Greeks in Diaspora
The Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa at the side of the African people and the Greeks of the Diaspora
by Spiros Kouzinopoulos
Director of the Macedonian Press Agency
Translation of an interview published in "Patrida", the Newspaper of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria - 15th February 1999
The achievements of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa in the African continent are astounding. Proof of this is the fact that the number of Orthodox faithful is constantly growing, particularly amongst the indigenous population, many of whom, in order to attend the nearest Orthodox church, are obliged to walk great distances, in pouring rain or under the blazing sun, in the most unfavorable political and climatic conditions.
In the two years since His Beatitude took up the reins of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, but also in His previous posts in various African countries, H.B. Petros VII has made an admirable contribution not only to Orthodoxy, but also to Hellenism abroad. From the outset, His Beatitude was a supporter of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), of which He is still a member today. Speaking with the Macedonian Press Agency, H.B. Petros expressed His confidence in the ability of SAE to help Greeks abroad to remain united, both amongst themselves and with their homeland, Greece: "As a body, Greeks abroad can take an active part in solving problems at home. This is why we need SAE and should continue to provide our support."
H.B. Petros went on to comment that SAE, and generally Hellenism, gain from improved mutual understanding between Greeks abroad. This also helps Greece herself to see Hellenism abroad more clearly and to be more aware of areas in which the Greeks of the Diaspora can be helped, and how they in turn can help Greece: "One of the topics with which SAE is concerned at the moment is that of education. If we at home do not listen to the concerns of Greeks abroad we will not be able to respond to the needs of our children, the Church and Hellenism. While, if we abroad do not know how Greece can help us, we cannot take advantage of that help. On the other hand, if Hellenes abroad are ignorant of domestic problems, they cannot offer support to Greece through their contacts in the countries in which they live. Greeks abroad may even contribute to solving some of Greece’s economic problems. It follows that there must be mutual understanding between Hellenes abroad and Greece."
In response to a question concerning the future of Hellenism, His Beatitude stressed: "Hellenism abroad remains faithful to the homeland. Even if there are only ten Greek families remaining, they continue to maintain ties with Greece. I believe that Greeks in the various countries in which they live, with the appropriate support from Greece herself, will remain faithfully by her side. But we must realize the problems of fourth and fifth generation Greeks in America, or Australia, for example, who in the main have been assimilated into the local culture. For them the great problem is language. We can, however, communicate our message in the language, which is spoken by these Greeks abroad - in Africa, for example, in English. We can try to get our message across in this language and in so doing we will ensure that the new generation remains both Orthodox and Greek. It is indeed a blessing to speak Greek, and we will strive to teach our language. It is up to us - but in order to confront the situation, which exists today and to make a positive contribution, we are obliged to teach in the language, which is spoken rather than to allow our youngsters to be drift away. If we do not follow this line, they will seek other Churches, turning to the Protestant Churches in general, and will slowly become estranged from the Greek culture, as will their children. This is why," concludes His Beatitude, "it is our duty to show understanding, as a Church abroad, to understand the Greeks abroad, our flock, and to make every effort to assist them to remain close to their roots."