Are We Irrelevant Christians?

Are We Irrelevant Christians?

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This past week, the Washington Post wrote of Pope Francis’s remarks highlighting whether the world has ‘looked the other way’ while Christians are killed? In an interview with Father Philemon Patitsas, Presiding Priest of the St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church (Naples, FL) and organizer of the First Annual National Christian Rights & Freedom Symposium, one has to wonder whether we are irrelevant Christians at this time.

“Our brothers and our sisters … are persecuted, exiled, slain, beheaded, solely for being Christian”, said Pope Francis as part of his Easter remarks reported by the Washington Post.

In his Easter peace wish, “speaking from a window of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope said that there have been more “martyrs” for Christianity in recent years than in the early centuries of the faith.”

Journalist Sarah Kaplan highlights how “the persecution of Christians is a theme that ran through most of the pope’s speeches this weekend. At a Good Friday procession, he decried the world’s “complicit silence” while members of his faith are killed. On Sunday, he devoted his Easter address to a grim accounting of global conflicts where Christians and others have been killed. His speech referenced the attack on Garissa University College in eastern Kenya last week, in which al-Shabab militants killed at least 148 people, reportedly singling out non-Muslims. It also referred to “absurd bloodshed” and “barbarous acts of violence” in Libya, where 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded by the Islamic State in February.”

Father Philemon notes how “the world has become very self-absorbed to the point of being buried in our cell phones, texting and social networking. We have lost the ability to express ourselves on the things that matter most to us. There is an irony in that people are talking more and more and more about these issues but they are confused on how to have an impact.

Father Philemon highlights “that Matthew 25 (verses 32-46) advises us:

‘All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or make and cloth You? Or when did we see You sick, or in person and come to You?’

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not cloth Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to the one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”.

“Has the world really looked the other way while Christians are being killed?”

Father Philemon remarks, “the reality is that others are responding to social and moral and ethical issues of our day but it is the Christian world that has lost its capacity to respond and organize. We need a new grassroots effort so that we can equip ourselves for rapid response.”

The Washington Post notes that David Curry, president of the nonprofit Open Doors USA, which advocates for persecuted Christians worldwide, believes so.

“We see a continued pattern in many of these regions of violence and persecution against Christians,” he said in a phone interview. “But the West and Western governments, including the U.S., when they conflict-map these issues, they refuse to address the fact that Christians are being targeted.”

As evidence, Curry pointed to President Obama’s Friday statement on the attack at Garissa University. Despite reports that the attackers targeted Christian students and an al-Shabab statement calling the attack an “operation against infidels,” Obama’s remarks make no mention of religion.

Alarming highlights of Christian Persecution:

  • “According to Open Doors, 2014 saw a huge increase in violence against Christians.Researchers for the group found that 4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 — more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year.”
  • “Last summer, nearly every Christian in Mosul — one of the oldest Christian communities in the world — fled the city after Islamic State militants ordered them to leave or face death. Dozens of Assyrian Christians were abducted in eastern Syria earlier this year.
  • Iraqi churches stand empty, even on major holidays, because so many congregants have fled.”

In closing, Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial said “It fits the definition of ethnic cleansing,” Hudson said of the long-standing communities that have been killed or uprooted by the Islamic State. “They need to convert, they need to leave, or they will die.”

To read ‘Has the world ‘looked the other way’ while Christians are killed?’ on the Washington Post web site, click here.

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7 Steps:  How You Can Help in Defense of Persecuted Christians

The co-chairs of the Christian Rights and Freedom Ministry (Dr. Harry Dimopoulos, Archon Harry Demas and Richard Pappas) and Father Philemon Patitsas of St. Katherine Greek orthodox Church (Naples, FL) invite your questions and involvement.  The following 7 steps can assist you in ‘Uplifting Christ and Witnessing for Our Faith in the Face of Radical Extremism.

1.  Preserve Our Christian Identity

  • Align our minds and hearts with God’s calling. See Christ in others.
  • Glorify God daily; PRAY, fast & give alms.
  • Identify empathetically with the plight of persecuted Christians of the world.

2. Organize Ourselves for Success

  • Establish Christian Rights and Freedom ministries in communities throughout America.  Do you belong to one?
  • Organize local events & initiatives to educate, advocate, defend & counteract the antagonists of our faith.

3. Educate Ourselves and Others

  • ’Know Ourselves’ – Study our history, faith & culture
  • Develop clear policy positions so the public knows where we stand.
  • Expose misinformation to the light of truth.

4. Dialogue with the Public

  • Network with people concerned about the rise of Islamofascism.
  • Boycott producers of products that may be underwriting radical extremism & terrorism, such as oil produced by certain member states.
  • Advocate for energy self-sufficiency for America, and alternative energy sourcing options.
  • Advocate withholding foreign aid and military assistance to countries that are not aligned with our national interests.

5. Stand Up for Ourselves

  • Establish “Anti-Defamation Teams’ to challenge offensive remarks.
  • Petition officials who have the ability to influence public policy.
  • Advocate for economic sanctions; exercise our freedom of assembly.

6. Invest in the Cause

  • Donate to organizations that help the oppressed and promote the preservation of Western culture and values.
  • Fund infrastructure & activities that advance the cause of  Christian Rights & Freedom

7.  Purchase a ‘I Too Am a Nazarene’ pin 

Purchase a ‘I Too Am a Nazarene’ pin to benefit persecuted Christians and refugees in the Middle East Conflict.  The Arabic letter “N” has been painted by ISIS/ISIL to target the homes of Christians for expulsion and obliteration. The symbol “N” stands for ‘Nazarene’ signifying that its residents are followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Pins are on sale through the St. Katherine Greek Orthodox church’s website. Pins are one inch square, and sell for $5 each, plus shipping and handling, shipping is waived for orders over 50 pins.

To order pins, please contact ChristianRelief7100@gmail.com or visit http://stkatherine.net

All proceeds from pin sales will be directed to the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Middle East Fund to aid these suffering people. IOCC has had a continual presence in that part of the world almost since its inception in 1992, and was chosen as the recipient because its effectiveness in providing relief to the suffering people of the Middle East.

All churches and concerned organizations are encouraged to participate. For further information please contact ChristianRelief7100@gmail.com.

About First Annual National Christian Rights & Freedom Symposium 

On Saturday, March 14, 2015, St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Naples Florida and the South Florida Archons hosted its first annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium – ‘Uplifting Christ and Witnessing for our Faith in the Face of Radical Extremism.

The First Annual National Christian Rights & Freedom Symposium featured several prominent speakers including Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander and Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Rev. Father Fouad Saba, Dean of the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral (Coral Gables, FL), Father Philemon Patitsas, Presiding Priest of the St. Katherine Greek orthodox Church (Naples, FL), John Scurtis, Regional Commander and Archon, Harry Demas, Archon, and Dr. Harry Dimopoulos, Chairman of the Christian Rights and Freedom Ministry

To watch video highlights of the First Annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnDiwtAs52o.

To learn more about the First Annual National Christian Rights & Freedom Symposium visit http://stkatherine.net.

By Nick Mavrick, Chairman of the Orthodox Christian Network

You can find Nick Mavrick on Google+

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Nick Mavrick

Nick Mavrick served on the OCN Board of Directors. The OCN Board consists of volunteers, who are also donors, and are passionate about giving back to the Orthodox Church. We welcome other volunteers to join us.