Πέμπτη 15 Μαρτίου 2018

"The African man is the stranger of our time... He is the man whom our Lord Jesus Christ describes"

The Orthodox Arusha church of “Evangelismos” lived on Sunday one of the most majestic and dignified moments in its history. It is a relatively small parish of a hundred local people coming from Orthodox traditions.
It was a strong spiritual moment of unity in Christ, common witness (martyria) and hope, as archpriests and priests from almost all Orthodox WCC member churches celebrated the holy eucharist [photo from here & here]. The serious orthodox missionary work that started in Tanzania with Archbishop of Albania Anastasios is continued today from the Orthodox Metropolitan of Arusha Agathonikos and several priests.
“We are here to teach – only in sacrifice - love and truth by example, we are here to support organically those in need. In Africa we are truly carrying the cross of mission and there is no easy path to follow”,  Agathonikos said.
The church was founded in 1953 and is delivering important work in the field of education, by operating at the same space the “Saint Constantine International School”. Students from several African communities and others coming from several orthodox countries are following a very high-level international curriculum that equips them with important assets for their future. A place of giving and promise for a better future in Tanzania based in knowledge and faith.

World Council of Churches

See also 

by Theodoros II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
to the International Congress on Mission and Evangelism,
of the World Council of Churches, on the topic:
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25)
(8 –13 March, Arusha Tanzania)

Orthodox Archbiscopic of Zimbabwe & Angola

Pope & Patriach Theodoros. Photo from here.
Dear Delegates,
On the occasion of the deliberations of the World Conference on Mission and Evangelism of the WCC on the African Continent, from the See of the venerable Ancient Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, the Great City of Alexandria, we greet the delegates coming from all countries in the world, from the five Continents and pray with you, with God’s help, for the success of the issues to be addressed by the Congress, for a better future for the Global Community, with the contribution of Christians, for the peaceful coexistence of Peoples and social well-being.
The contribution of the World Congress on Mission, which began in 1910, was the first important step to bring to maturity the initiative of our Churches, after the great tragedies experienced by Humanity with the two World Wars, to establish the WCC in the same year that the UN was organized, in 1948, for the protection of Global Security and the peaceful solution of complex problems through dialogue.
As rightly emphasized by my Predecessor of the Presidents of the WCC, the late Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria, "The proponents of the Ecumenical Movement, as genuine disciples of Christ, realized their responsibilities for the unity of Christianity and the strengthening of the visible unity of the Church". The deliberations of the World Congress on Mission and Evangelism, which took place for the first time 60 years ago in Ghana in Africa, were also based on this framework. 

We especially congratulate the Members of the Mission and Evangelism Commission, the Members of the WCC and the Central Committee, on the subject and the preparation of this important congress, which, as we know, will move in four directions.

Α. The ministry and Theology of Mission today and its role in the unity of Christians, the re-evangelization of those who are called Christians but whose works are far removed from the works of Jesus Christ and His Disciples, as well as the evangelization of People who have not yet had the opportunity of hearing the Word of Christ.
Β. The Ecumenical Dimension of the Conference on the Role of Mission and Evangelization, to strengthen the visible unity and cooperation of the Churches to address the problems currently threatening the cause of world peace and the prosperity of the People. All Christians must reflect on the role of mission, reconciliation, social justice, eradication of poverty, equal opportunities for education, health and nutrition for the needy and orphaned children, as well as the priority of a dialogue of love and understanding of mutual respect and tolerance for dealing with, and preventing, ongoing war and violent conflicts.
C. This important conference, being held in Africa, is an opportunity for the voice of the African continent to be heard, not only to highlight the problems that the African People are currently facing, but also to realize the reasons that cause them, so that the social injustices we are currently experiencing on our Planet against millions of defenseless children, particularly in Africa, are eliminated.
D. It is important that among the participating delegates at this Congress, our young people have a special presence and, for the first time, a remarkable initiative of organizing a Theological Seminar, for a hundred new theologians from all Continents, in order to staff our Ecclesiastical Schools, for Christian education.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25: 34-36, from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (the 3rd Sunday of Triodion in the Orthodox Church - see here). The icon from  In Communion (page in Facebook).

