Pihos Introduces Religious Freedom Resolution to Support Patriarchate

By DIAMOND MENDONIDES

"The visit in Istanbul by the Roman Catholic Pope, Benedict XVL to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, was an historic event of great religious importance for the world over. It was viewed everywhere as a step towards reconciliation between the two ancient and apostolic Christian

churches I have the unfortunate responsibility of reporting the harassment that we Americans endured as we came to witness this historic meeting.


Representative Sandra M. Pihos

"... Turkish authorities took concrete steps to disrupt the smooth operation of the Papal visit. They attacked the press office of the Holy See/Ecumenical Patriarchate, harassed volunteer staff and paid vendors, and disrupted media coverage. Most alarming of all, they restricted Orthodox Christians' access to their church, making entrance to services and free movement in worship difficult and, for many, impossible. .. .Members of the Order of St. Andrew have acquired a new understanding of Turkey's marginalizing and unfair treatment of Christians. " From the December 19, 2006 letter to the US Ambassador to Turkey from Anthony Limberakis, National Commander, Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


In response to this, and many other actions against the Patriarchate and Christians by the Turkish government, the Archons have launched the State Religious Freedom Resolution Initiative. The goal is to have the house and senate in every state pass a resolution urging Turkey to uphold the religious and human rights of the Patriarchate and Christian population. Once passed, these resolutions will be forwarded to the President and members of Congress in an effort to encourage the administration and Congress to act on this issue.

In Illinois, the United Hellenic American Congress assumed the responsibility of moving these resolutions forward. Working closely with Representative Sandra M. Pihos, the only Greek American state legislator in Illinois, UHAC was able to have a resolution drafted that met the requests of the Archons. Representative Pihos introduced the resolution, HR0666, and she worked with UHAC to line up enough co-sponsors to bring it to a vote this month. Because of her efforts and those of many Orthodox Christians who contacted their state representatives, HR0666 was passed out of the House Executive Committee on October 3 and passed the full House on October 4, 2007. As word got out about the resolution, others worked to block it. Due to the diligent efforts of Representative Pihos, UHAC and many Orthodox Christians, the Religious Freedom Resolution passed. UHAC, for itself and on behalf of the Archons, thanks Representative Pihos and those who called and wrote to their state representatives.

If Sandra Pihos is your state representative, send her a thank you note. She deserves it. When she was asked to introduce this resolution she willingly agreed. It took several rounds of negotiations and Pihos' formidable negotiating skills to get the lawyers for the legislature to agree to the wording sought by the Archons and UHAC. She has worked tirelessly to move this resolution forward and get it passed.




(Posting date 15 October 2007)

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