Conference to Explore Social Witness of Orthodox Church

Dr. Legesse Nigussu (third from right) and other aid officials of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church demonstrate a drinking water facility for Constantine M. Triantafilou (far right), executive director of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), during a recent visit. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and IOCC are working together to fight HIV/AIDS and improve food security in Ethiopia. Such partnerships are among the topics to be explored at an upcoming international conference on the humanitarian ministry of the Orthodox Church. Photo courtesy of IOCC

Baltimore, MD (April 15, 2004) — An international conference being held this spring in Finland will explore the history, theology and present reality of Orthodox Christian cooperation in the area of social justice and outreach.

The conference, “Orthodox Diakonia: The Social Witness and Service of the Orthodox Church,” will be held April 30-May 5 at Valamo Lay Academy in eastern Finland.

Conference organizers are International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the World Council of Churches/Diakonia & Solidarity Team, and Ortaid, the humanitarian arm of the Orthodox Church of Finland.

“In the last 12 years, since the fall of the Soviet empire, we have witnessed the amazing renewal of Orthodox social action worldwide,” said Alexander Belopopsky, public information coordinator for the World Council of Churches. “This conference will celebrate and explore that renewal and look for ways that Orthodox can be more effective in their ministry to Christ’s poor.”

Among the expected participants are His Eminence Archbishop Leo of the Orthodox Church of Finland, as well as representatives of Orthodox social service organizations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America. There are about 20 such organizations in Europe alone.

The schedule for the five-day conference includes worship services, workshops and lectures by noted Orthodox scholars. The conference is by invitation only, and organizers expect to publish a book of all the proceedings.

Conference topics include: Orthodox social theology; social and political engagement, wealth and poverty in the Bible and the Church Fathers; Orthodox approaches to contemporary social, political and human rights issues; contemporary Orthodox practices in the area of humanitarian and social work; and an Orthodox approach to social management, stewardship and accountability.

One of the main objectives of the conference is to encourage ongoing collaboration and exchange among Orthodox social initiatives and organizations worldwide, including the exploration of new networks and associations.

“This conference will be an opportunity to step back and reflect on what we as Orthodox are doing right and what we can do better in the area of social ministry,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou. “It has the potential to spark a new era of pan-Orthodox cooperation on behalf of people in need around the world.”

A conference-related Web site (www.orthodoxdiakonia.net) is currently under construction. Founded in 1992, IOCC is the humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians. To learn more about its programs worldwide, please visit www.iocc.org.

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