OCA Holy Synod members share human rights concerns with US congressmen

WASHINGTON, DC [OCA] — A variety of issues affecting traditionally Orthodox Christian lands — among them, the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey in light of His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew’s widely acclaimed December 2009 interview on “60 Minutes”; the plight of Orthodox Christians in Kosovo and Coptic Christians in Egypt; human trafficking; and other human rights issues — were the topic of discussion between members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and a number of congressmen during a late-January 2010 meeting in the US capital.

Congressman Christopher “Chris” Smith [R-NJ] and other members of Congress welcomed His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah and other Synod members on Thursday, January 21.
The hierarchs also attended a Congressional session, at which they were introduced by Congressman Smith.

“I do want to welcome His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America, here, and his brother bishops,” Mr. Smith said in his introductory remarks. “Matthew 25 [is] where our Lord said, ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do likewise to me.’ His Beatitude Jonah lives that, as does his Church and as do, God willing, all of us. But they do it in such a superlative way, and I thank them for their example. It is awe inspiring.”

Mr. Smith chairs the House International Relations Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee, serves as vice-chair of the Committee on International Relations, and co-chairs the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the US Helsinki Commission), which works to promote and foster democracy, human rights, and stability in Eastern and Central Europe.

Among the other congressmen whom the hierarchs met were Mr. Frank Wolf of Virginia, a senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, author of the International Religious Freedom Act, and a strong voice on many human rights issues; Mr. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, chair of the House Values Action Team; Mr. Trent Franks of Arizona, chair of the Taskforce on International Religious Freedom; Mr. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Mr. Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska and Mr. Bob Inglis from South Carolina, both members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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