In recent years both the Greek people – but also all those who have access to information media – are being frequently informed of the constantly increasing incidents of religious violence which result in the torture, the killing, or the compulsory expulsion of those fellow-men who convert to Christianity from Islam.
Acts such as these are reminiscent of the dark eras of the past, which all of us had hoped were long gone, never to return again. Unfortunately, apart from all the horrific social and psychological consequences for the societies upon which they are being inflicted, there are also exceptionally negative repercussions on the image of those countries that commit and foster such acts, including the image of their civilization and their religion, in the eyes of the whole world.
During the entire length of Her history, the Orthodox Church has suffered the violence of persecutions innumerable times. With horror we recall the atrocious martyrdoms of Orthodox martyrs during Greece’s 400 years of Ottoman occupation, which are unfortunately very similar to the aforementioned current events. Even during the 20th century, there have been thousands of martyrs – especially in anti-Christian regimes – who have given their lives out of love for Christ and have adorned Orthodoxy’s Book of Saints with their heroism and offering of their life-blood.
It should be noted, that very Founder and only Head of the Church – the God-Man Jesus Christ Himself – had laid down His life as an innocent victim, in order to unite the human race with God. He had thus shown us the path that we should follow, with His paradigm of love and sacrifice.
It is for these reasons that we wish to speak from the depths of our hearts and say the following to our Christian brethren who are suffering for their faith:
Christian brethren, have courage. The Lord Jesus Christ, the first Martyr, will give you strength to withstand human violence, to remain with Him and receive the bright and incorruptible crown of His kingdom. We are praying for you. Besides, it was He Who had said “I send you forth like sheep among wolves”; “whoever stands fast to the end, he shall be saved”; “whosoever confesses Me before people, I shall also confess them before My Father in heaven” and “fear not those who kill the body but who cannot kill the soul” and “not one hair from your head shall be lost” (Matth. 10:16-36, Luke 21:12-19).
We also wish to ask the international humanitarian and pacifist groups to intervene as much as they can, in order to avert this senseless bloodbath, before it evolves into one more incurable plague upon the corpus of mankind, and especially upon the long-suffering peoples of the so-called “third world” countries.
Finally, we call upon the citizens and the lands where these acts are being committed, to contemplate that God is the God of Love, Who does not desire the death of His creations (only their salvation), nor is He pleased with the shedding of human blood. We ask them to emulate the example of saint Longinus (the head of the Roman garrison that had crucified Jesus Christ), who, upon seeing the darkness and the earthquake that occurred during the Crucifixion, unhesitatingly confessed the divinity of Christ (Matth. 24:57, Mark 15:39), himself became a Christian and was bestowed with sainthood. Then there are also the examples of saint Hermogenis (the potentate who had tortured saint Menas the Sweet-voiced), also the blessed centurion Porphyrion (Saint Catherine’s jailer), the saints Stratonikos, Codratos and Acacios (who had tortured the holy martyrs Paul and Juliana in 270 A.D.) and a host of others who, upon witnessing the bravery and love of those being martyred, found peace in their own hearts, repented, opened their hearts to Christ and even offered their own lives, thus gaining eternity for themselves.
Pancretan Association of Theologians