The Orthodox Peace Fellowship of the Protection of the Mother of God is an association of Orthodox Christian believers seeking to bear witness to the peace of Christ by applying the principles of the Gospel to situations of division and conflict, whether in the home, the parish, the community we live, the work place, within our particular nations, and between nations. We work for the conservation of God's creation and especially of human life. We are not a political association and support no political parties or candidates.
A Fellowship of Orthodox Christian Peacemakers
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all by the Resurrection. (Easter verses, Orthodox Liturgy)
From the earliest days of the Church, followers of Jesus have sought to live out Christian faith in its fullness, working to build communities of worship, providing for those lacking the necessities of life, loving not only neighbors but enemies, seeking conversion of adversaries rather than victory over them, and practicing repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation as normal virtues of sacramental life.
This has never been easy. Each generation has had to confront the problem of evil and combat its structures and also has had to suffer the tension that exists between membership in the Church and citizenship in a nation-state.
Often the teachings of Jesus have been dismissed, even by believers, as too idealistic. Yet every generation, even in the era of Hitler and Stalin, has been blessed with heroic witnesses to membership in "an army that sheds no blood," as Clement of Alexandria described the Church ("Soldiers of Peace" in The Protreptikos).
Members of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship try to use life-protecting methods to safeguard life and creation.
Aware that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, we seek recovery of a sense of familial connection which, while respecting national identity, transcends all tribal, ethnic and national division. This is the oneness the Church mirrors when it is gathered before the Holy Table.
Using our vocation and whatever special gifts and resources God has given us, especially our participation in eucharistic community, we strive to undertake constructive action on behalf of those who are endangered, from the child in the womb to the aged awaiting death.
Aspiring to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution, we promote resolution of conflicts by mediation, negotiation and other forms of nonviolent action.
While no one can be certain that he or she will always find a nonviolent response to every crisis that may arise, we pray that God will show us in each situation ways of resistance to evil that will not require killing opponents.
We offer support to those whose conscience leads them to refuse participation in war and who struggle against evil in non-military ways. We support their conscientious objection as consistent with the Gospels and Holy Tradition.
We encourage the compassionate treatment of prisoners and their rehabilitation, with special attention to restitution by wrong-doers to victims of their crimes. We reject the execution of criminals as incompatible with the teachings of Christ.
We commit ourselves to prayer for enemies and endeavor to communicate God's love for them, recognizing our own violence and praying that, through Christ's saving death on the Cross, we will be reconciled with God and with each other.
Thus we strive to avoid bitterness in dealing with controversy, seeking conversion both of ourselves and our adversary.
Aware that we are in need of conversion not only in the way we relate to other people but to the world God has put into our care, we will try to change our lives in order to live as priests of God's world, asking continuously for the Holy Spirit to descend and transfigure the earth. We will cooperate with efforts to protect and preserve the environment which do not involve violence, coercive methods of population control, or violate the sanctity of human life.
Our work areas include:
Much needs to be done within the Church to better understand ways in which Orthodox Christians should respond to division, conflict, injustice, war and the relationship of the believer to the state. We encourage research on peace in the Bible, peace in the Liturgy, examples of ways Orthodox people and churches have responded to war from ancient to modern times, and the collection of relevant quotations and stories from the Fathers and the saints.
Our quarterly journal, In Communion, not only provides its readers with helpful essays and news but serves as a forum for dialogue. The main articles from past issues of In Communion plus many other resources are made available via our web site: www.incommunion.org. OPF members are also invited to take part in the OPF List, a news and discussion forum.
Practical assistance in conflict areas
As one of our members, a priest in the Republic of Georgia, points out: "Activity of the OPF is of particular importance in those Orthodox countries going through war and the horror of national conflict ... The OPF can help Orthodox people to practice peace and tolerance and to show that war and national conflict are satanic traps."
The Orthodox Peace Fellowship has members in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Its international secretariat is in The Netherlands. Decisions are made by the OPF secretaries and officers in consultation with each other, with counsel from members and the Fellowship's Board of Advisors. Our largest branch at present is in North America. There are occasional meetings and conferences in the United States and Canada as well as in Europe. We encourage the formation of local and national chapters.
Must I be a pacifist to join the Orthodox Peace Fellowship?
