On a bright sunny fall afternoon, on the steps of St. Innocent of Irkutsk Cathedral in Anchorage Alaska, assembly members, priests and delegates from the church gathered to show support for the release of the Arctic 30 currently held in Russia on piracy charges.
His Eminence Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West, Locum Tenens of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sitka Alaska, Archimandrite David (Mchaffy) Bishop Elect to the Diocese of Alaska, several Priests from through-out Alaska and lay delegates took a short recess from their Annual Diocesan Assembly to acknowledge how the group of 28 activists and two journalists need support from peaceful communities like theirs.
Ironically, the Russian Orthodox Church of Russia is the MotherChurch of the Orthodox Diocese of Alaska founded upon the arrival of seven monks who traveled to Alaska in September 1794. Today, the Orthodox Church of Alaska is petitioning, through banners and signs, for the government of Russia to please, in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity, to allow the Arctic 30 to come home to their families and loved ones. The SisterChurch of the Russian Orthodox Church is asking the Government of Russia for help.
“We do this in support of the protections of our waters, our fish and the foods we collect to take care of our families,” said Archbishop Benjamin as he encouraged the delegates of the Assembly to show their support. “Unless we protect our environment, our children and our futures will not have anything to eat.”
A former Priest of the Orthodox Church, and now the Alaska Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace, I asked the Orthodox Church of Alaska, for help and assistance in showing support for the Arctic 30. After much prayer and meditation, I thought that when in trouble and in need of help, I had come to this community for support, and they had always offered it during difficult times. And the Orthodox Church of Alaska stood up and took a stand to offer our fellow workers of Greenpeace this support.
The Church constantly offers prayers for “peace, health, salvation” and the dignity of all humanity on our planet, and now offers these prayers for this humanitarian gesture, that the government of Russia, in the motherland of our MotherChurch, please hear our petition. There is enough human suffering in our world. We need not continue this suffering by holding these innocent and peaceful people for something which is causing no harm to anyone. As Moses said to the Pharaoh of Egypt; “let our people go.”