Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Denial of service and credible authority

(USCIRF) expresses concern today that Greek Orthodox Christians were refused the right to celebrate a Christmas Liturgy service in the village of Rizokarpaso, in the area of the Republic of Cyprus under the control of Turkish troops and administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Turkish Cypriot police entered the Church of Saint Sinesios and demanded that worship activities cease because the government had not granted the congregation permission for the service.
“It is wrong and a symbol of religious intolerance and repressive policies of the Turkish Cypriot authorities supported by Turkey’s occupation troops to require such a small church community to seek permission to hold Christmas Liturgy,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.

“Requiring such permission is simply a bureaucratic ploy that violates the universally protected right to freedom of religion and belief. The Greek Orthodox population has declined steadily in the area of Cyprus under the control of the local Turkish Cypriot authorities and Turkey’s occupation troops. The Turkish Cypriot authorities’ suggestion that such a small religious community would require advanced crowd control planning is not credible. We urge the U.S. government to press Turkish Cypriot authorities to remove any hurdles imposed on Greek Orthodox Christians that prevent them from freely practicing their faith.”

In 1960, the Greek Orthodox population in Rizokarpaso was estimated at 3,000 and was part of approximately 180,000 Greek Orthodox living in the northern part of Cyprus. Today, there are approximately 350 Greek Orthodox adherents enclaved in Rizokarpasso.  According to State Department reports, the church was one of seven religious sites in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots where religious services could be performed on a regular basis without receiving advanced permission.  The denial of the Christmas service runs counter to those claims.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tolerance . . . . toward freedom

As the year 2011 (solar) enters in, the current dominant force of intolerance toward religious minorities seems to be prevailing. The latest news or evidence of this comes from Egypt where 21 Christian believers were killed in a car bomb explosion that also injured 79 people (with numbers increasing as reports continue) just after midnight Saturday in east Alexandria, Egypt.

How are people of faith - any faith - to cope with or deal with such blatant acts of hatred?

The answer seems to lie somewhere between tolerance and freedom.

As in either case, more involvement by more people of good conscience and loving hearts is certainly required.

Which comes to that ultimate question (and conundrum) that has perplexed human beings since that first night of looking up at a celestial firmament while situated upon an earthly one: How do I get there from here?

The path from simple, uncommon tolerance to freedom seems forever wrought with obstacles. And leaving one or a few of those for -- the next one -- seems never, truly, to be the best possible option.

Hence, is it actually possible that discovery of that pure, genuine path, toward -- freedom; "religious," here in particular -- lies, yet ahead?

This be my (everlasting) prayer.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."  (2 Corinthians 3:17)