As someone on a local mailing list noted, I’ve successfully trolled the entire open source community.
Rich Bowen

«— Are You Greek?
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A Sacrifice for Gaza

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Imagine this: You are a Native American living on a reservation. Because some members of your reservation have been agitating for change, your home has been blockaded by the National Guard for several years. You cannot get in or out, and basic living supplies are difficult to come by. Attacks by the American troops sometimes destroy power plants, and you survive without electricity or running water for days. The American people, many of whom are descendants of European colonists, first arrived a few centuries ago on the soil that your ancestors inhabited for thousands of years. In spite of this, the international community is deaf to your cries for help and relief. Now imagine that the United States has had enough of your agitators and is launching a full-scale assault on your people with all its military superiority, even though your people are barely armed with rifles and a few missiles. Your home looks to be a parking lot in a few years.

Sounds outlandish! Unreal. Even as fiction, no one would believe it. Now, stop imagining and see that this is the reality of the situation in the Gaza strip.

The current conflict has been marked by little or no restraint on the part of Israel. Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview with the Washington Post, “I don’t like the term cease-fire since it looks like an agreement between two legitimate sides.” Elsewhere in the same interview she said, “Israel is not going to show restraint anymore. . . . it is not a missile against a missile. We are going to attack strongly if they continue.”[1] If we were to decode the political rhetoric, Livni’s statement might read:

“We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.”

Israel supports its overwhelming use of military force by saying it is a response to “terror.”[2] Many nations list Hamas as a terrorist organization.[3] Yet according to many sources, Israel originally supported Hamas secretly to destabilize support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). “according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. … Israel’s support for Hamas ‘was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,’ said a former senior CIA official.”[4] In a recent email letter to her supporters, Dr. Maria Khoury, a Palestinian Christian who lives in Taybeh, West Bank, relates a personal memory of this support for Hamas by the Israeli government. If this knowledge was widespread throughout Palestine, how demoralizing it must be for Palestinians to be used as pawns.

Far more demoralizing, though, is the human cost. Families seeking refuge from the destruction are killed while they try to escape.
“Movement [while fleeing] is complicated by the confusion over when it is safe to leave,” writes the New York Times. “When the Abu Hajaj family received a leaflet last weekend, they took it as a sign of safe passage. But Majad Abdel Karim Abu Hajaj, a teacher at a United Nations school, said his mother and sister were killed as they walked holding a white flag. Their bodies remain where they fell, he said, because ambulances cannot get to the area.”[5]

We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.

And what has been the cost for Israel? The Los Angeles Times reports that the death toll for Israel is thirteen. “Israel has suffered 13 dead: 10 soldiers, four of them by ‘friendly fire,’ and three civilians by Hamas rockets.” How does that compare to the cost suffered by Palestine?

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported Monday that the death toll had risen from 884 to 910, according to an update from United Nations officials in Gaza. The dead include 292 children and 75 women, the officials said. The number of injured Palestinians stood at 4,250, of whom 1,497 are children and 626 are women….

More than 28,000 Palestinian civilians have been displaced, inundating makeshift refugee centers.[6]

We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.

We can do little to change the political situation. The nations of this world will continue their demonic use of military power until the end of the age. However, we must help sacrificially as we are able. Recently, Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, released a public statement encouraging support of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and spoke directly about our obligation to Palestine:

The parishes and members of the Orthodox Church in America should urgently offer their financial support to IOCC, earmarking this support at this time for work in Gaza. As Orthodox Christians, members of the Orthodox Church in America are in deep solidarity with the suffering people in the Middle East — Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The many hundreds of dead and wounded civilians in Gaza and in the whole region bear witness in their suffering to the real meaning of military and political conflict: it is innocent people who suffer the most.[7]

We are mostly powerless to change the political situation, but I can express solidarity with the Palestinian people through sacrifice — giving of myself as an offering. Here are three things I will be doing:

  1. Give. I will give to the IOCC.[8] They already have an infrastructure on the ground in Palestine, because they have been working there for many years. Give sacrificially.
  2. Pray. “The heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully.”[9] I will pray an akathist for the people of Palestine and specifically for Gaza. Take extra time during your day or your week to pray for the people of Gaza and Palestine. Pray an akathist, a decade of the rosary, or an additional round on your prayer rope (chotki, komboskini) for release and relief. If set prayers are not part of your faith tradition, set aside extra time to pray extemporaneously for Palestine. Pray sacrificially.
  3. Speak. Declare it. I have already written this article, obviously. Get the word out. Blog, tweet, or post on Facebook and other social networking sites. I will also speak out at my church. Speak out at your church, mosque, temple, or other house of worship. Be bold. Tell people what you know. Speak sacrificially.