On the occasion of my communication with you, allow me to turn your attention to the responsibilities of Christians for the problem of Immigrants and Refugees, which is today a top problem in the world we live in, and we should all, through our missionary ministry, give priority to it, not just as a Christian duty, but as the self-evident moral responsibility of every person. I am glad that, as the representative of our Patriarchate and us, has informed me, His Eminence Seraphim Metropolitan of Zimbabwe, a member of the WCC Central and Executive Committee, this issue will have a central role in the deliberations of your Congress. I would therefore like to emphasize that for every Christian who wishes to experience the theme of your conference, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25), we should, with the virtue of discrimination, to view every immigrant and every refugee, as a blessing from God.
Christian teaching shows a particular sensitivity towards the migrant and the refugee, Besides, its founder, our Lord Jesus Christ, begins His earthly life as a refugee when the holy Family flees to Egypt to be saved from the threat of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15) and continues His earthly activity, as an immigrant, having nowhere to lay His head. For this reason, the respect of the human person, the recognition of Christ Himself in the refugee and the migrant, and therefore the rejection of any form of conduct that offends, degrades, harms or threatens the refugee and the immigrant, who is made in the image of God, becomes a question of the authenticity of his faith and the attestation of his proper path in the steps of Christ, the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.
So who is the "other", the immigrant, the refugee, the "stranger" for the Church?
The "other", the immigrant, the refugee, the "stranger," is my brother/sister.
Therefore, since he is my brother, then there must be no opposition and quarrel, not even in the area of intellect: “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). And not only do not hate, but do not even cultivate the lie at the expense of your brother. On the contrary, you should open your hand and help him: ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor” (Deuteronomy 15:11). The "other", the immigrant and the refugee, the "stranger," are Christ Himself. In the face of "the other", the "stranger" I meet Christ Himself. The "other" is my salvation, and my entry into the Kingdom of Heaven depends on the relationship I have with him. Christ places Himself in the face of "the other", the "stranger," of my fellow man.

The Lord taught us that the only criterion for every believer to be next to Him, in His Church, is Love. In particular, he taught us that, as Christians, we must feel the need to give unlimited love to our neighbor, especially the suffering, especially the refugee and the immigrant, the "stranger", whom we are called to "draw in" and care for.
Our philanthropic care towards refugees and immigrants must be one of the most important tasks of the Christian because it is motivated by love for the neighbour.
But what is the meaning of “neighbour”?
Neighbour “according to Christian teaching is not only one who is locally or socially close, a relative, a compatriot, of the same faith and religion (…). A neighbor is not identified by external elements but is created with love and served with contribution and sacrifice. Christ came to the world as Messiah, in other words as Saviour and intercessor between God and man. And he accomplishes this work by approaching mankind as a neighbour. He appears as one who is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, imprisoned, one who needs help, hospitality and support. It is up to mankind to accept to respond to His coming. And if mankind offers Christ food, drink, a home, help, then Christ Himself will become for us food, drink, a home, help and eternal life. On the face of our neighbor is Christ Himself. That is why any offer to the neighbor is ultimately an offer to Christ, just as any refusal to offer to the neighbor is a refusal to offer to Christ. The real life of mankind lies in the face of his neighbour".
Let us come now, to the Africa of today, an area within our jurisdiction. The African man is the stranger of our time, an immigrant because of poverty, drought and disease and a refugee due to the ongoing warfare and terrorist phenomena. He is the man whom our Lord Jesus Christ describes.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, through its presence throughout the African continent, is far from intolerance, chauvinism and propaganda. Its basic aim is to unite all in multiformity and diversity, cultivating respect for the human person, harmonizing the polar oppositions of societies and peoples, "in the bond of peace", and by basing the love of Christ "who is the bond of perfection".

Today, Europe is shudders and balks at the wave of refugees and immigration, but the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria is experiencing this everyday on the vast African continent, where warfare, civil conflicts and biblical natural disasters create waves of impoverished refugees and immigrants.
This terrible need is experienced by tens of thousands of our African brothers in Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Congo, South Sudan and many other regions. Homeless and persecuted, refugees and migrants in their own country. Seeing these souls of God, the thousands of children who look at you with their great tearful and frightened eyes, we see the need for Church involvement in addressing and solving social problems. And this is natural, because the purpose of the Church is not to remain on the outskirts of life, but to approach man in all aspects and manifestations of his life.
Only in this way does he minister according to the example of Christ, who did not come to serve, but to serve and offer his life "as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45).
The purpose of Mission is the salvation of all people in Christ. At the same time, Mission cannot be indifferent to its contribution, to the extent that it is able to, in addressing the social problems of our fellow human beings. We must as Christians take care of solving the problems created by the current way of organizing and operating economic, political and social life. Exploitation, social injustice, violence, tyranny, unemployment, war, terrorism, migration, racism, environmental pollution, etc. are essential social problems that are naturally of concern to the faithful. And the interest in them remains mute, unless it is founded on man as a person "in the image of God"
As Christians, we must accept the stranger and the immigrant as a blessing and a gift from God.
To acknowledge that we are all made in God's image and have the same human rights for life, work, freedom.
To support the pain and sorrow of the victims of discrimination and to pray that Churches will welcome people of every race, color and nationality.

With prayers and love in Christ
Theodoros II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa

Note of our blog
For our brethren from the World Council of Churches, with love in Christ the posts:

Getting to Know Your Church Fathers  

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