e-περιοδικό της Ενορίας Μπανάτου εν Ζακύνθω. Ιδιοκτήτης: Πρωτοπρεσβύτερος του Οικουμενικού Θρόνου Παναγιώτης Καποδίστριας (pakapodistrias@gmail.com), υπεύθυνος Γραφείου Τύπου Ι. Μητροπόλεως Ζακύνθου. Οι δημοσιογράφοι δύνανται να αντλούν στοιχεία, αφορώντα σε εκκλησιαστικά δρώμενα της Ζακύνθου, με αναφορά του συνδέσμου των αναδημοσιευόμενων. Η πνευματική ιδιοκτησία προστατεύεται από τον νόμο 2121/1993 και την Διεθνή Σύμβαση της Βέρνης, κυρωμένη από τον νόμο 100/1975.

ТОМОС ПРО АВТОКЕФАЛІЮ

Τα νεότερα στα θεματικά ένθετα

Τετάρτη, 21 Νοεμβρίου 2018

Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης ανάμεσα σε παιδιά, ομιλώντας για τα δίκαιά τους, στο Οικουμενικό Κέντρο Γενεύης




Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης: Τα παιδιά είναι τα πρώτα που επηρεάζονται από πολέμους, συγκρούσεις, την κλιματική αλλαγή και τη φτώχεια 

Ομιλία σε κοινή εκδήλωση του Παγκοσμίου Συμβουλίου Εκκλησιών(ΠΣΕ) και της UNICEF στη Γενεύη 

Μήνυμα προς κάθε κατεύθυνση για την ανάγκη προστασίας των παιδιών και διαφύλαξης της παιδικής ηλικίας έστειλε ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης Βαρθολομαίος, κατά τη διάρκεια ομιλίας του, σε εκδήλωση αφιερωμένη στην Παγκόσμια Ημέρα του Παιδιού, που πραγματοποιήθηκε την Τετάρτη, 21 Νοεμβρίου, με πρωτοβουλία του Παγκοσμίου Συμβουλίου Εκκλησιών, στην Έδρα του στη Γενεύη, σε συνεργασία με την UNICEF. Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης ήταν ο κεντρικός ομιλητής της ημερίδας, όπου παρέστησαν προσωπικότητες από όλο τον κόσμο και εντάσσεται στο πλαίσιο των εκδηλώσεων για τα 70 χρόνια από την ίδρυση του ΠΣΕ, στην οποία το Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο συνέβαλε καθοριστικά. 

«Αυτή τη στιγμή, το βλέμμα μας δεν στρέφεται στο κοινό μας παρελθόν, μα στο κοινό μας μέλλον: στα παιδιά μας. Είναι σημαντικό να έχουμε στη σκέψη μας ότι τα παιδιά δεν αποτελούν το κοινό μας μέλλον, αλλά είναι για την ακρίβεια το παρόν επί του οποίου οικοδομείται το μέλλον», σημείωσε ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης, και σε άλλο σημείο της ομιλίας του, που πραγματοποίησε στην αγγλική γλώσσα, μεταξύ άλλων, τόνισε: «Η προστασία των παιδιών από κάθε είδους βία ήταν, είναι και θα πρέπει να παραμείνει ουσιαστικό μήνυμα του Χριστιανισμού. Για τον λόγο αυτό οι Χριστιανοί καλούνται να προστατεύουν τα παιδιά τόσο στην Κοινωνία όσο και στο εσωτερικό των κοινοτήτων τους». Εξέφρασε δε, την ικανοποίηση του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου για τη συνεργασία ανάμεσα στη UNICEF και το Παγκόσμιο Συμβούλιο Εκκλησιών προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση. 

