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1735[orthodox-synod] Feb 1 2000 - Letter to the World from Sisters Martha and Xenia

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  • Priest Seraphim Holland
    Feb 1, 2000
      [ Please note, this letter is *slightly* edited from the original, sent
      by Sister Maria under difficult conditions. A very few typographical
      errors were corrected. the edited text is at: ]

      Jan 19/Feb 1 2000 St. Macarius the Great

      Sr. Xenia and I are in our third week, our eighteenth day of self-
      imposed captivity at our Jericho monastery. Here we remain in our
      abandoned cement-floor room, paint chips falling from the ceiling,
      water seeping in the sides. No sink or shower to use, a trip to the
      outdoor toilet means passing by the Palestinian soldiers
      assembled outside our doors day and night. They predict snow
      again this weekend in Jerusalem -- more cold rain and dampness
      for us here in Jericho.

      In a bitter irony our would-be evictors have become our protectors,
      our guardians from the Soviet men, bare-chested, chain smoking,
      housed in the apartment above the chapel only twenty feet from
      our quarters. The raucous laughter and menacing gestures of
      these Russian men (why are they here in a place of prayer?) make
      it uncomfortable for us to venture more than twenty yards from our
      room. With a soldier at our side from time to time we can make the
      100 yard trip to the locked gate where our fellow monks and nuns
      stand vigil day and night, praying for us, passing food parcels and
      notes of encouragement from people all over the world - Germany,
      Argentina, Australia, England, Russia, the US on our behalf. Our
      deepest thanks to all of you. Your words and prayers mean more
      than you can imagine.

      Why are we here?

      The Palestinians have not yet perfected the art of "freedom" that
      characterizes a Communist system. Our prison door remains
      halfway open and with that ray of light I am under moral obligation
      to tell the world about the lack of religious freedom of the Moscow
      Patriarchate and its ally in arms, the Russian government.

      I have to speak for Father Alexander Zharkov, a simple priest of
      the Moscow Patriarchate, a loving spiritual father to his flock. Tired
      of the arbitrariness, the lack of spirituality of his MP bishops in
      June, 1997 he petitioned the bishops of the Russian Orthodox
      Church Abroad to be under them. From that moment on he was
      incessantly harassed by Russian security officials. On Sunday
      September 14th 1997, worried that he had not returned home by
      that evening his wife began to make calls. She found the body of
      Fr. Alexander in the local morgue, a bullet in the head and the
      chest. He had been run over by a car for good measure.

      I have to speak for the brave single souls, the pious women
      (babushkas) in Obayan and Tomsk and St. Petersburg and their
      bishops, Eutychius and Benjamin, followers of the ROCA who
      struggle to keep open their house churches though they know at
      any moment they could be arrested and their places of worship

      I have to speak about the deceit of Yeltsin and of the Moscow
      Patriarch Alexis II who proudly tout their Freedom of Conscience
      law - freedom given only to those Orthodox believers who submit to
      the Moscow Patriarchate.

      I have to speak for the countless believers and priests in the MP
      who know full well the corruption of their bishops, the lack of
      separation of Church and State in Russia, but who are powerless,
      who do not have a voice to speak out.

      They are powerless before their bishops, their Patriarch Alexis II,
      better known in KGB files as Agent Drozdov, a revelation so
      bravely revealed by Fr. Gleb Yakunin in 1991.

      I have to speak out about the lies Patriarch Alexis II pronounces to
      this day - those both great and small.

      A small one: Last week Tass News Agency reported that Patriarch
      Alexis II charged that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad does
      not open it’s Holy Land sites to he peoples of Russia, Byelorussian
      and the Ukraine. Patriarch Alexis, must we send you the
      photographs from January 7th 2000 - Christmas Day, when 100
      members of the Moscow seminary choir and their priests visited
      our Convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane, toured the
      Church and were treated to an on-the-spot meal by our sisters?
      Would you like to meet one of our Palestinian nuns who runs the
      gift shop who has so diligently learned Russian in order to
      accommodate the numerous Russian pilgrims who pass through
      our gates?

      A big one: Patriarch Alexis, you say Church and State are
      separate and free in Russia today. Why then are there more
      Russian diplomats, consular officials and functionaries than MP
      monks in Jericho monastery, a house of prayer, today? Could the
      reports from high ranking Israeli officials that the Russian
      government plans to convert this Jericho monastery into a
      consulate be true? The MP protests that ROCA churches do not
      care for the Holy Land sites, do not care for the pilgrims. Will a
      consulate on the ruins of the sixth century church better serve the
      religious needs of Russian Orthodox believers than a monastery?

      And as I have a small crack to speak out I must ask the countries
      who say they stand for freedom, for the rule of law, where are your
      voices now?

      Ministers of Israel, Natan Sharenshy and Yuli Edelstein, you were
      prisoners of conscience, "refuseniks" – we too are refuseniks. We
      too know the stench of repression - the tapped phones, the knock
      on the door, the "friends" sent only to inform on and watch our
      every gesture, our every word.

      Freedom for only a few is freedom for none. Show your integrity
      now, your belief that all people have a right to religious freedom -
      Jews, Muslims or Christians.

      To the United States and members of the World Bank, do you
      understand how your experiment has failed. Strobe Talbott, you
      want Russia to follow democratic principles. World Bank President
      Wolfsohn, you may want Russia to adapt a free-market economy.
      Has it not become glaringly obvious that a country that has had its
      moral fiber snapped cannot bear the weight of following principles
      of freedom and democracy?

      The regeneration of a free Russia cannot possibly take place
      without a moral rebirth. A moral rebirth cannot take place without a
      cleansing and renewal of its largest religious body - the Orthodox
      Church. US, if you allow the continued silencing of the voice of the
      free part of the Russian Orthodox Church, the taking away of our
      churches in the Holy Land, you will most assuredly consign Russia
      to a continued state of decadence and corruption which no billions
      of dollars will be able to remedy.

      And finally I speak to you my beloved friends, the common people I
      live and work with in Palestine. I know your beautiful hospitality,
      your humble grace amid the oppression you have suffered for so
      many years. I know this crack in the door is open to me because in
      your basic goodness you simply do not know how, do not
      comprehend in your beautiful hearts how to close that door. It is my
      deepest prayer that your leaders - your Yassir Arafat, Abu Mazen,
      General Rajoub, Sarb Erekat - do not succumb to the principles of
      totalitarianism and corruption. Your people have suffered too long,
      are too good to be betrayed by their leaders in such a manner

      http://www.orthodox.net/jericho has comprehensive coverage
      of the Jericho takeover, including Press Releases,
      Who you can contact, Media reports, and letters
      Priest Seraphim Holland St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas, USA
      seraphim@... Ph:972/529-2754 MOBILE & VOICE MAIL 214 336-3464
      FAX: 603/908-2408 Home Address: 2102 Summit, McKinney, TX 75070, USA
      WEBMASTER FOR: St Nicholas Home Page - http://www.orthodox.net
      Official ROCOR Page - http://www.rocor.org
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