Press Release (esphigmenou.com):
GREEK GOVERNMENT CONTINUES PERSECUTION OF ESPHIGMENOU MONKS – MOVES TO FORCE THEM OUT OF THEIR OWN MONASTERY
Call Upon our fellow Christians and International Human Rights Community to Help Defenseless Monks
THESSALONIKI, GREECE – Today Esphigmenou monastery has learned that the Greek government has ordered the 100 elderly peaceful monks to leave their remote monastery. The Esphigmenou order of monks has been continuously active in this monastery for over 1,000 years through several governing empires and national governments. The monastery is currently home to over 100 elderly monks that have lived at the monastery for more than 50 years. Last week, in a mockery of true justice usually seen in banana republics and totalitarian regimes, the Greek government ordered the monks to leave the monastery.
The Greek Government now has imminent plans to raid the monastery to seize and imprison the abbot and monks.
“We call upon the Greek government to stop this immoral and and unchristian action and to let us pray in peace as this brotherhood has for over 1,500 years,” said Abbot Methodios of Esphigmenou Monastery. “We also ask all people of goodwill to support us in our struggle for religious liberty, and to allow our over 100 brothers to live our lives in peace and in prayerful contemplation, rather than under constant threat by the government.”
The Esphigmenou monastery has been involved in a long-running dispute with the Greek government, which has tried to evict the peaceful monks from their monastery home. The Greek government has gone so far as to impose a barbaric blockade of food, water, medical supplies and even doctors in an effort to starve the monks out of their home of 1,500 years. Greece has been cited for its actions against the monks in the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.
In a failed 2014 raid the government attempted on the peaceful monastery, the government used a steel bulldozer in order to flatten a door, behind which several monks were seeking shelter. The defenseless monks were nearly crushed to death by that government operated bulldozer. After public outcry from these tactics in 2014, the government had until now not attempted to violently remove the monks from their own monastery.
“The Greek government has committed despicable acts of aggression and violence against the peaceful Esphigmenou monks, and these actions must cease immediately,” said John Rigas of Friends of Esphigmenou. The government has threatened to imprison the monks for continuing to live in their own monastery “We ask the international human rights community to join us, just as the U.S. State Department has in previous years in condemning these actions. The Greek government cannot get away with persecuting its own citizens over a religious difference of opinion.”
Over 25 monks have already died while the government imposed blockade has been in place. Tomorrow’s anticipated acts of are simply the latest in the non-stop campaign of harassment and intimidation in recent years by the Greek government against the peaceful monks. The monks of Esphigmenou ask for the support and prayers of people of goodwill during this difficult time, and send their holy Blessings to all.
The dispute with the Greek government stems from a disagreement the monks have had with Patriarch Bartholomew of Istanbul, Turkey. Patriarch Bartholomew has pressured to Greek government to take action against the monks, whom he treats in a fundamentally unchristian manner. The monks have requested dialogue with him in order to resolve this dispute in a peaceful and brotherly manner, but he has refused. He has instead used the Greek government as a weapon against his fellow Orthodox Christians.
The Greek plans to transfer the monastery to others who have never had any association with Espigmenou by declaring the existing monks trespassers. The Greek Government is now poised to once again escalate the situation and employ violence by sending in armed police to imprison the monks who know no other home than this monastery.
The monks and their supporters continue to pray for peace and for cooler heads to prevail in the Greek government. “Why don’t they just leave them alone? All they want to do is to be left alone to pray in peace.” said John Rigas of Friends of Esphigmenou. “They are literally bothering no one. They are monks.”
More information can be found at www.esphigmenou.com and on Twitter @esphigmenou.