«Ενθαρρύναμε τις Εκκλησίες να προστατεύσουν τα παιδιά από τη μάστιγα της πείνας, της καταναγκαστικής εργασίας και της θνησιμότητας, από την κακοποίηση και την ψυχολογική βία, καθώς επίσης και από τους κινδύνους που ελλοχεύουν στη χωρίς όρια έκθεσή τους στα σύγχρονα ηλεκτρονικά μέσα επικοινωνίας, τα οποία μπορούν να επιδράσουν αρνητικά στην ψυχή και τη συμπεριφορά τους», είπε ο Παναγιώτατος, και υπενθύμισε την έκκληση που είχε απευθύνει, με το Χριστουγεννιάτικο Μήνυμά του, το 2016, προς όλους τους πιστούς και προς κάθε άνθρωπο καλής θελήσεως, να σέβονται την ταυτότητα και την ιερότητα της παιδικής ηλικίας. Στο πλαίσιο αυτό, συνέχισε, το Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο αφιέρωσε το Έτος 2017, στην «Προστασία της Ιερότητας της παιδικής ηλικίας». 

«Σήμερα, και πάλι βρισκόμαστε αντιμέτωποι με πολλές άλλες καταστάσεις που επηρεάζουν τα παιδιά. Οι εντυπωσιακές εξελίξεις που έχουν επιτευχθεί στον τομέα της τεχνολογίας και της επικοινωνίας αποτελούν μια σημαντική απειλή κατά της αξιοπρέπειας της παιδικής ηλικίας, με τους υπολογιστές και το διαδίκτυο να κυριαρχούν σε κάθε πτυχή της ιδιωτικής και κοινωνικής ζωής. Συνέπεια αυτής της αλλαγής είναι η λεγόμενη «απώλεια της παιδικής ηλικίας», ή απώλεια της αθωότητας των παιδιών και η πρόωρη ενηλικίωσή τους. Τα παιδιά, πράγματι, μεγαλώνουν πάρα πολύ γρήγορα, και η επίδραση που οι γονείς και η ευρύτερη οικογένεια έχουν στη διαμόρφωση του χαρακτήρα τους αποδυναμώνεται όταν το διαδίκτυο λειτουργεί σαν πρωτογενής πηγή αξιών σε παγκόσμια κλίμακα», είπε ο Παναγιώτατος, και επεσήμανε ότι μια ηλεκτρονική συσκευή δεν δύναται να αποτελέσει υποκατάστατο της σχέσης που αναπτύσσει το παιδί με τους γονείς, με τους δασκάλους ή με οποιοδήποτε άτομο που έχει την καθημερινή του φροντίδα, αλλά ούτε και να ικανοποιήσει τη ζωτική ανάγκη του για φυσική δραστηριότητα και προσωπική επικοινωνία. 

«Ενώ κατά τον προηγούμενο αιώνα, τον “αιώνα των παιδιών και της εκπαίδευσης”, η ανθρωπότητα εστίασε τις προσπάθειές της στην προστασία και διαφύλαξη της παιδικής ηλικίας, σήμερα μειώνουμε τη διάρκεια της παιδικής ηλικίας μέσω της “οπτικής και ψηφιακής επανάστασης” του διαδικτύου, της τηλεόρασης, και των λεγόμενων smartphones και των tablets. Αυτό σημαίνει ότι η δύναμη της αγωγής και ο χρόνος κατά τον οποίο μπορούμε να διαπαιδαγωγήσουμε τα παιδιά μας συρρικνώνεται», τόνισε, και αναφέρθηκε ιδιαιτέρως στην κυριαρχία της οικονομίας και της κουλτούρας του καταναλωτισμού. Ως αποτέλεσμα, σημείωσε ο Πατριάρχης, σήμερα τα παιδιά αντιμετωπίζονται σαν «καταναλωτικές μονάδες» και σαν «αγορές» και παράλληλα η παιδική ηλικία μεταμορφώνεται σε μια «οικονομική κατηγορία». 

Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης έδωσε ιδιαίτερη έμφαση στις συνέπειες της Παγκοσμιοποίησης, στην κλιματική αλλαγή και στις σύγχρονες μεταναστευτικές ροές, που επηρεάζουν σε σημαντικό βαθμό τα παιδιά, τα οποία αποτελούν το πιο ευάλωτο τμήμα κάθε κοινωνίας. Ιδιαίτερη αναφορά έκανε σε εκείνα τα παιδιά που ζουν σε καταστάσεις πολέμων και συγκρούσεων, που βιώνουν την προσφυγιά και τη μετανάστευση, αλλά και τα επακόλουθα της γενικότερης οικολογικής καταστροφής. «Κατά τα έτη 2015 και 2016, τριακόσιες χιλιάδες παιδιά σε όλο τον κόσμο βρέθηκαν σε μεταναστευτική κατάσταση χωρίς να συνοδεύονται από κανένα ενήλικο μέλος των οικογενειών τους. Αυτός ο αριθμός ήταν κατά πέντε φορές μεγαλύτερος από τα αντίστοιχα στατιστικά δεδομένα της διετίας 2010-2011. Αυτά τα παιδιά κάνουν επικίνδυνες διαδρομές προκειμένου να φτάσουν στον προορισμό τους, όπως μέσω του Αιγαίου και της κεντρικής Μεσογείου, συχνά χωρισμένα από τις οικογένειες τους, στην προσπάθειά τους να ξεφύγουν από καταστάσεις βίας, φτώχειας ή από τις συνέπειες οικολογικών καταστροφών». 

Ο Παναγιώτατος υπενθύμισε την επίσκεψη που είχαν κάνει μαζί με τον Πάπα Ρώμης Φραγκίσκο και τον Αρχιεπίσκοπο Αθηνών Ιερώνυμο στον προσφυγικό καταυλισμό της Μόρια και αναφέρθηκε στην κοινή έκκληση τους, πως «η Μεσόγειος δεν θα πρέπει να είναι ένας τάφος. Είναι ένα μέρος ζωής, ένα σταυροδρόμι πολιτισμών, ένα μέρος συνάντησης και διαλόγου». Σημείωσε, ότι το μεταναστευτικό, το προσφυγικό και το ζήτημα της κλιματικής αλλαγής συνδέονται στενά μεταξύ τους και θα συνεχίσουν να αποτελούν τις μεγαλύτερες προκλήσεις τις οποίες καλείται να αντιμετωπίσει η ανθρωπότητα τα επόμενα χρόνια. «Για τον λόγο αυτό οι Εκκλησίες μας οφείλουν να λάβουν πρωτοβουλίες που θα προωθήσουν την προστασία του περιβάλλοντος και κατά συνέπεια τον χώρο όπου ζουν τα παιδιά μας». 

Ολοκληρώνοντας την ομιλία του ο Πατριάρχης Βαρθολομαίος εξέφρασε τη θερμή υποστήριξή του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου στις σχετικές πρωτοβουλίες του ΠΣΕ, μεταξύ των οποίων και η «Πολιτική Προστασίας των Παιδιών» που υιοθέτησε πρόσφατα, καθώς επίσης και στις δράσεις της UNICEF. «Τα παιδιά μετανάστες είναι συνήθως τα πρώτα που επηρεάζονται από πολέμους, συγκρούσεις, την κλιματική αλλαγή και τη φτώχεια. Οι Εκκλησίες μας έχουν από κοινού την ευθύνη προστασίας τους», είπε, και επεσήμανε ότι η Ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία υπερασπίζεται τα δικαιώματα των παιδιών και εργάζεται για την προώθηση της προστασίας της προσωπικότητας και της αξιοπρέπειάς τους. 

Τον Οικουμενικό Πατριάρχη προσφώνησε ο Γενικός Γραμματέας του ΠΣΕ, Αιδ. Δρ.Olav Fykse Tveit, ο οποίος αναφέρθηκε στις πρωτοβουλίες του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου για την προστασία των δικαιωμάτων των παιδιών και την ευαισθητοποίηση της παγκόσμιας κοινής γνώμης. Ο Γενικός Γραμματέας του ΠΣΕ είπε ότι μπορεί ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης να είναι γνωστός ως ο «Πράσινος Πατριάρχης» αλλά για το ΠΣΕ είναι και ο «Πατριάρχης των παιδιών». Μετά την ομιλία του Παναγιωτάτου την εκδήλωση χαιρέτησε ο κ.Philipe Cori, εκπρόσωπος της UNICEF. 

