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Orthodox primates speak on mission, human unity and respect for creation

By Stephen Hayes     Oct 14, 2008 in World
The primates of the Orthodox Churches, meeting recently in Istanbul, have called on Orthodox Christians to be active in mission, to promote the unity of the human race, and to care for creation.
Representatives of the local Orthodox Churches gathered from 10-12 October 2008 in the Phanar, at the invitation and under the presidency of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew.
Evangelising without proselytising
A statement issued by the primates urges Orthodox Christians to regard evangelization as the supreme duty of the Church, and went on to say that This duty must not be fulfilled in an aggressive manner, or by various forms of proselytism, but with love, humility and respect for the identity of each individual and the cultural particularity of each people. All Orthodox Churches must contribute to this missionary effort, respecting the canonical order.
Human divisions and respect for creation
Ethnic and ideological conflicts and loyalties, as well as individualism, said the primates, is not merely damaging to human unity, but to the creation as well. These divisions led to an unjust division of the goods of creation, they deprive billions of people of basic goods and lead to the misery for the human person; they cause mass population migration, kindle nationalistic, religious and social discrimination and conflict, threatening traditional internal societal coherence. These consequences are still more abhorrent because they are inextricably linked with the destruction of the natural environment and the entire ecosystem.
Orthodox Christians share responsibility for the contemporary crisis of this planet with other people, whether they are people of faith or not, because they have tolerated and indiscriminately compromised on extreme human choices, without credibly challenging these choices with the word of faith. Therefore, they also have a major obligation to contribute to overcoming the divisions of the world.
While the primates did not object to the idea of the secular state (separation of church and state) in principle, they believe that it is unacceptable to interpret this principle as a radical marginalization of religion from all spheres of public life.
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