Cover letter Nov 2004

Dear In Communion reader,

The lead essay in the Winter issue of In Communion, "Ethnic Conflicts and the Orthodox Church," is by Metropolitan John of Korça, a bishop serving in Europe's poorest country, Albania, a land scarred by wars, extreme religious repression, inter-religious strife and the ravages of nationalism.

Looking for a symbol to illustrate the essay, we settled finally on an old photo of one of Europe's most beautiful and venerable bridges: the graceful Mostar Bridge, built in Bosnia in 1566. It had survived many wars until it was blown up in 1993 in the midst of inter-ethnic conflict.

A similar ancient bridge inspired the most famous novel by Serbia's Nobel laureate, Ivo Andrich. In it he describes the world at its inception as being:

smooth as a fine plate. That displeased the devil who envied the human race this gift of God. And while the earth was still just as it had come from God's hands, damp and soft as unbaked clay, he stole up and scratched the face of God's earth with his nails as deeply as he could. Therefore deep rivers and ravines were formed which divided one district from another and kept people apart, preventing them from traveling on that earth that God had given them as a garden for their food and support. And Allah felt pity when he saw what the accursed one had done, so he sent his angels to help the people of the earth and make things easier for them. When the angels saw how no one could pass those abysses to finish the work they had to do, they spread their wings above these places and people were able to cross. So we learned from Angels of God how to build bridges. Therefore, after fountains, the greatest blessing is to build a bridge and the greatest sin is to interfere with it.

(The Bridge Over the River Drina, translation by Lovett Edwards.)

Those who try to live Christ's beatitude of peacemaking are builders of bridges or, more often, rebuilders of shattered bridges. Metropolitan John gives an example of bridge-building in Albania, where Orthodox Christians live as a minority in a mainly Muslim country.

We once again appeal for your help to keep the Orthodox Peace Fellowship going. Subscription payments alone are not enough. Especially now that we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic, we need to substantially enlarge our base of support. Please send a donation. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Without their help, OPF would have achieved much less. Could you manage $15 a month? Or $20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church.

Please help us take the next step forward.

in Christ's peace,

Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary