Δευτέρα 29 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

Ruth Finnegan, "Oral Literature in Africa" & "Africa's unwritten literatures" (full text)

"There is great wailing in the land of the black people because of land hunger, you fools and wise people alike, is there any among you who is not aware of the overcrowding in our land.
... Long ago the Europeans came upon us with weapons of war and they drove us out and took our land. Go away, go away you Europeans (Leakey 1954: 63-4)"

From the "Africa's unwritten literatures"

Ruth Finnegan's Oral Literature in Africa was first published in 1970, and since then has been widely praised as one of the most important books in its field. Based on years of fieldwork, the study traces the history of storytelling across the continent of Africa. This revised edition makes Finnegan's ground-breaking research available to the next generation of scholars. It includes a new introduction, additional images and an updated bibliography, as well as its original chapters on poetry, prose, "drum language" and drama, and an overview of the social, linguistic and historical background of oral literature in Africa.
This book is the first volume in the World Oral Literature Series, an ongoing collaboration between OBP and World Oral Literature Project. A free online archive of recordings and photographs that Finnegan made during her fieldwork in the late 1960s is hosted by the World Oral Literature Project and can also be accessed from publisher's website (from here).

Photo from here
Ruth Finnegan, OBE, author of The Black Inked Pearlis a renowned scholar and celebrated writer who is Emeritus Professor, the Open University, a Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College Oxford. She was born and reared in Ulster and sent to a Quaker school filled with biblical texts and music, which are reflected in the novel. First-class Oxford degrees in classics and philosophy were followed by African fieldwork, which Ruth describes as “totally inspiring for my life and work.” She returned to Oxford for a doctorate in anthropology before university teaching in Africa and briefly in Fiji, and finally the Open University in the U.K. She has three wonderful daughters and five grandchildren, and she lives with her husband and two cairn terriers in Old Bletchley, Buckinghamshire (from here).

See also

Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa) 

How “White” is the Orthodox Church?

The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place

Σάββατο 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

The Lenten Triodion, starting point for Easter - warnings against pride and hypocrisy

Written for the devout Christian, the Triodion is full of warnings against pride and hypocrisy - the ultimate spiritual sins to which religious folk are so susceptible. Its hymns teach us the true nature and purpose of fasting and of Lent itself.
(from here)


Parable of the Publican & Pharisee
The Lenten Triodion is the service book of the Orthodox Church that provides the texts for the divine services for the pre-Lenten weeks of preparation, Great Lent, and Holy Week. The Lenten Triodion is the title of a classic and popular English book translated with an extensive and helpful introduction by Metropolitan Kallistos and Mother Mary; it provides many (but not all) of the texts necessary to observe the great fast. In Greek and Slavonic it is simply called the triodion. It is called the triodion because the canons appointed for Matins during this period are composed of three odes each.
The weeks of preparation, and especially the Sunday gospel readings, serve to exercise the mind, whereas the fasting of Great Lent focuses on the body, and Holy Week's services exercise the spirit.

Weeks of preparation 

The three weeks that commence on the fourth Sunday prior to Great Lent constitute the weeks of preparation. Each has its own distinct theme which is expressed in the Gospels readings appointed for the Divine Liturgies on these days:

Sunday of the Prodigal Son
1. Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14),
2. Sunday of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), and
3. Sunday of the Last Judgment (also called Meatfare Sunday; Matt 25:31-46).
4. Sunday of Forgiveness (also called Cheesefare Sunday; the expulsion of Adam from Eden is also a theme of this day); Matt 6:14-21.
The Church eases us into the Lenten fasting discipline during this period. The week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee is fast-free. The week following the Prodigal Son is a normal week -- we fast as usual on Wednesday and Friday. In the week following Meatfare Sunday, no meat is eaten; eggs, fish, and dairy are permitted on any day.
Forgiveness Sunday brings the period of preparation to an end. The next day, Clean Monday, begins Great Lent. The Vespers service served on the evening of Forgiveness Sunday includes the Rite of Mutual Forgiveness and is the first service of Great Lent.

Great Lent
Jesus Christ the Bridegroom (Holy Week)

Great Lent begins on the Monday following Forgiveness Sunday (also called Cheesefare Sunday) with each Sunday highlighted as follows:

1. Sunday of Orthodoxy (John 1:43-51),
2. Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas,
3. Sunday of the Holy Cross,
4. Sunday of St. John Climacus, and
5. Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt.

Holy Week

Great Lent is followed by Holy Week, the week beginning with Palm Sunday and preceding Pascha. 


Triodion resource page

Τετάρτη 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

Akooaba! It means “Welcome”

Icon from here

Metropolitan Narkissos of Accra
By grace of God and with the blessing of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, on January 13 I arrived at the capital of Ghana, the seat of my new diocese, after a long journey starting from Athens to reach the Western African shores of the Atlantic. Leaving a frozen Athens and getting off the airplane, you are received by a 33°C heat and 90% humidity and forthwith you understand that you are somewhere else.
With your first contact with people, at once you see how dignified and naturally peaceful they are, which is reflected on their eyes. They love foreigners and their first word is Akooaba! Welcome! Everywhere around people working. I didn’t notice any beggars in the traffic lights, on the road junctions, anywhere. This I confirmed the following days. Early in the morning they rush to work, whence it is regarded as one of the most rapidly developing countries in Africa.
Arriving at our missionary center, where lie the see and the Transfiguration cathedral, immediately I perceive that I was preceded by persons who have labored there a lot, so that I can find this organized missionary unit. Afterwards followed prayer and veneration at the church, a short tour of the place and my settlement in the bishop’s residence, which obviously looks like it was built to become a clinic, not a house to live in. My first care was to settle in my place and adjust it to my own needs and my daily life schedule.

On the second day, we planned our first moves: a clerical assembly, where I and my direct associates could meet each other, a meeting with the Orthodox youth groups and the arrangement of the enthronement. Phone calls, briefings and a lot of procedures, residence permit, telephone contracts and some initial matters. Finally, it was an important priority for us to be informed of and prepare the annual retreat for our Orthodox communities that takes place in late January. This retreat is a four-day program, when the Orthodox from all over Ghana join in Fomena village, where there is a big lot of our Church with the Annunciation chapel on it and the place is configured much like a summer camp in Greece. There gather the Orthodox faithful of all ages to attend a program of worship, sermons, evening prayers. Each group presents a musical or dance performance. The youth, the children, everyone participates. Of course, all the priests of our diocese are present. Generally, this retreat helps to strengthen relations between the Orthodox communities around the liturgical life and the spiritual nourishment which our Church offers and they tremendously need.
I cannot hide my satisfaction and joy I felt seeing their piety and devotion and great faith. Maybe this sign we meet everywhere in Ghana is no coincidence: Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God”, which is a symbol of God’s supremacy. This unique and beautiful symbol is ubiquitous in Ghana. It is the most popular decoration denoting the deep religious character of Ghanaians. Gye Nyame, “nothing except for God.”

Then I gave praise to God for the missionary work, because it has been done systematically for many years by all my predecessors, and I realized that these efforts should be continued, for they bring forth such fruits for the glory of God’s holy name.
However, it is necessary to stress that, though it is important to create a structure by raising a church, a school or a clinic, it is even more important for all these buildings to be glorified in a durable operation, which needs constant help and support for the proper functioning of these facilities. Unfortunately, in case that this support is absent, we lose what we earned by investing in the construction and we cannot operate them in the long term. Here comes the most difficult aspect: functional expenses. It is matter that few people pay attention to, namely only the people who can see more than their eyes, who have a vision and insight and are not confined in a picture, but this picture becomes the occasion for reflection and action.

Dear members and supporters of the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity, you are people of reflection and action, which is why you came to be involved with the Orthodox Missions. May our good God bless and give grace to you! I am grateful, for many times you have delivered us in your own way from problems we face in our ministry, hence I thank you.
Your brother in Christ’s love

About new Metropolitan of Accra Narkissos (from here)

The Metropolitan Narkissos of Accra, born Samer Gammoh, was born in 1968 in Amman, Jordan,where he completed his schooling at the National Orthodox School. He holds a degree from the Theological faculty of the Universtiy of Athens (1988-1992), where he also completed post-graduate studies in Dogmatic History (1992-1994). He was tonsured a monk on 14/2/1994 by the late Metropolitan Iakovos (Gkinis) of Nicaea. 
He was ordained Deacon by the same Metropolitan on 15 February 1994 and as Priest by Metropolitan Vartholomaios of Megara on 11 June 1994 at the Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Megara where he served for 16 consecutive years as Parish Priest and Preacher. Seconded to the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa by His Beatitude Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria on 16/6/2009, he went on to serve at the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas the Sanctified where he lived and as Principal of the “St Athanasios” Pariarchal Academy in Alexandria. 
At the same time he was Secretary for Arabic issues at the Chief Secretariat of the Patriarchate, Preacher and in charge of the catechetical work of the Arabic speaking parishes in Alexandria. On 23rd November 2013 proposed by His Beatitude, he was unanimously elected as Metropolitan of Nubia. 
From here: In November 2015, having accepted the resignation of His Eminence Savvas Metropolitan of Accra, His Eminence Narkissos Metropolitan of Noubia was elected to the post, and elected as Metropolitan Noubia was the former Metropolitan Savvas of Accra.