Αμέσως μετά, στο παρεκκλήσιο που βρίσκεται στο κεντρικό κτήριο του ΠΣΕ, ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης συναντήθηκε με τα περίπου 80 παιδιά που φοιτούν στο Ελληνικό Δημοτικό Σχολείο Γενεύης-Λωζάννης, στα οποία μίλησε πατρικώς χωρίς να παραλείψει να αναφερθεί στον πλούτο και την αξία της ελληνικής γλώσσας, ευλόγησε τα ίδια και τους γονείς τους, τους μοίρασε σοκολάτες και έβγαλαν μαζί αναμνηστικές φωτογραφίες. 

Στη συνέχεια μαζί με τα παιδιά και τους συνέδρους παρακολούθησαν παράσταση κουκλοθεάτρου με θέμα το νόημα της συνεργασίας των χριστιανών στα πλαίσια του ΠΣΕ, για το καλό των παιδιών και ολόκληρου του κόσμου.

Από το Γραφείο Τύπου του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου 



21 November 2018

Protecting children from any kind of violence has always been and should remain an essential message of Christianity, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has told a gathering at the World Council of Churches (WCC) for World Children’s Day.

The patriarch was the keynote speaker at an event involving the WCC and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on 21 November for World Children’s Day at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, a gathering in which young people had a key input.

“It is important to bear in mind that children do not only represent our future but that they are in fact the present upon which the future is being built,” said Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople said his church was one of the founding members of the WCC and the council’s general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, welcoming Bartholomew, noted that in his 2016 Christmas message, he appealed to all the faithful around the word “to respect the identity and sacredness of childhood”.

The patriarch called for inter-generational justice and support to children on the move as spiritual responsibility in his message from the Orthodox Church noting a “surrender of culture to technology” in the world.

“Christians are called to protect children both in society and within their own communities,” said Bartholomew, and that he was “particularly pleased” with the collaboration established between UNICEF and the WCC on the Churches’ Commitments to Children.

He urged the churches to “undertake initiatives that promote the protection of the environment and subsequently, our children”.

Growth and development

Bartholomew said, “The ecological crisis is constantly escalating in the name of growth and development.” He said, “Humanity remains oblivious to the global appeals for radical change in our attitudes toward creation.”

Tveit said that Bartholomew is known worldwide as the “Green Patriarch”.

“Today we recognize you, too, as a pioneer in another urgent field: our churches’ responsibility to protect and support children, to defend their rights and care for their well-being,” said the WCC general secretary.

“Today, together with UNICEF, we make an important step in trying to open up new avenues and possibilities for Churches’ Commitments to Children,” said Tveit.

Both the Ecumenical Patriarch and the WCC general secretary signed a petition for renewed commitments to child rights.

Philippe Cori, deputy director for UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia observed that 29 years ago the Convention on the Rights of the Child was submitted recognising specific rights for children.

“This is the most ratified UN convention and brings together the best interests of the child and is core to the dignity, along with the right education,” said Cori.

He said, “Half of the world is children and half of the refugees of the world are children and when they are on the move they are trafficked,” many of them fleeing their countries due to violence, climate change, famine and droughts.

Jonathan Anugrahan, age 14 from the Church of South India and 18-year-old Laura Groth from the  Protestant School in Eisenach, Germany, a member of the Global Pedagogical Network, spoke of their school experiences. Groth asked Anugrahan if the big classes in India of 60 to 100 students contributed to violence at the schools.

The celebration, one day after UN Children’s Day was part of the WCC’s 70-year anniversary with Bartholomew and Tveit saying that “every day is a day for children”.

Bartholomew noted current challenges facing children include sectors of technology and communication with the computer and the internet dominating every aspect of individual and social life.

“Some of the consequences of this change include the so-called ‘disappearance of childhood’, the loss of the innocence of children and an early induction into adulthood,” he said.

