News From Around Orthodox America
• Bishop Melchisedek Recovering
(Glen Cove, NY) Bishop Melchisedek, the interim Chancellor of the OCA, is recovering from successful surgery on Monday for a hernia that had caused him to be taken to the hospital last week. According to sources close to Syosset, the Bishop will continue to recover in New York until he is able to be driven back to his home near Pittsburgh sometime next week.
• Antiochians to Consecrate New American Bishops "In Syria or Lebanon"
(Engelwood NJ) In an August 8th message to his Archdiocese, Metropolitan Philip announced that the three recently elected Auxiliary Bishops would be consecrated “....at one of the Patriarchal locations in either Lebanon or Syria in December of 2011. The exact date and location will be determined by His Beatitude
(Ignatios VI) and communicated to us.”
Unfortunately, just three days earlier (August 5th) the US State Department issued the following updated Travel Warning for Syria:
“The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is available....U.S. citizens not in Syria should defer all travel to Syria at this time. The Department of State ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Syria on April 25, 2011. Embassy operations continue to the extent possible under the constraints of an evolving security situation. ....The Syrian government has also placed severe constraints upon the travel of diplomats within Syria, limiting the ability of consular officers to provide assistance to U.S. citizens outside the city of Damascus.”
The State Department describes the situation in Syria as follows:
“Since March 2011, demonstrations throughout Syria have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries and thousands of detentions. Demonstrations can occur with little or no warning anytime and anywhere, not just on Friday afternoons, as with many past demonstrations. Recent demonstrations have occurred on university campuses, main streets, public squares, mosques, and other places of public gathering. On July 11, 2011, the U.S. Embassy and other embassies in Damascus were violently attacked by people participating in a pro-government demonstration, resulting in the U.S. Embassy closing for one day. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.
Several cities, including Damascus, have been placed under heightened security. Travelers on Syrian roads have encountered an increased number of checkpoints and roadblocks impeding travel and preventing entry to or exit from affected cities. On April 22, 2011, security forces prevented many from entering or leaving Damascus.
Syrian government constraints on observers, including the short-term detention of accredited diplomats, have made it difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to adequately assess the current risks or the potential for continuing violence.
Syrian efforts to attribute the current civil unrest to external influences may lead to an increase in anti-foreigner sentiment. Detained U.S. citizens may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage. Contrary to the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Syria is a signatory, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until days or weeks after the arrest. Moreover, in the past, security officials have not responded to U.S. Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of persons detained for “security” reasons.
Travelers should heed directions given by Syrian police and/or security officials and should always carry a copy of their passport as proof of citizenship and identity. Taking photographs of demonstrations, public gatherings, or anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning, detention, and/or confiscation of the images. Additionally, U.S. citizens should be aware that exhibiting disrespect toward political symbols or conversations on the topics of politics, religion, and other social issues could lead to arrest.”
The situation in Lebanon, according to the State Department is not much better. A Travel Warning exists for that country as well, noting:
“The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.....The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence is real. Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning. Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent. Family or neighborhood disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning. Under such circumstances, the ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may at times be severely limited.
A number of extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including some, such as Hizballah, that the U.S. government has designated as terrorist organizations. U.S. citizens have been the target of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity continues to exist in Lebanon. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel. U.S. citizens also should pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners generally are known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
Hizballah maintains a strong presence in parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut, portions of the Bekaa Valley, and areas in South Lebanon. The situation in those and other areas remains tense, and sporadic violence involving Hizballah or other extremist or criminal organizations remains a possibility in many areas of the country.
U.S. citizens or other foreigners have sometimes been detained by militants for hours or longer. In September 2010, two Polish citizens were detained in the Bekaa Valley; they were freed only after Lebanese army intervention.
On March 23, 2011, seven Estonian bicyclists were kidnapped in Deir Zenoun, between Masnaa and Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. The kidnapping appears to have been pre-planned and well coordinated, according to Lebanese authorities. As of the date of this Travel Warning, the location of the Estonians was unknown....”
• Journal of American Orthodox Church History Launched
(Fargo, ND) The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA) is pleased to announce a new, affiliated academic publication, the Journal of American Orthodox Church History (JAOCH). JAOCH consists of articles, book reviews, and translations of historically significant texts, is peer reviewed by established scholars within the field, and published electronically annually. The first edition is available through Prairie Parish Press and the cost is $10 per issue. More information, including the table of contents and an introduction to the first issue, may be found on the website of Prairie Parish Press: “http://prairieparishpress.com