The Orthodox Church in Ghana & Ivory Coast
Orthodox Church In Ghana - Facebook
Ortodox Mkristo Liturujia takatifu katika Kasoa, Ghana - Orthodox Christian holy liturgy in Kasoa, Ghana
Orthodox Ghana (tag)
Kanisa la Orthodox

Flowers of altruism out of the field of Cameroon

Orthodox Cristians in Cameroon, photo from here

† Gregory of Cameroon
«When times are adverse, it is an honor to fly
all alone, all alone»
Dear brothers in Christ, rejoice in the Lord always,
It is a fact that the difficulties which our homeland has been going through during the last years have had a serious impact on several areas of the apostolic work – as it has come to be expressed in the vineyard of Africa over the past 60 years.
However, despite all the hardships, we can say that we continue walking by the grace of God, our living Lord, who walks by our side daily through our difficulties and “by many proofs” blesses and transforms our little efforts and our mumble into a fruitful and plentiful seed.
With the “holy contributions” of our brothers from every corner of the world, we try to comfort the needs of our African brothers, especially those belonging to «vulnerable groups”, such as the disabled, who often, due to lack of care and a basic means of transport, they cannot participate in social life with the same rights as the able-bodied ones. Moreover, in Africa, apart from the marginalized position they have in the society, surviving through begging in deplorable conditions, they also go through a lot of suffering due to social bias and unimaginable superstitions, all of which results in making even the simplest daily tasks far more difficult for them, as if their daily toil was not enough. 

In cooperation with the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the official charitable agency of the Orthodox churches in the U.S.A., we received a number of wheelchairs and various other aids for the disabled, which we sent to the Ministry of Education of Cameroon for mobility-impaired students, and which unfortunately due to the absence of budget provision for their distribution to the schools of the country, mostly remained in warehouses.
Starting with people we met on the streets and relying on information which we gathered, we were able to distribute almost all of what we had received.
May the excitement, gratitude and wishes of the recipients be an eternal testimony and prayer before God’s throne for those who variously contributed to this effort.
Another donation for the repose of a departed brother was used in part for the support of the disabled people’s families and for the purchase of food supplies for orphaned children’s homes.


Many times, it is difficult to describe such situations… Nevertheless, we will describe an incident, so that you can better understand what we mentioned on the difficulties of the disabled, who ceaselessly cry before us “I have no man” (John 5:7). Once it became known that the Orthodox Church was giving out financial aid to disabled people, one day, when we had already finished with those gathered, we saw a handicapped running towards us in a wheelchair, pushed by a big sweaty man… We thought he would be a relative of his, but when he approached, we realized that the man pushing was blind! Together they had crossed a huge distance through the heavy traffic of the busy streets. The disabled man was guiding his blind brother, hoping in the mercy of God, which in that case was the small aid of our Church…
With the contribution, sensibility and understanding of Saint Ecumenius Missionary Association, we bought five motorcycles for five priests, each of whom ministers to more than two parishes, in order to reduce their travel expenses and enable our remote communities to be served regularly and not infrequently due to transport difficulties of the priest in charge.
Acts of altruism and charity are secret according to the command “let not your left hand know what your right hand does” (Matthew 6:3) and they are not kind of ecclesiastical news, because they are inseparably woven into the life and nature of the Church. They are, however, occasionally published as a testimony of love, as flowers of altruism, for the “subtle thought” of our weak brothers “that the ministry be not blamed” (II Cor. 6:3).

Nevertheless, they are also testimonies of those, who in adverse times and in the face of those that out of poor ecclesiastical education and nonexistent faith, in covert deeds and words, consider the cause of the apostolic work “failed” or “unnecessary” and shamelessly vilify it, continue to “guard a Thermopylae never betraying what is right…”
May the love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, brethren.

