Religious Freedom Conference
I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments. Psalm 119:45
As I board the plane for our long trip home I cannot stop thinking about all of the incredible individuals I met this week and the interviews taken. It was a truly historic trip. I hope the world will have the opportunity to learn about the plight of our sacred faith through our coverage and the future things that will be done with the proceedings of the conference.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”. John 8:36
After a very busy several days the organizers, the participants and those covering the event got a chance to catch their breath. The words spoken, talks delivered and the panel discussions heard were still ringing in our ears. It almost inconceivable to me that man in this day and age still seeks to control another in ways that God never intended when HE created all things good. We need to take the time and be extremely grateful for what God had done for us and the miraculous creation of this earth that HE bestowed upon us. I believe there are many times we forget to do this even unto our own demise. We must have hope however if we are to progress.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is a Turkish institution within the framework of a sovereign nation state whose existence we respect and love (Patriarch Bartholomew). These were the words spoken today which began our deliberations. It is in this light that we gathered to do our part for the Mother Church.
Day i of 2- the BRIDGE
After breakfast we boarded our bus for an early transfer to the European Parliament to participate in the seminars and meetings.
The day began early with an advance team as we left the hotel headed to set up for the coverage of the historic event. The advance team consisted of the Archon Executive Committee, the spiritual advisor for the Archons, Fr. Alex Karloutsos, Press Officer of the GOA, Photographers and yours truly from OCN. We entered and received our Press Credentials and then went to the meeting room where we began to prepare to cover the event. You will find a large amounts of photos not only on our site but also on the official site of this event at http://www.archons.org/conference/. Still photos for this day supplied by Dimitrios Panagos.
This first of its kind International Conference will begin tomorrow. It has been inspired by the ground breaking and international ministry of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As the preminent interfaith bridge builder in the world today His All Holiness has brought a spirit of mutual respect and peacemaking to the interreligious arena, through the multifaith gathering he has sponsored throughout his two decade Patriarchy. His All Holiness has challenged the assumptions about the so-called clash of civilizations, and has imbued cross cultural exchange with irenic and substantive dialogue. This conference is dedicated to His All Holiness.
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It is an honor for OCN to be covering the International Archon’s Religious Freedom Conference. Personally I have never been to Brussels which is considered by many the capital of Europe. The Kingdom of Belgium is full of history and I will attempt to cover some of that during my visit. But we are here for something more than a history lesson. We are here to make a statement! We are here to come to the aid of all religious minorities that struggle to worship and live in the country of Turkey.
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Father Chris has made it to the Religious Freedom Conference in Brussels, and shares this initial report via video:
OCN to offer on site coverage of this historic event. Stay tuned starting Nov 14, 2010.
NEW YORK – The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, will hold an International Religious Freedom Conference entitled “Religious Freedom: Turkey's Bridge to the European Union,” on November 16-17, 2010 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
The two-day conference will bring together scholars, religious freedom and human rights advocates, journalists, diplomats, parliamentarians, religious leaders, representatives of the Government of Turkey, lawyers and members of minority communities that will focus on religious freedom. Speakers will analyze issues of religious freedom confronting the religious minorities in Turkey and propose answers.
“Religious freedom constitutes a most valuable gift from God, since it affects directly and substantively our relationship with Him. It is the open way of communication with our Creator. Therefore, a conference dedicated to religious freedom becomes a bridge between humanity and God and by extension a bridge connecting people, nations, cultures and religions,” said Archbishop Demetrios talking about the upcoming conference.
The conference is sponsored by the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America and the Pammakaristos Brotherhood of Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Europe, in cooperation with the Patriarchal Liaison Office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union.
Archbishop Demetrios of America will offer an introductory address at the opening dinner at the Conrad Brussels Hotel, the evening of Monday Nov. 15. The Conference will be held in the European Parliament and will begin Tuesday, November 16. Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew will welcome the participants along with Rodi Kratsa Tsagaropoulou, vice-president of the European Parliament. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, director of the Liaison Office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union will read the Patriarchal Exhortation, and Archbishop Demetrios will follow him with the keynote address.
Additionally, the list of the distinguished speakers includes: Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Armenian Church, Archbishop of the Armenians in Turkey – Mustafa Akyol, Journalist and Political Commentator – Egemen Bagis, Turkish Government, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator – Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Lawyer, Human Rights Defender, and News Paper Columnist – Cole Durham, BYU Law School, Susan Young Gates University Professor of Law and Director, International Center for Law and Religious Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School – Steven Ealy, Senior Fellow, Liberty Fund – Dilek Kurban, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, Program Officer Democratization Program, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation – Mario Mauro, Member of the European Parliament, Italy – Johny Messo, Syriac Universal Alliance, President – Claudio Monge, DoSt-I (Dominican Study- Institute) – Muna B. Ndulo, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Director of Cornell's Institute for African Development, Human Rights Advocate and Humanitarian – Otmar Oehring, Director, Human Rights Office, Missio Society – Emre Oktem, Professor, Galatasaray University – Pietr Omtzigt, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe – Jaime Mayor Oreja, Member of the European Parliament, Spain – Elizabeth Prodromou, Vice Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom – Patrick Gregor Puppinck, Director, European Center of Law of Justice – George Rockas, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – Bican Sahin, Assistant Professor, Hacettepe University, and President of Association of Liberal Thinking – Odysseus F. Sassayiannis, Administrateur, EFG Bank (Monaco) – Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation – Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice, Washington, D.C. and to the European Center for Law and Justice, Strasbourg, France – James J. Silk, Lawyer, Human Rights Defender – Renate Sommer, Member of the European Parliament, Germany – Konrad Szymanski, Member of the European Parliament, Poland – Rodi Kratsa Tsagaropoulou, Vice President of the European Parliament – Riza Turmen, Former Judge, European Court of Human Rights – Lakis Vingas, Representative of the Minority Foundations at the General Directorate of Foundations Assembly – Angela Wu, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, International Law Director, Washington, D.C. and – Mine Yildirim, Researcher at the Institute for Human Rights at Åbo Akademi University.