Children vulnerable to climate change

“Children are especially vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation,” said the patriarch, but 14-year-old Swiss student Anouk Walliser Keel spoke of how “people like me and you, ordinary parishioners” can work for climate justice.

She said she began her first fund-raising for an environmental campaign with a friend at the age of nine.

“Maybe you are wondering why I, a 14-year-old girl am doing a presentation on environmental protection and the church….I believe I can achieve something. This community is the church…The church is the link between the small me and the bigger world.”

Kiran Oommen, a 21-year-old student, is a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), USA, which is backing a case he and 21 young people made against the U.S. federal government accusing it of making young people disproportionately affected by climate change.

“There is the responsibility to protect our rights to a stable future,” said Oommen explaining that, “In the UCC social justice is a core tenet of what it means to be church.”

Antonia Antonopoulos, head of Civil Society Partnerships at UNICEF, speaking on moving the Churches Commitments to Children’s agenda forward said, “We can always count on the commitment of the WCC when we need it.


She praised, the “powerful and very real testimonies from children today”.















KEYNOTE ADDRESS
By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
At the World Children’s Day Celebratory Event
(Geneva, Ecumenical Center, November 21, 2018)

It is with great joy that this year, we once again visit the headquarters of the World Council of Churches during the festive celebrations of its 70th anniversary. At this moment, our eyes are turned not to our common past, but toward our common future: our children. It is important to bear in mind that children do not only represent our future, but that they are in fact the present upon which the future is being built. It is not by chance that in the Gospel, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ presents children and childhood as an existence open to God—the key to enter His Kingdom. Jesus Christ said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) Elsewhere, He even stated, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

It is extremely sad to see that in today’s world, children are being abused or threatened—sometimes even in our own Church communities. Protecting children from any kind of violence has always been and should remain an essential message of Christianity. Therefore, Christians are called to protect children both in society and within their own communities. This is why the Ecumenical Patriarchate is particularly pleased with the collaboration established between UNICEF and the WCC on the Churches’ Commitments to Children. In fact, just before this program of the WCC was launched, we called upon our spiritual children and people of goodwill in our Christmas encyclical in December 2016 to respect the identity and sacredness of childhood. We encouraged Churches to protect children from the plague of mortality, hunger and enforced labor; abuse and psychological violence; as well as the dangers of uncontrolled exposure to contemporary electronic means of communication, which can negatively affect their souls and their behavior.

In 2017, the year that we declared as the Year of Protection of the Sacredness of Childhood, we organized in collaboration with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Primate of All England, a Forum on Modern Slavery that took place in Istanbul. Knowing that children are among the primary victims of human trafficking, we stressed on this occasion that “true faith is a source of permanent struggle against the powers of inhumanity.” Together with the Church of England, we encouraged state leaders to “find appropriate and effective ways of prosecuting those involved in human trafficking, preventing all forms of modern-day slavery, and protecting its victims in our communities and promoting hope wherever people are exploited.” Afterward, a second Forum on Modern Slavery entitled “Old Problems in the New World” took place in Buenos Aires from May 5-8, 2018, and included video messages offered by our Modesty, as well as by our brothers Pope Francis of Rome and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury. We have also announced plans to convene a third Forum on Modern Slavery, with the theme “Awareness, Action and Impact,” which is scheduled for early January 2019 in Istanbul, in order to further address this global scourge that traps millions of people to lives of suffering, injustice and humiliation.

Today, we also face many other challenges that affect children. The impressive developments that have been achieved in the sectors of technology and communication constitute a serious threat against the dignity of childhood, with the computer and the Internet dominating every aspect of individual and social life. Some of the consequences of this change include the so-called “disappearance of childhood,” the loss of the innocence of children and an early induction into adulthood. Children are, indeed, growing up very quickly, and the impact that parents and family have on their formation is weakened when the Internet functions as a primary source of values on a global scale. An electronic device is not a suitable replacement for a babysitter, nor can it ever be a good father, mother or teacher. A child sitting in front of a computer screen is incompatible with its vital need for physical activity and personal communication. While humanity has labored for the protection and preservation of childhood in the last century, the “century of the child” and the “century of education,” we are shortening the span of childhood through the “optical” and “digital” revolution of the Internet, television, smartphones and tablets. That means that the power of formation and the space where we can educate children is shrinking. It has been rightly noted that mankind has begun to forget again that children need an authentic “childhood experience.”

