Emmy Louvaris is the host of This Week in Orthodoxy, the first weekly news show to cover the international Orthodox Church and community.
This Week in Orthodoxy, July 24th, 2015
Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church. I’m Emmy Louvaris.
These are the stories making headlines this week:
- “No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.”
- Patriarchs call for Peace, saying Christians belong in the Middle East and Antioch.
- Hellenic College Holy Cross Welcomes His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch
- Syrian Refugees Surge into Serbia Seeking Asylum
Segment 1: News from Around the Globe
Blasphemy Laws Should Be Illegal
This tragic situation began in June 2009, when a Muslim woman working as a field laborer alongside a Christian woman named Asia Bibi refused to touch the “unclean” water source from which Asia – a Christian – drank. This led to a verbal quarrel between the two women and subsequent allegations that Asia made blasphemous remarks against the Muslim prophet.
In late June, as she marked six years in prison, Asia’s family called anew for this 50-year-old mother of five’s release, saying she is so weak that she can no longer walk because of intestinal bleeding.
Unfortunately, Asia’s is not an isolated incident. The open letter from Ashiq Masih came days after a mob burned a Christian couple alive in an industrial kiln for allegedly burning pages from a Quran. The 24-year-old wife and mother of four, Shama Bibi (no relation), was pregnant.
The Pew Research Center reports that 70% of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa criminalize blasphemy, as do 16% of European countries and 31% of countries in the Americas.
This is why U.S. House Resolution 290 is so critical. Introduced by Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, and California State Representatives, the resolution calls for a global repeal of blasphemy laws and asks the President and the State Department to make the repeal of such laws a priority. The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative has already signed onto a multi-faith letter urging Congress to support it.
You can help get the word out and use your voice to push for Asia Bibi’s release. Post a picture of yourself drinking a glass of water on your social media page, link to this report, and add the hashtags #Pakistan, #ReleaseAsiaBibi
In the words of Asia’s husband, “No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.”
Patriarchs Say Christians Belong in the Middle East
And next up, from Damascus, Syria: The five Christian patriarchs of Antioch met in Syria last month, calling for peace in the Syrian civil war while reaffirming that Christians have a place in the Middle East. The Christian leaders described themselves as an authentic people of the land, who are “deeply rooted in its earth that was watered by the sweat of our fathers and grandfathers, and we confirm more than ever that we are staying.”
“We do not condemn those that choose to leave, but we remind Christians that steadfastness in faith often entails a great deal of tribulation,” they said in a statement following the meeting. “We call on everyone who claims to have an interest in our fate to help us to remain.”
Held in Damascus at the headquarters of the local Greek Orthodox archdiocese, the annual meeting normally held in Lebanon was specifically held in Damascus so as to reassure all Christians in the region.
The Syrian civil war, the conflict in Iraq, and the rise of the Islamic State have caused massive casualties and life disruptions for Muslims and Christians alike. Millions have been displaced from their homes.
The Christian patriarchs of Antioch urged a political settlement and called on Syrians to be committed to unity, and they backed “the right of Syrians to determine freely their own future without foreign interference,” as well as a “political settlement of the Syrian crisis.” The patriarchs told the international community “to take its responsibility and to stop the wars in our land.”
They stressed the need for peace and advocated the return of those who have been abducted or displaced. They also called for better relations with Muslims. Any extremist forms of Islam must be countered by teaching “a culture of openness, peace and freedom of belief,” they said.
Patriarch John X Visits Boston
And next, from Boston: His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch was welcomed by Hellenic College Holy Cross, where His Beatitude presided over a doxology and then attended a luncheon in his honor. Patriarch John is visiting the United States in order to attend the 52nd Antiochian Archdiocese Convention being held in Boston from July 20-26.
Rev. Dr. Christopher Metropulos, President of HCHC, assured the Patriarch that they are continuously praying for peace in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity.
Syrian Refugees in Serbia
And lastly, from Serbia: One thousand miles may separate Syria and Serbia, but desperation to flee their war-torn country is driving thousands of refugees to make the long and dangerous journey. In the past six months, more than 37,000 refugees have endured rough terrain, temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, lack of food and water, and violent attacks from predatory gangs along the way to reach Serbia.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Serbia is receiving by far the largest percentage of refugees seeking international protection in southeastern Europe. Serbian authorities now face an emerging crisis in caring for the growing masses of exhausted, hungry, and injured people hoping for asylum.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is on the ground responding to the urgent needs of the Syrian refugees in southern Serbia with food assistance and logistical support. Working in cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Red Cross of Serbia, IOCC is providing support for more than 3,500 meals per day for refugees and local people in need.
In Greece, IOCC, a member of the ACT Alliance, is also extending relief to the refugees landing on the island of Chios by providing them access to improved shower and sanitation facilities, and by distributing hygiene kits so that they can take care of their personal hygiene in privacy and with dignity.
To learn more about this current situation and what you can do to support the IOCC, visit iocc.org
Segment 2: News from OCN
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That brings another edition of “This Week in Orthodoxy” to a close. For everyone here in our OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go forth in peace.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+