See also

The Orthodox Church in Cameroon

Official Metropolis of Cameroon Website
Bishop Gregory of Cameroon, Glimpses of a journey across Cameroon

Orthodox Cameroon (tag)

Τρίτη 23 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

The Conflicts of Africa

Markosun's blog

Over hundreds of years Africa has been plagued by never-ending bloody wars.  These conflicts have continued into modern times. Today there are two major wars: The Central African Republic is experiencing a civil war involving the central government and various rebel groups. On December 14, 2013 in the Republic of South Sudan, a faction of the armed forces attempted a coup d’état. Initially the fighting was intense and heavy, but it has dwindled into a small scale insurgency conflict.
One of the most alarming situations in the African wars is the use of child soldiers. Young boys as young as eight years old carry machine guns and take part in combat. Photos below show the young soldiers with their heavy guns.


South Sudanese army troops using UN backpacks intended for children

Only in Africa...

Recent photo from South Sudan

Please, see also

Africa’s Wars
Child soldiers

Orthodoxy and nationalism
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa) 
Pray for the peace for Nigeria & all Africa...

Climate change will lead to civil wars in Africa, says research


Civil wars in Congo have killed 5.4 million people in 10 years. Climate change could make future conflict more likely, say scientists Photo: AFP/GETTY
The march of climate change could make civil wars much more likely, research suggests, with models predicting nearly 400,000 extra deaths in African conflicts by 2030. 

A rise of as little as 1C could make civil conflict in sub-Saharan Africa more than 50 per cent more likely, according to the study.
Marshall Burke, a University of California economist and the study's lead author, said: "Our study finds that climate change could increase the risk of African civil war by over 50 percent in 2030 relative to 1990, with huge potential costs to human livelihoods."
Small changes to temperature will affect crop growth, and most of sub-Saharan Africa’s poor rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
Edward Miguel, professor of economics at UC Berkeley, said: "When temperatures rise, the livelihoods of many in Africa suffer greatly, and the disadvantaged become more likely to take up arms."
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the first hard evidence linking global warming to fighting. It is based on data from 20 global warming models and a historical examination of the links between climate and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The researchers found that, between 1980 and 2002, civil wars were much more likely in warmer years. In years that were one degree above average, the risk of conflict rose by nearly 50 per cent.
The study’s co-author, earth scientist David Lobell, said: "On average, the models suggest that temperatures over the African continent will increase by a little over one degree Celsius by 2030.
"Given the strong historical relationship between temperature rise and conflict, this expected future rise in temperature is enough to cause big increases in the likelihood of conflict.”
The study suggested that a one-degree rise could translate to a 55 per cent risk increase by 2030, which in turn would lead to 390,000 deaths in combat, assuming future wars are as deadly as recent ones.
The researchers have urged governments in Africa and worldwide to hasten and expand policies to help the continent adapt to the effects of climate change.
Mr Burke said: "Our findings provide strong impetus to ramp up investments in African adaptation to climate change by such steps as developing crop varieties less sensitive to extreme heat and promoting insurance plans to help protect farmers from adverse effects of the hotter climate.
"If the sub-Saharan climate continues to warm and little is done to help its countries better adapt to high temperatures, the human costs are likely to be staggering."
Millions of people have died in Africa in civil wars in the last decade, including more than 5.4 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone. 

Related Articles
See also

Κυριακή 21 Φεβρουαρίου 2016

The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place

“Just as the vineyard produces both white and colored grapes”, the blessed elder said, to finish his story, “thus God has created people of all colors – black, red, yellow, white…according to where they live. After all, the earth itself is also multiform.” 