All of these problems, created through “the surrender of culture to technology,” are intensified by the dominance of economism, the “fundamentalism of the market” and the “deification of profit,” and subjugate the souls of children to the “attitude of having,” as well as to materialism and utilitarianism. In our societies, children are transformed from a very early age into consumers. They are forced to adopt a competitive lifestyle, to regard economic criteria as supreme values, and to identify happiness and freedom with possession and with the satisfaction of their ever-growing needs. Children today are treated purely as “markets” and “consumeristic units,” and childhood is thereby transformed into an “economic category.”

In addition to these ever-increasing problems, we face other issues that are intrinsically linked with globalization and the consequences of technology, such as immigration and climate change, which affect children to a great extent. In fact, children are among the most vulnerable with regard to these problems. Every day, we witness images of children in war zones, as refugees and immigrants without protection, and as victims of famine caused by ecological disasters and climate change. In 2015 and 2016, three-hundred thousand children across the globe were in migratory situations with no adults to accompany them. This is five times larger than the same statistic in 2010 and 2011. These children and young people traverse dangerous paths to reach their destination, such as routes through the Aegean and the central Mediterranean, and are often separated from their families, fleeing from violence, misery, poverty or catastrophes related to ecological disasters. Consequently, they find themselves at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers who abuse and mistreat them.

We are cognizant of the intensifying immigrant and refugee crisis that is challenging our humanistic, moral and religious principles. Obviously, these immense problems cannot be addressed with bureaucratic, administrative, temporary or technocratic measures and principles. Courage, engagement, solidarity, openness and faith are required. We must act more decisively, more rapidly, more collaboratively and more effectively against this challenging situation.

In 2016, we traveled with our brothers, Pope Francis of Rome and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, to the Lesbos Moria refugee camp, which at that time was home to some 2,500 refugees, many of which were children and youth. In fact, our visit was organized at a time when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced that more than 22,000 refugee children were stuck in Greece facing an uncertain future. At that time, we stated that “the Mediterranean Sea should not be a tomb. It is a place of life, a crossroad of cultures and civilizations, a place of exchange and dialogue.” We then promised that “we shall never forget [them]. We shall never stop speaking for [them]. And we assure [them] that we will do everything to open the eyes and hearts of the world.”

Environmental immigration is an increasingly intense type of immigration that produce a multitude of ecological refugees, the so-called climate change refugees, or environmentally displaced persons. These are people who are forced to leave their homes due to sudden or long-term climate changes in their local environment. Climate refugees may choose to flee or immigrate to another country, or they may migrate internally within their own region.

Children are especially vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation. When water becomes scarce because of drought, the poorest children and families are most likely to resort to unsafe water sources. As we have repeatedly affirmed, we endorse and are committed to various international agreements that recognize environmental resources as God’s gift to the world, and not as private property to be exploited. Moreover, their sustainability and stewardship demand a proportionate legal and canonical obligation, which cannot be undermined or ignored. Any abuse of our earth’s resources—and, above all, of water as the source and symbol of life and renewal—contradicts our sacred and social obligation to other people, and especially to those who live in poverty and in the margins of society. Water is a fundamental good, which must be accessible for all people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or any other aspect of discrimination.

In 1989, the Ecumenical Patriarchate designated the first day of the ecclesiastical year, September 1st, to be the day of the protection of the natural environment. Continuing in this spirit, a year ago, we co-signed a declaration with Pope Francis to affirm “that there can be no enduring resolution to climate change unless the response is concerted and collective.” Still, even as so many recognize climate change as arguably the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced, there is much resistance to any call for change. Even when presented with unprecedented glacial melting, extreme weather patterns and devastating impacts on world poverty, some continue to ignore the signs of our times.