Of course, there is so much more. Be creative. You can sacrifice your time, either by organizing a fundraiser or even by participating in one near you. The most daring among you can sacrifice your time by volunteering with an organization and traveling to Gaza in the flesh. This is ultimately the deepest sacrfice you can make. Do not let your fear put your motivation on the shelf: Do something.

Linknotes:
  1. Weymouth, Lally. – “Israel Is Not Going to Show Restraint,” Washington Post, January 10, 2009
  2. Weymouth, ibid.
  3. Wikipedia – “Hamas.” Accessed on January 13, 2009. Specifically, “Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, and the United States, and is banned in Jordan. Australia and the United Kingdom list only the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization. The United States and the European Union have both implemented restrictive measures against Hamas on an international level.”
  4. Sale, Richard. UPI article. – quoted in J. Raimondo, “Hamas, Son of Israel”
  5. El-Khodary, Taghreed, and Sabrina Tavernise – New York Times, “U.N. Warns of Refugee Crisis in Gaza Strip,” January 13, 2009
  6. Rotella, Sebastian, and Rushdi abu Alouf – Israel steps up attacks in Gaza; Hamas indicates it’s open to a truce,” Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2009
  7. OCA.org – “Metropolitan Jonah appeals to OCA faithful to support IOCC relief efforts in Gaza.” Press release, January 12, 2009
  8. I tried to Google for alternate charities to list, but there was just too much noise due to the current conflict. If you know of other charities with infrastructure on the ground in the region, please feel free to leave a comment.
  9. James 5:16 – NJB
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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:04 pm

«— Eight Months
—» A Sacrifice for Gaza

Are You Greek?

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When I attended a Greek parish in New Hampshire, I was always asked if I was Greek. That is, if I was spoken to at all. After all, it does not take an ethnological genius to determine that the 6’3″ gentleman with fair skin and blue eyes is probably not of Hellenic extraction. While looking for Orthodox news, I stumbled upon this editorial, and I thanked the holy Trinity that no one in the Orthodox Church in America talks about Russian culture like this.

The inevitable consequence of converting Christians and non-Christians who have no Greek heritage is that the more successful the outreach, the greater the erosion of Greek identity within the Church. The only counter-argument made to this observation by many who support the conversion strategy is that, given the demographic challenges at hand, a larger, more inclusive Church is the only realistic way to preserve the Greek cultural heritage in America.

Modern Greek is a certain loser in the conversion scenario. The historical structure of Orthodoxy has been to have a Church based on a national language/culture headed by a national hierarchy which stands on an equal basis with other Orthodox entities. In that sense, the idea of “Americanizing” Orthodoxy is to adhere to the major Orthodox tradition, rather than continue with Greek American exceptionalism.

At its core, however, Orthodox tradition is culturally Hellenic. If the emphasis of the Church turns to conversion efforts, there will surely be parishes that will seek affiliation with, or form an Orthodox organization which prioritizes, Greek identity. Simultaneously, especially in areas with a limited Greek population, other Christian denominations supported by American friends will become increasingly attractive.

At present, the Greek culture of the Church is ebbing away, and the conversions come in dribbles. Just talking about the need to revitalize Greek culture or just talking about an evangelical mandate is not useful. What is required is a dynamic commitment by the Church to what it wants to be and do in this new century.

The future, and perhaps even the existence, of a viable Greek America is at stake.

Read more: The Ethnic Church and the Hellenic Identity – The National Herald (via Orthodox News, an organ of Orthodox Christian Laity).

Allow me a postscript to add that I have also had very good experiences with many Greeks. Specifically, the people at Annunciation Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia, have always been quite friendly to me, as was the priest at St Sophia parish in New London, Connecticut.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:21 pm