Parish Bulletin Entry - Love, Hate, Group, Individual


Love, Hate, Group, Individual

By: Rev. Athanasios Demos, St. Eleftherios Greek Orthodox Church

Over the past few weeks there has been much in the news for each one of us to seriously contemplate.

We have witnessed news reports of Islamic extremists murdering innocent people mercilessly, while devout and innocent Muslims have unjustly experienced the backlash of these atrocities.  We have seen the constant conflict between Israel and Palestine in which innocent lives have been killed on both sides which some see as the major cause of the conflicts throughout the Middle East.

We have seen innocent Jews, Frenchmen and a French Muslim policeman slaughtered in Paris.  We have celebrated Martin Luther King Day and recommitted ourselves to freedom, justice, equality and dignity for all.  We remember the courageous stance of Archbishop Iakovos who stood by King’s side in support of Martin Luther King’s non-violent stance in leading America to stand for Civil Rights for all peoples.

What is interesting is that we have heard statements like:

  1. “Jews have caused all the world’s problems!”
  2. “Muslims are all terrorists!”
  3. “African-Americans are ignorant, dangerous and low class!”
  4. “Greeks, Italians, Blacks and Irishmen are all the same!”

Let’s listen to a few quotes:

“It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups.” – Henry Wallace

“It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.” – Elie Wiesel, Night

From HALC:   On March 26, 1965, LIFE Magazine featured an iconic photo on its cover of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos marching with Dr. Martin Luther Jr.  16 days earlier, the events that gave rise to that photo took place in Selma, Alabama.  On March 11, 1965, white American minister James Reed was brutally clubbed to death by segregationists while marching for civil rights. Days later, Archbishop Iakovos would travel to Selma and march arm in arm with King for equality.

Prof. Raboteau at Fordham University, reported that “[a]s the congregation waited for King to arrive for the service, distinguished leaders, who had gathered from around the country eulogized Reeb and linked arms to sing “We Shall Overcome” and other movement hymns.” This was what Archbishop Iakovos said that day:

“I came to this memorial service because I believe this is an appropriate occasion not only to dedicate myself as well as our Greek Orthodox communicants to the noble cause for which our friend, the Reverend James Reeb, gave his life; but also in order to show our willingness to continue this fight against prejudice, bias, and persecution. In this God-given cause, I feel sure that I have the full and understanding support of our Greek Orthodox faithful of America. For our Greek Orthodox Church and our people fully understand from our heritage and our tradition such sacrificial involvements. Our Church has never hesitated to fight, when it felt it must, for the rights of mankind; and many of our Churchmen have been in the forefront of these battles time and again….The ways of God are not always revealed to us, but certainly His choice of this dedicated minister to be the victim of racial hatred and the hero of this struggle to gain unalienable constitutional rights for those American brethren of ours who are denied them, and to die, so to speak, on this battlefield for human dignity and equality, was not accidental or haphazard. Let us seek out in this tragedy a divine lesson for all of us. The Reverend Reeb felt he could not be outside the arena of this bitter struggle, and we, too, must feel that we cannot. Let his martyrdom be an inspiration and a reminder to us that there are times when we must risk everything, including life itself, for those basic American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality, without which this land cannot survive. Our hope and prayer, then, is that we may be given strength to let God know by our acts and deeds, and not only by our words, that like the late Reverend James Reeb, we, too, are the espousers and the fighters in a struggle for which we must be prepared to risk our all.”

Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, would in 2005 highlight how important it was to have the support of Archbishop Iakovos: “At a time when many of the nation’s most prominent clergy were silent, Archbishop Iakovos courageously supported our Freedom Movement and marched alongside my husband, and he continued to support the nonviolent movement against poverty, racism and violence throughout his life.”

Archbishop Iakovos later explained that it was that obligation to speak up that led him to Selma:

“We have fought oppressive and repressive political regimes, based on Christian principles, for centuries. . . . A Christian must cry out in indignation against all persecution. That’s what made me walk with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. We are all responsible, and must continue to speak out.”

Having considered the above I must ask you: Isn’t it amazing how people can hold prejudice against a race or a people by putting them in categories?  What is more interesting is how we see our individual friends as being ‘outside’ their “group category” and as members of the one most important group and category of all – humanity.  So we do not and cannot categorize our friends - Hannah Cohen, Salaam Haddad, Sanford Washington, Sophia Pappas, Louisa Patroni and Patrick Sweeney, other than seeing them as decent human beings who are our dear friends and neighbors.  They are NOT the exception.  They are the reflection of our American qualities of life and values.  They are all human beings – real people – not of ‘a group’ but all belonging to our American Family and our World Family.  We are all God’s children, with diverse backgrounds, traditions, cultures, beliefs and ways of life.  Hate creates a burning acidity within our heart and soul.  Love calms all that acidity and brings us the peace so essential to truly being people of God! 

So let us look clearly into each other’s eyes and see one another as living icons of Christ, as brothers and sisters, confronting fanaticism of all forms, while walking arm in arm to bring justice and equality to all peoples in our Country and our World through sincere concern and honest love!