The issues of immigration, refugees and climate change are closely linked and will remain the biggest global challenges that our world will have to face in the coming years. It is estimated that 500 million children live in flood-prone areas, 160 million children are exposed to severe drought, and 115 million children are exposed to tropical cyclones. Other statistics show that every year, environmental risks take the lives of 1.7 million children under the age of five. Therefore, climate change serves as a primary cause of child immigration, and in turn, represents a serious threat to their lives.

Therefore, our Churches must undertake initiatives that promote the protection of the environment and subsequently, our children. For this reason, on many different occasions, we have expressed our dismay that, while it is clear that the ecological crisis is constantly escalating in the name of growth and development, humanity remains oblivious to the global appeals for radical change in our attitudes toward creation. As stated by the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which convened on the island of Crete in June 2016, “the approach to the ecological problem on the basis of the principles of the Christian tradition demands (…) a radical change in mentality and behavior, but also asceticism as an antidote to consumerism, the deification of needs and the acquisitive attitude. It also presupposes our greatest responsibility to hand down a viable natural environment to future generations and to use it according to divine will and blessing.” (Encyclical, §14)

As one of the founding member Churches of the WCC, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was pleased with the approval of the “Child Safeguarding Policy” during the Central Committee meeting last June. This document calls WCC member Churches to promote child protection in our Church communities, preventing children from experiencing violence. Christian communities should be places of refuge for children in distress, similar to how Egypt was a land of refuge for the infant Child escaping the cruelty of Herod. (Matthew 2:13–21)

We also stand together with UNICEF in the promotion of its new initiative “Children on the Move.” As previously mentioned, migratory children are often the first to be affected by war, conflict, climate change and poverty. Their protection is the shared responsibility of our Churches. As underscored in another significant document of the Holy and Great Council concerning the mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world, “the Church cannot remain indifferent to the problems of humanity in each period. […] The word addressed to the world is not primarily meant to judge and condemn the world (cf. John 3:17; 12:47), but rather to offer to the world the guidance of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God—namely, the hope and assurance that evil, no matter its form, does not have the last word in history and must not be allowed to dictate its course.” (The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World, Prologue). So, we thank and congratulate all those who engage in initiatives supporting the protection of children and efforts relating to inter-generational climate justice.

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In its preamble, this document calls human rights the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” whereas article 25 (par. 2) refers to the protection of motherhood and childhood: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.” Moreover, next year, we will celebrate two equally important anniversaries for the protection of child rights and childhood: the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, as well as the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For Orthodox Christianity, the highest ethos is the renouncement of our individual rights in the name of love (ἀγάπη)—for the sake of the protection of the rights of the other. Consequently, we defend the rights of children and promote the protection of their integrity. We strive to uphold their dignity in the digital space, to eradicate their abuse and exploitation, together with all forms of violence and discrimination. It is clear that our ecological initiatives against climate change are in and of themselves an expression of our care for children and future generations.

Christian faith inspires and strengthens our commitment for dignity, justice and solidarity. It supports our effort, even if it seems to be at an impasse. Indeed, faithful can be, and they have to be, more humanists than the mere humanists. Then, the struggle for the protection of human dignity will not be just a moral appeal, but a supreme commandment of the God of love.

In this spirit, we declare: Every day, not only one day of the year—such as yesterday, when we celebrated the World Children’s Day”—is a day for children. Every year—and not just 2017—is a year for the protection of the sacredness of childhood. The eyes of all children are brighter than the sun, and their souls are purer than light. They never bear a mask—they are full of confidence and cordial wisdom. For us Orthodox Christians, the most frequently encountered and impressive holy icon is that of Jesus Christ as a child—a true child and a true God—embraced by His All-Holy Mother. Dear friends, in Christian Faith, God Himself assumed flesh as an infant and called us to become “like children,” so that we may be deemed worthy to become gods by Grace.

Thank you for your kind attention!









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