LWF in 2nd Orthodox Youth Conference, Istanbul
11th – 16th July 2007
Wednesday afternoon about 700 people (no one actually knows just how many people attends this conference, but I would say it is around 600-700) cathered here to talk about the youth, young people and the Orthodox Church. The theme of the seminar is “Members of the Church – Citizens of the world. The first youth conference was held in 2000, and now it is time to reflect on the conclusions of the first conference and to create visions for the following years.
As a observer at the conference, my job is to listen and learn from people whose views on life and of the Church are different from mine. I have already had interesting taks with Ortodox youth from Finland and from some other European countries. The informal talks and dinners are at least as important and interesting as the official lectures. Today I even had the possiblility to meet briefly the Ecumenical Partiarch Bartolomew and thank His All Holiness for the invitation to the conference on behalf of the LWF.
If you are interested in the topics and lectures of the conference, do feel free to visit the conference web site at www.youth.ecupatriarcate.org. I’m not going to bore you with summarys from all the lectures, but there are a few lectures I’d like to share with you.
The Revendant Ioan Sauca (who some of you might know from the Bossey Ecumenical Institute) spoke about “the formation of the orthodox missionay ethos in the Church”. If I understood correctly, by formation he meant creating a new orthodox way of understanding missionary work. He said that sometimes missionary work in the eastern churches has been affiliated with only western crucades and all that. The orthodox church has not been very active in preaching the message to the noncristian people, partly beacause of this kind of critisism. His point was that the mission of the church is not only to preach and to teach. “Mission” is to be God’s witness in and for the world. It is, according to Mr. Sauca, a ontological part of beeing Christian. It is up to the individual christian person make her/his faith into a practical thing and it is up to God to change our neighbour hearts so that they are able to hear God’s call. He called all the youth to take part in this mission.
The next day I was greatly inspired by the speech of Mr. John Chryssavgis. He spoke about ecology and the church. He reflected ecology and the the seven orthodox sacraments. In his opinion, the crisis of the world is not only about the climate crisis and all that. The larger and much more profound problem is that we christians are failing to see environment as God’s creation and thus just as valuable as a human beeing is. He remindend the audience, that according to the Scriptures, God made humans out of dust. This means, that dust, earth and environment are a built-in part of every human beeing. The metaphor about the Church as a body and Christ as the head of this body includes thus also earth and environment. If one part is suffering, all the other parts are also suffering. This makes ecological lifestyle part of christian lifestyle, concluded Mr Chryssavgis.
In my first post I told you that I also think that working for global justice and safe environment are important parts of beeing Christian. When we talk about the mission of the Church, too often we forget to include global justice or environmental issues into the picture. It seems to me, and to many Orthodox people here in Istanbul I have talked to, that there is a lot of work to be done for all the churches and christians in the world to accknowlegde this. But we should not give up, right?