[orthodox-synod] Feb 1 2000 - Letter to the World from Sisters Martha and Xenia
- [ 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 its 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
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
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
10 questions (many subjects) http://www.orthodox.net/questions
Thoughts on the Sunday gospels http://www.orthodox.net/sermons