Bishops Urge Pan-Orthodox Support for IOCC Iraq Aid

Baltimore (April 7, 2003) — The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) is appealing to its member jurisdictions to unite behind an Orthodox humanitarian effort to help the suffering people of Iraq and the Middle East.

SCOBA issued the appeal for prayer and support late last week. SCOBA is the parent body of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the official humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians.

“We are compelled to call our pious clergy and faithful to pray for peace and for respect of the sanctity of human persons,” the nine hierarchs said. “We ask our churches to open their doors during this season of Great Lent for people to enter, light a candle, and pray for peace and reconciliation.”

The statement went on to encourage Orthodox Christians in the United States to support the humanitarian efforts of IOCC in Iraq. “IOCC has already prepared itself to address the tremendous needs that will confront the world in the days ahead,” the bishops said. “We urge you to help IOCC in this massive philanthropic effort.”

IOCC is appealing for $1 million to provide emergency relief, life-saving medicines and medical supplies to suffering people in the Middle East. It is coordinating its Middle East crisis response with church partners in Iraq and Jordan.

That response will include the distribution of humanitarian relief — food parcels, tents and bedding, drinking water, first-aid kits — within Iraq and the provision of medical assistance to ill or disabled refugees.

Founded in 1992, IOCC has been active in the Middle East since 1997. It currently has programs of relief and development in Lebanon and the Holy Land, as well as supporting a program for refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey.

In Iraq, IOCC will work to build the capacity of local Orthodox churches in and around Baghdad to provide assistance to their surrounding communities, said IOCC Chief Operating Officer David Holdridge.

IOCC also will seek to train and deploy workers from Iraqi parish communities to assist vulnerable Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds, Holdridge said.

Christians constitute approximately 3 percent of the population in Iraq, about 140,000 of which are Orthodox Christians, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.

The SCOBA hierarchs said Orthodox Christians in the U.S. should pray for “all the people who live in areas of conflict, for the innocent women, children and elderly who live in places of high risk and harm, for those in flight, for refugees throughout the region who join others on a journey of profound uncertainty.”

The hierarchs also said, “This tragic war, combined with the threat to security at home, has created enormous fear and anxiety throughout the world. Only the Prince of Peace, who said, ‘My peace I give to you’ (Luke 14:27), can allay this fear and anxiety.”

The members of SCOBA are: Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America; Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada; Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada; Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Nicholas of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA; Metropolitan Constantine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; and Bishop Ilia of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese.