistic beauty of the music and architectural beauty of the Swiss village set in the stunning natural beauty of the Swiss Alps, this short video reveals two expressions of human creativity that will disappear if the light of Christianity that nurtured them is extinguished. Switzerland Update: To support its position, the SVP cites a famous remark by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who once implied that the construction of mosques and minarets is part of a strategy for the Islamization of Europe. The pro-Islamic Erdogan said: “The minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the faithful our army.” Armen Hareyan writing on Huliq News: The Swiss Minaret ban has drawn many critical voices from around the world. The majority of Muslims in Switzerland are from Turkey and some from the Balkans. Turkey feels the minaret decision pain as number of Christian churches … [Read more...]

Report: Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-up in Muslim Riots

From the Assyrian International News Agency. (HT: The Volokh Conspiracy): Cairo (AINA) -- In an effort to cover up the Muslim mob violence against the Copts which broke out last week in the town of Farshoot and neighboring villages (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009), and in view of the complete news blackout imposed by the Egyptian government, Egyptian State Security has intensified its pressure on the Coptic Church in Nag Hammadi and the victims of the violence into accepting extrajudicial reconciliation with the perpetrators, and opening their businesses without any compensation. Similar State Security scenarios have been experienced by Copts in all sectarian incidents in the past, in which they always come out as losers, having been forced to give up civil and criminal charges, while the criminals get away scot-free. "There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety … [Read more...]

Report: ‘Serious violations’ of human rights in Turkey

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Here's an introductory clip from Forum 18's "TURKEY: Religious freedom survey, November 2009": Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council May 2010 Universal Periodic Review of Turkey, Forum 18 News Service has found that the country continues to see serious violations of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. A long-standing crucially important issue, with many implications, is that Turkey has not legally recognised religious communities in their own right as independent communities with full legal status - such as the right to own places of worship and the legal protection religious communities normally have in states under the rule of law. Additionally, the most dangerous threat to individuals exercising freedom of religion or belief has been a series of violent attacks and murders on those perceived as threats; in recent years the victims have been Christians. Here's a hypothetical: What if American bishops in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese applied … [Read more...]

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

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A blessed Thanksgiving to Observer readers. [New York, 3 October 1789] By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in … [Read more...]

Bishop Thomas on the Manhattan Declaration

Bishop Thomas of Charleston (AOA)

Thomas, Bishop of Charleston/Oakland and Assistant to Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, posted an informational item on the Manhattan Declaration and included links to educational resources on the sanctity of life and marriage. Bishop Thomas encouraged his flock to share his message with parishioners in the diocese. Key paragraphs: 1. With regard to abortion, the Orthodox Church forbids it. We do everything we can to align ourselves with the mind and teachings of the Church. 2. With regard to marriage, we obviously only bless marriages between one man and one woman. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Having said this, it is also important for us to understand that the union between a man and a woman should exist within the Mystery of Holy Matrimony. 3. The Scripture clearly forbids homosexuality. It is not necessary for me to direct you … [Read more...]

Fr. Symeon on the Manhattan Declaration

(HT: ONet) On the one hand there are those who find it [the Manhattan Declaration] “shocking” and part of the culture war, etc. These are frightened that the document will be perceived as harsh and unloving, etc.. God forbid that anyone Christian ever stand in public for Truth. And on the other hand those that are relieved to see an Orthodox Pastor with backbone to stand with others and speak truth to error, truth to power, and truth to the politically correct stricture in our society that is choking free speech and seeking to criminalize Truth. – If this much sets you off, don’t bother to read further. My Bishop, fifth generation Orthodox priest, survived the Holodomor, the systematic starvation of between 10 and 20 million people mostly Christians in Ukraine by the communist in 1932 and 33. His father was forbidden to celebrate divine liturgy – all Christian worship was forbidden. He celebrated liturgy anyway and at the end of the service the local commissar showed up and … [Read more...]

Why he signed the Manhattan Declaration

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R. Albert Mohler Jr, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes on his blog that he is not usually "inclined to sign manifestos or petitions." Because he is not reluctant to speak out on matters of faith and on public square issues, he is not usually "impressed" with public statements such as the Manhattan Declaration. Nor did he, as one with a deep antipathy to Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, sign because the declaration was an attempt "to establish common ground on vast theological terrain." Yet Mohler made an exception for the Manhattan Declaration. Here's why: There are several reasons, but they all come down to this -- I believe we are facing an inevitable and culture-determining decision on the three issues centrally identified in this statement. I also believe that we will experience a significant loss of Christian churches, denominations, and institutions in this process. There is every good reason to believe that the freedom to … [Read more...]

Orthodox Worried Over ‘No Crucifixes’ Ruling

Update (Nov. 17): Italian Mayors Order Crucifixes Put in Classrooms in Revolt against European Court Ruling. Polish president and Greek Orthodox Church also hit out at decision against crucifixes in classrooms (Source: LifeSiteNews.com) ------- From the Zenit news service: ATHENS, Greece, NOV. 16, 2009 -- The leader of the Greek Orthodox Church is ready to convoke an extraordinary synod to strategize how to combat a European Court of Human Rights decision that ruled crucifixes in schools are a violation of rights. "Majorities also have rights," Ieronymos II said in a statement that L'Osservatore Romano reported today. … [Read more...]

Church of Greece rallies opposition to crucifix ban

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From Malcolm Brabant reporting for the BBC in Athens: The Greek Orthodox Church is urging Christians across Europe to unite in an appeal against a ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled last week that the presence of crucifixes violated a child's right to freedom of religion. Greece's Orthodox Church fears the Italian case will set a precedent. It has called an emergency Holy Synod meeting for next week to devise an action plan. Although the Greek Orthodox Church has been at odds with Roman Catholicism for 1,000 years, the judicial threat to Christian symbols has acted as a unifying force. The European Court of Human Rights found that the compulsory display of crucifixes violated parents' rights to educate their children as they saw fit and restricted the right of children to believe or not to believe. … [Read more...]

America’s Penance?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." Abraham Lincoln's Second Second Inaugural Address Saturday, March 4, 1865 The morning after, I awoke to hear that US House of Representatives had passed by a vote of 220 to 215 a bill authorizing a major reorganization by the Federal government of health care in America. My first thought was, "Oh well, I've always wanted to live in Europe." Along with others, I have grave reservations not about the need for health care reform in this country, but on the form that it seems likely to take under the twin auspices of the … [Read more...]