From the book:  "AN ASCETIC BISHOP" (the life of Saint Nephon), by the Holy Monastery of the Paraclete Publications, pages 113-120.
Translation by A.N.
I was always intrigued by the topic of whether people from the colored races had the same prospects of pleasing God as did the people of the white race, because I had never heard of any negro for example, who had become renowned for his spiritual labours and sainthood.  Could it be – I had thought to myself - that the colour of one’s skin played some kind of role in matters of the soul? Could it be that God had shown some kind of disavowal in their case?  But then, why would He disavow them?
So, once when I had visited the tiny cell of the blessed Nephon, it occurred to me to ask him about this matter.  The righteous elder reassured me that God had called innumerable negro souls into His Kingdom, since they too are His creations, as they are the descendants of Shem and Ham – the sons of Noah. (see Genesis, 10:6-31)  In fact - he stressed - quite a few of them had shone brightly because of their virtues and their miracles.  And to prove the truth of his statement, the elder proceeded to narrate 2-3 such cases.
“In olden times,” he said, “the territory of Panephos (a significant city of Lower Egypt, not too far from the sea; in its place today lies the city of Menzaleh), was plagued by a plunderer - a heavily-built, savage man that was fearsome to behold and ruthless in his ways.  His roaring cries alone could easily curdle the blood of his unsuspecting victim – even the bravest kind….
One night, however, he had an extremely frightening dream:  it was as though he had suddenly found himself in the middle of an endless plain….on looking around him, he noticed a fiery river spewing towards him with a loud rumbling noise, devouring everything in its path – even the stones and the soil beneath it…. With small, hesitant steps, the robber edged towards that river to get a better look…But as soon as he reached its banks, four blazing spirits flew out of the fiery mass, grabbed him by the hair and tugged at him, in an attempt to drag him into the river… As they struggled to pull him in, one of the sprits said to him: ‘You wretch! If you had become a monk, we wouldn’t be dragging you into this place!’
He woke up in a sweat.  He recalled that awesome sight with horror and giddiness.  No matter how hard he tried to explain the dream, it seemed hopeless.  His next thought was:  “I think I will go and find an anachorite, (=a holy recluse that lives alone in the desert) and tell him of my dream.  Monks usually know about such things; perhaps one of them will reveal the meaning of the fiery river that I saw in my dream.”

Child soldier in Congo (photo from here)
As soon as he uttered those words in his mind, he threw down the “tools of his robbing trade” and headed straight for the road leading to Panephos.  After a while, he discerned a tiny anachorite cell in the distance.  He hurried in that direction. No sooner had he knocked on the door, than it was opened immediately by an elderly man – it was almost as though he was expected there!
“Welcome!  Welcome, young man!  And may I ask what brought you to this part of the land?  Were you perhaps upset by that fiery river and the four evil spirits that were dragging you by the hair, trying to pull you into the fire? What a horrible threat that river was, my child, wasn’t it?  Did you see how it even devoured the stones that it passed over?....Well, if you truly do wish to escape those flames, there is a way:  You should repent sincerely for all the robberies and the lawlessness that you have engaged in all your life, and become a monk. That way, you will surely be saved, because that river has been prepared exclusively for the unrepentant sinners…”
The elder had barely finished saying those words, when the robber threw himself at his feet, and began to cry like a little child…. 
“Show me some mercy, precious father!  The darkness in my soul is far deeper than the darkness of my complexion”, he cried out, between sobs. “Show this wretch your mercy, and do with me as God instructs you!”
Indeed, not long after, that saintly elder tonsured the robber and made him a monk.  After staying with him for a period of time and teaching him the appropriate order of monastic living, the elder left his cell to the new monk and departed for the innermost part of the desert, to continue with his ascetic living, amongst the wild beasts.
Well, that very same negro robber, with his own spiritual labours, reached such heights of virtue that during his moments of prayer, he would appear to glow all over, so intensely, like a brightly flickering flame or a radiant pillar of light… Innumerable demons would swarm upon him, but he, with his prayers, would burn them and destroy them altogether.  God had also given him such a gift of wisdom that he had even written numerous spiritual teachings, and had also frequently sent many letters of counsel to the fathers of the scete and many other people as well….  
Finally, when he passed away, his precious relic exuded so much fragrant myrrh that –according to the narrations of the people of that land- it had healed many sick and demon-possessed people….
Kenya, orthodox Turkana (see here)

