In line with the directives and consensus of the Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Oceania; Greek, Antiochian, Russian, Serbian and Romanian Orthodox clergy gathered together at Axion Estin monastery complex in Northcote, on 19th July 2014, to serve a Pan-Orthodox Divine Liturgy and Memorial service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.
A multitude of faithful, who had gathered from the diverse Orthodox Christian communities of Melbourne, followed the service with great joy and piety, while many of amongst the youth, had dressed in the various cultural and national costumes of their respective communities. And as the service progressed, the clergy and the various choirs, took it in turns to chant and liturgise in their respective languages alongside the use of English. The various bishops and representatives of Church jurisdictions, were afforded the opportunity to speak on the importance of this auspicious occasion.
After the conclusion of the Liturgy, the clergy and laity proceeded to the Cenotaph of Axion Estin for the Memorial service and the laying of wreaths. Present amongst the dignitaries, were the Consul General of Greece for Melbourne, Ms Christina Simantirakis who was joined by local MP Jenny Mikakos and members of the Australian defence force who laid wreaths for the fallen at the Cenotaph.
The significance of the beginning of World War I, is that it marks a turning point and beginning of one of the most brutal periods for Orthodox Christians, who became part of the centre-stage victims for some of the worst tragedies and inhumanity of the 20th century. Many of Orthodox faithful died during the Great War in places like the Eastern and Salonikan Fronts or in the Middle Eastern campaigns against the Ottomans, and the subsequent reprisals.
But the greater significance of this catastrophic legacy, became manifested and was felt in the War’s aftermath till our present time, as borders were redrawn, the development and imposition of left-right wing divides within political culture, with the corresponding imposition of materialistic and secular ideologies causing great socio-economic divisions. The rise of Communism, Fascism, Zionism and Islamism, coupled with the aforementioned reorientation from Orthodox Christian ethos towards secular political culture, has witnessed countless multitudes perish through torture, imprisonment and genocide; whether in the Gulag prison system, the Palestinian “Nakba”, the Asia Minor Catastrophe, World War II, the Invasion of Cyprus, the rise of Gamiyya Islamiyyia, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the attempted dissolution of Syria, the strife in the Ukraine, the collectivisation of private farmland, the confiscation of private homes and so forth.
And as we look to today’s situation in Eastern Europe in this post-Communist era, or the conflicts that are taking place within the unravelling of the post-Ottoman Middle Eastern order, or the so-called financial crisis in a forcibly Western-oriented Greece and Cyprus, we can see that World War I marks the beginning of the immense upheaval and suffering that Orthodox Christians have and are continuing to suffer till this day. And as we witness current developments in this vast region that constitutes the Orthodox Christian commonwealth, we can only ponder that the faithful are at the centre-stage for the remaking of the existing global order that will be catastrophic for all of humanity in every corner of the globe.