In 1967, following two decades of progressively harsher persecution of religion under communist rule, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha triumphantly declared his nation to be the first atheist state in history. Hoxha, inspired by China's Cultural revolution, proceeded to confiscate mosques, churches, monasteries, and shrines. Many were immediately razed, others turned into machine shops, warehouses, stables, and movie theaters. Parents were forbidden to give their children religious names. Anyone caught with bibles, icons, or religious objects faced long prison sentences. In the south, where the ethnic Greek population was concentrated, villages named after saints were given secular names. For the religious, a long nightmare of persecution and martyrdom was to follow.
Legislation to urge the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate26. August 2008 - 12:23
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation to urge the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Christian Church, in accordance with criteria necessary to join the European Union. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the leading figure in the Orthodox Church and has suffered from discriminatory treatment from the Turkish government.
"For a government to treat a revered religious institution and leader in such a discriminatory manner is an affront to human and religious rights and shows disrespect to the hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians," said Senator Menendez. "There must be fairness and freedom when it comes to the Turkish government's treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As Turkey appeals to the European Union for membership, I would expect its treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be a prime topic that must be addressed."
The Russian and Georgian Churches agrees to cure effects of military operations in South Ossetia jointly20. August 2008 - 13:58
The Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches declared their common peacemaking position and readiness to cooperate in this field.
Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia had a phone talk with chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) distributed emergency food and hygiene supplies to people who were displaced due to the conflict between Georgian, Russian, and South Ossetian forces. The distribution took place on Thursday in Tbilisi where displaced families took shelter in a school for the blind and in the nearby town of Tskvarichamia. IOCC is also coordinating assistance to refugees in North Ossetia (Russia) in partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church.
"Most people had to flee the fighting in South Ossetia and brought nothing more than the clothes on their backs," said IOCC Georgia Program Manager Darejan Dzotsenidze. The Georgian government and the U.N. are currently registering some 23,000 people who fled the conflict and poured into Tbilisi. Those numbers are expected to increase.
Ruling bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church received a circular letter from Patriarch Alexy II to arrange fundraising for victims of humanitarian catastrophe in South Ossetia. "Recently accomplished military actions in South Ossetia forced thousands of people leave their homes. According to various sources, over thirty thousands of South Ossetian residents found temporary refuge in the Russian Federation," Alexy II's letter says as cited by the Moscow Patriarchate official website.
His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II accompanied with Metropolitan Daniel (Datuashvili) of Tskhum-Abkhazia Diocese and a large group of priests and nuns left for Gori. The Catholicos Patriarch is expected to meet the local population in Gori and Nikozi, and if it is available to go to Tskhinvali as well. The Patriarchate of Georgia has been delivering humanitarian assistance through IDP's and injured population.