In the Oxford English Dictionary, pacifism is defined as "the policy or doctrine of rejecting war and every form of violent action as means of solving disputes, especially in international affairs." It is also "the belief in and advocacy of peaceful methods as feasible and desirable alternatives to war." A pacifist is a person "who rejects war and violence as a matter of principle" or "advocates a peaceful policy as the first and best resort."
While our membership includes many who would identify themselves as pacifists in the sense of this definition, one does not have to be a pacifist to belong to the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. It's enough to say that we are attempting to be Christian peacemakers.
The aspiration to eliminate violence as a means of conflict resolution is something all sane people have in common, yet few would say that they would never use violent methods to protect the innocent. All we can do is attempt to find ways of responding to injustice that are consistent with the Gospel. Clearly nonviolent methods are to be preferred to violent.
Peacemaking is not something optional for Christians. A major element of Christ's teaching his call to become peacemakers. They are among the blessed and are witnesses to the Kingdom of God. To be a peacemaker, Christ says, is to be a child of God. In the years of Christ's life described in the Gospel, one of the most notable aspects is that he killed no one but healed many. He is not a warrior king. Caesar rides a horse while Christ enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Even when he clears the Temple of people who have made a place of worship into a place of commerce, he does so using nothing more than a whip of cords, not a weapon that can cause injuries; the only life endangered by his action was his own. His final instruction to Peter before his crucifixion is, "Put away your sword, for whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword." Saying that, he healed the wound Peter had inflicted on one of the men arresting him. On the cross, far from calling down his Father's vengeance on those who participated in his execution, Jesus appeals for mercy: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." Again and again, throughout is earthly life Christ gives his followers a witness of peace.
There's quite a lot on the Orthodox Peace Fellowship web site that help clarify what Christian peacemaking involves and its implications in one's own life. Note especially essays in the back issues of the OPF journal, In Communion: https://incommunion.org/contents/previous-issues
Also look at the "What can I do?" page: https://incommunion.org/articles/introduction/what-can-i-do
Becoming a member
The Orthodox Peace Fellowship links Orthodox Christians from different national traditions and is not under the sponsorship of a particular jurisdiction. Membership is open to any Orthodox Christian who embraces the principles expressed in the above statement of purpose. Membership in no way obligates the member to a specific political position. Both members and supporters receive the Fellowship's quarterly journal, In Communion.
The annual donation for members is $35, 35 euros, 25 pounds sterling, or the equivalent in other currencies. (For those wishing to receive our journal, In Communion, but not to join, the cost per year is $25, 25 euros, 20 pounds sterling, or the equivalent in other currencies.)
The Fellowship is entirely dependent on the support of its members, other sympathetic persons and those parishes which make annual collections in support of the OPF. Donors are asked to contribute as their resources allow. Contributions are tax-deductible in the US. The Orthodox Peace Fellowship depends entirely on membership fees and donations to carry on its work.
Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Fr. Anthony Coniaris, Fr. Stephen Headley, Fr. Thomas Hopko, Fr. Heikki Huttunen, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Fr. John Matusiak, Fr. Sergei Ovsiannikov, Fr. George Papademetriou, Dr. Albert Raboteau, Philip Tamoush, Fr. Steven Tsichlis, Fr. Theodoor van der Voort, Fr. Meletios Webber, Mother Raphaela Wilkinson
Deacon Michael Bakker, president
Hanna Bos, vice president
Matthew House, treasurer
Jim and Nancy Forest, co-secretaries
* * *
* * *
The "Orthodox Peace Fellowship" foundation is registered as a charitable institution for Dutch fiscal purposes (AMBI) as an annexed institution of the ’Stichting Orthodoxe Kerk In Nederland’ (Foundation Orthodox Church in the Netherlands). An AMBI may use certain tax advantages in cases of inheritance and donations. Also tax benefits for donors may apply. As an AMBI, we are required to publish certain information, including an updated report on the activities carried out and a financial statement. See the links below.
De stichting ’Orthodox Peace Fellowship’ heeft een registratie als algemeen nut beogende instelling (ANBI) als annexe instelling van de ’Stichting Orthodoxe Kerk In Nederland’. Een ANBI kan gebruikmaken van bepaalde belastingvoordelen bij erven en schenkingen heeft fiscale voordelen voor donateurs. Een ANBI is verplicht tot publicatie van een aantal gegevens waaronder een actueel verslag van de uitgeoefende activiteiten en een financiële verantwoording.
1) OPF-Nederland AMBI status