The California-based American Hellenic Council joined a long list of Greek American community organizations and institutions in support of human rights with a statement encouraging Greek Americans “to learn our own history, of the violence and hatred committed against the early Greek immigrants arriving in the United States.”
The statement, penned by James Dimitriou, the President of the AHC, included a strong message of support for Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who participated in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Brooklyn.
The complete AHC statement follows
Dear Friends and Supporters,
I am reaching out to our community, for the third time in such a short period, to extend my heartfelt support to all members, friends and family of the American Hellenic Council and to all those enduring the difficulties of the past three months.
In the beginning, we experienced, and in some cases continue to experience, life under strict quarantine measures due to the threat of the coronavirus; a quarantine that has caused hardships on families, businesses, and students. Then, as a nation we grieved after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And now, as civil unrest is expressed through peaceful protests and demonstrations, we also watch our cities go up in flames by opportunists who choose to inflict harm and violate private property.
It is an unsettling time. A time for concern. A time for reflection, but also a time for action.
As Greeks, we have faced injustice and discord many times throughout history and know the generational trauma is causes. It has been 567 years since the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, a tragic anniversary we commemorated just last week, on Friday, May 29th. Today, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aims to open those wounds by holding a celebration of the Fall in Hagia Sophia, that will include a reading of the so-called “victory verse” of the Quran.
But through the centuries, under occupations and dictatorship, during civil and world wars, and even while under siege from an invisible foe in the form of Covid-19, Greeks fought with an unyielding spirit and courage to preserve fundamental human rights. We remember the two young men, Manolis Glezos and Lakis Santas, who on May 30, 1941, risked their lives as they tore down the Nazi flag from atop of the Acropolis. We remember Archbishop Iakovos, who marched in Selma, Alabama alongside Martin Luther King Jr. some 55 years ago, in 1965.
In Archbishop Iakovos’ own words:
“I came to the United States from Turkey where I was a third category citizen. So, when Martin Luther King, Jr had his walk at the courthouse of Selma, Alabama, I decided to join him because this is my time to take revenge against all.”
The Archbishop further recounts how young Greek immigrants faced much of the same hatred and violence during the turn of the last century as they traveled to the United States in search of a better life.
On June 3, 2020, Archbishop Elpidophoros marched in Brooklyn, NY, in a peaceful protest denouncing the killing of Louisville EMT, Breonna Taylor.
“I came here to Brooklyn today,” said His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, “In order to stand in solidarity with my fellow sisters and brothers whose rights have been sorely abused. This was a peaceful protest, one without violence of any kind, and I thank all of those involved, because violence begets only more violence. We must speak and speak loudly against the injustice in our country. It is our moral duty and obligation to uphold the sanctity of every human being. We have faced a pandemic of grave physical illness, but the spiritual illness in our land runs even deeper and must be healed by actions as well as words. And so, I will continue to stand in the breach together with all those who are committed to preserving peace, justice, and equality for every citizen of goodwill, regardless of their race, religion, gender or ethnic origin.”
The American Hellenic Council stands committed to justice and the pursuit of happiness of all people. Our mission to advocate for Hellenism, extends into advocating not only for Greeks and Cypriots, but for all those whose human rights are violated, because advocacy must be based on truth, understanding and justice for all.
We condemn all acts of hatred and discrimination and denounce those who disrupt peaceful, democratic protests with acts of violence and destruction.
We encourage people to learn our own history, of the violence and hatred committed against the early Greek immigrants arriving in the United States.
We must end all forms of racism and discrimination and as Archbishop Iakovos did in 1965 and Archbishop Elpidoforos did just yesterday, we must stand for justice and equality, not only for those among us who share our race or religion, but for all people.
I hope all of you stay safe and take time to learn our own immigrant history. We have great challenges ahead and, as a nation, will need the courage to face them!
Dr. James F. Dimitriou
Chairman & President
American Hellenic Council
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