The arrival of another new year unfailingly comes with a new set of challenges to face and goals to reach. Success is linked to critically reviewing past failures and making the necessary adjustments. The year 2020 promises to be important for Hellenism both in Greece and the Diaspora. Greece is attempting to strengthen its partnerships and alliances with the United States, as well as regional neighbors like Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt in order to successfully defend against growing Turkish aggression. The major reserves of hydrocarbons located in Greek and Cypriot waters offer the prospect of increased geostrategic importance and badly needed economic recovery.
Meanwhile, the Greek-American Community faces its own unique challenges. In a recent interview given by Archbishop Spyridon formerly of America to a newspaper in his native island of Rhodes, he succinctly cites the major issues facing the Church in America, which have been compounding for decades and appear today in a more acute form, requiring immediate resolution. Based on his own empirical knowledge and subsequent reflection, Archbishop Spyridon aptly outlines the problems that the current Archbishop must tackle: the continuous assimilation of the Greek element, the reduction of Greek schools, the relativization of Orthodox Christian theology, the relentless transformation of the priesthood from a vocation to a profession, and the recent unprecedented financial scandals arising in the Church.
Archbishop Elpidophoros’ success will likely depend upon not only implementing effective management practices, but far more importantly, changing the institutional and communal culture in the Archdiocese and its 500-plus parish communities. Certainly, this is no easy task and not something that can be accomplished overnight. On the other hand, the scope of such an undertaking requires amazing perseverance, a genuine spirit of self-sacrifice, and the mobilization of forces, individuals, and ‘influencers’ that may lie outside the traditional power elite running the Archdiocese and community affairs. Usually, the cultivation of a new culture results in transformation; tangible change in actions, practices, attitudes, and hierarchical prioritization of needs. Much like the new government in Greece, the start of a new year coincides with the end of the grace period that accompanies all new beginnings, and full exposure to the critical public evaluation that must always accompany established leadership.
Elsewhere, attempts to more actively involve the Greeks Diaspora in civic affairs in Greece fell far short of expectations. Greece’s new election law constitutes a major injustice to Greek citizens abroad, while introducing an objectionable “two-tier” system that relegates Diaspora Hellenes into first and second-class citizens. Despite the wiles peculiar to politicians and their continuous attempts to disenfranchise the everyday citizen, the Diaspora has nonetheless demonstrated that it can play a critical role in the affairs happening in the homeland.
The past two years saw major support being lent from the Diaspora to combat the Prespes Agreement (aka the Mistake by the Lake) signed between Athens and Skopje. The fallout from this foolish agreement offering unprecedented concessions to Greece’s onomastically challenged northern neighbor played a key role in last year’s sweeping electoral outcomes. As the new government may also soon discover, the Diaspora will not easily be placated if its legitimate patriotic concerns are not acknowledged and taken into consideration.
In an open letter of Greeks Abroad addressed and copied to the heads of state and the governments of Greece and Cyprus, members of academia and the business community issue an appeal in the face of increasing Turkish aggression to better utilize the human capital in the Diaspora. Pointing out that many Hellenes of the Diaspora have served as important benefactors to Hellenism and even given their lives in defense of the nation, as well as the fact that the number of Greeks living abroad is roughly equal to a second Greece in terms of population, they request the activation of “a multilevel mechanism that can assist the State in defending our national interests whenever necessary.”
The letter states that a “centralized, well-thought-out strategic plan, guided by national interest, is required in order to benefit our nation to the fullest extent,” which will include “academics, influential international personalities who can lobby members of government, artists, business leaders and entrepreneurs, and others whose talents can be utilized, even at the eleventh hour, to collaboratively support the work of the government.” Among the suggestions offered are retraining reserve officers and volunteers who live abroad for service in the armed forces, creating lists of professional specialties by country, establishing a secure communication platform and updating directories of associations of Greeks, philhellenes and other players to conduct effective consultation in case of urgent need for action must be accomplished, and tabbing specialists to aid in the optimization of existing global Hellenic infrastructures. (Full text: https://www.antibaro.gr/article/25580).
Just one year away from the bicentennial of the modern Greek state and the centennial of the Archdiocese of America, 2020 offers a prime opportunity for the collective meeting of the minds to celebrate successes, learn from failures, and recalibrate.
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