There was also another poor and old negro, who lived in a city called Ysia.  He used to wander about aimlessly, here and there, silently muttering words that nobody could understand.  Because of this, many people had believed he was not in his right mind.
There came a time when a severe drought had fallen on the land….The animals were dying of thirst, the scorched earth had cracked open and the crops had all dried up…. The clergy and the faithful, with their bishop at the lead, made continuous entreaties and night-vigils with prayers for this plague to stop, but they were of no avail.
One night, the bishop saw in his dream an angel, who said to him: “This is what God commands you:  Take your priests and go, first thing in the morning, and wait at the southern gate of the city; the first man that you see entering the city, approach him, stop him, and ask him to pray to the Lord to send you rain.”
Indeed, at the break of dawn the very next day, right after Matins. The Bishop took his ministers and went to the southern gate, just like the angel had instructed him.  They didn’t have to wait for very long; shortly afterwards, a old negro man appeared, who seemed to be walking towards the city gate.  He was extremely old, and was carrying on his hunched back a bundle of wood.
The bishop stopped him, and helped him to set down the bundle of wood.
“Old man”, begged the bishop, “please pray to God so that He might show His mercy and send rain, both for us and for this earth!”
Without any objection whatsoever, the old negro immediately raised his thin, bony arms towards the heavens and prayed. 
In a matter of minutes, to everyone’s amazement, lightning and thunder began to manifest out of nowhere! Heavy black clouds started to gather rapidly, the sky darkened, and a torrential rain began to pour down from the sky.  But oh, what a rainfall that was!  A proper deluge!  Houses began to be flooded and the surrounding fields soon resembled an expanse of sea!
The bishop was now forced to beseech the old man to pray again, for the rain to stop.  The old man humbly and obediently raised up his arms once again to the heavens….and the downpour ceased immediately!  
Amazed at this double miracle, the bishop then persistently asked the old stranger to reveal his life story and to tell them what his spiritual labours were, that had endowed him with such a closeness to God. 
But the old man bashfully refused to reply to the bishop.
“Your eminence, as you can see, I am nothing more than an old, negro nobody… Why are you bothering to look for virtues in me?” he replied, without raising his head.
“In the name of the Lord of the heavens and the earth!” the bishop cried out imperatively. “You must reveal the whole truth, so that the name of our Lord may be praised accordingly!”
“Forgive me, your eminence!  You see, I haven’t done anything worth mentioning. The only thing that I have strived to keep since the day that I was baptized a Christian, was to never eat my bread without deserving it, and to never become a burden to anyone. So, every day I go into the hills and collect a bundle of wood, I load it on my back and go down to the city to sell it.  From the money I get, I only keep two small coins – just enough for the day’s meal. The rest of the money I give to poor people like me.  Whenever the weather is bad and I can’t go up to the hills, I fast until the weather improves and then I go back up there again to bring my load of wood to the city, to sell it and provide for myself and my other poor townsfolk….
With these words, the elderly negro respectfully bade the bishop and the other clergymen farewell, hoisted the bundle of wood onto his back once again, and walked into the city to sell it….   
Bishop Innocentios of Burundi & Rwanda (from here)

To further reassure me that the benevolent Lord had called multitudes of colored people to His Kingdom, the blessed Nephon told me of one more case, which he himself had witnessed:
It was during the time that the benign, Christ-revering Constantine was still king, when the elder had gone to visit one of the northern monastic communes on the coast.  He found himself in the company of brothers who happened to be discussing the salvation of the soul.  During the conversation, the topic of races and colored people came up.  Everyone there had admitted that very many such souls had pleased God.  One of the brothers named Harisethes had said the following:
“I assure you, my brothers, that I was fortunate enough to meet one such person – a negro – who was a major ascetic figure.”
Seeing how the brothers were eager to learn more about this person, Harisethes continued with his narration:
“I was working for a period of time in our monastery’s vineyard ( that was my predefined ministry at the time ). One day, I noticed a negro, a stranger, sitting underneath a large vine.  I didn’t know who he was – I had never seen him before. He had a flask of water in front of him to quench his thirst, and a handful of wild herbs was his meal. The sight of this man really impressed me. I didn’t disturb him, nor did I send him away. He stayed there, in the same spot, for a whole month. He remained absolutely silent, throughout the whole day, and throughout the night he would chant and pray incessantly.  During all this time, he never emptied out the water in his flask, nor did he add any fresh water to it…. The water gradually became foul and stank, yet, despite my pleas, he did not let me change the water, nor did he accept to be given some bread to eat….On unbearably hot days, he would go down to the shore, sit on a rock and roast himself under the blazing sun all day long… And if anyone approached him to see how he was doing, he would pretend to be demented. ‘Yes, yes,’ he would say, ‘I know you have come to kill me! But God up there is watching you!’ and he would point upwards, at the sky….”.

With these examples that the blessed Nephon gave me, I was truly reassured that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to every soul, regardless of race or colour, since they too are God’s children.
“Just as the vineyard produces both white and colored grapes”, the blessed elder said, to finish his story, “thus God has created people of all colors – black, red, yellow, white…according to where they live. After all, the earth itself is also multiform.”
On saying these words, the servant of God withdrew into his cell to pray.

Orthodox Holy Monastery of the Sts Apostles in Kolwezi (see here)
See also