One of the world’s most passionate advocates of environmentalism and human rights is a man whose role traditionally does not encompass such vocations.
His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and spiritual leader of 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, has gained global recognition for his tireless and spiritual approach to human rights and environmental issues, particularly in the areas of climate change, the rights of indigenous peoples, and advocacy for religious tolerance.
Patriarch Bartholomew has served as spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the world’s most ancient Christian religion, for nearly 20 years. He is also regarded by global leaders as a distinguished human rights defender and environmental champion. His All Holiness’ many accolades include the US Congressional Gold Medal, the UN Laureate Champion of the Earth award, and rank of number 11 on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Based in Constantinople, or Istanbul, His All Holiness’ Patriarchate sits in one of the world’s hot seats of Muslim-Christian discord, as Turkey’s Christian minorities often face intense religious and ethnic discrimination.
Just this fall, President Obama welcomed Patriarch Bartholomew at the White House for a substantive discussion of environmental and human rights issues, particularly the plight of those living in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. President Obama expressed his appreciation for Patriarch Bartholomew’s long-standing commitment to these issues. During that same visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed His All Holiness at the State Department, calling him ”a living embodiment of the positive role that faith can play in healing and humanizing our world.”
Despite his notable work for Earth’s citizens, His All Holiness personally feels the sting of ethnic persecution on a daily basis in his country of origin. As a non-Muslim Turkish native, Patriarch Bartholomew, along with Turkey’s other Christian ethnic minorities, often face religious discrimination, the seizure of land and property, and even violence, at the hand of the Turkish government. In a recent interview with CBS correspondent Bob Simon for this Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Patriarch Bartholomew explained that the Turkish authorities do not respect Greek minorities’ 17 centuries of history in Turkey and that the ethnic minorities in Turkey are treated as “second class citizens.”
Clearly, Patriarch Bartholomew is a distinguished human rights defender and environmental champion. How sad that despite his global efforts to protect our environment and defend the religious freedoms of others, the authorities of his native country deny him, and other Christian minorities, the freedom to live and worship freely and without discrimination.
You can learn more about Patriarch Bartholomew, his work, and the plight of Christians in Turkey by watching 60 Minutes this Sunday, December 20th at 7pm EST.
Photo Credit: Nikolaos Manginas
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