The United States of America is a secular government. The Founding Fathers incorporated a distinct separation of church and state in the constitution. They came to America to escape the religious wars of Europe and a better way of life. On May 22nd, we witnessed a Church/State procession in the provincial city of Tripolis, Greece. The memory of the saints “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” is remembered in an elaborate procession of education, military and non-profit organizations with bands. Politicians were prominently seen greeting all. Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis family explained the parade. Their friend, Kosta Vlassis of the Nea Democratia party, greeted us while he was marching.
The parade began from the central Areos Square, where the courthouse stands, through the streets of the city to the Church of the “Neomartyr Paul”. On May 21st, the church was consecrated.
We saw platoons of soldiers with arms next to the clergy marching with relics. I witnessed a similar military presence at the Moscow’s Kremlin churches. The concept of the military and church united to protect the state is amazing.
Who were the Greek new martyrs under Ottoman rule? The Tripoli “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” were a class of idealistic men who sacrificed their lives for their faith during this turbulent era, primarily during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Russo-Turkish wars between 1760-1796 and Greek revolt for independence provided additional grounds and pretensions for persecution of Greek Christians, during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the new-martyrs came from the lower classes and the provinces. Their blood inspired and continues to inspire Tripoli today.1
2017 Greece is threatened by the expansionist countries of the north and east. Germany and EU western countries are not the primary contributors to NATO. Believe it or not, Greece is the primary contributor of 2.38% after the United states at 3.61%, based on the 2016 figures.2 Greece gives to this military alliance, realizing her vulnerability in a two-front war. Compulsory draft of all men exists in Greece. They are given a marine training, taught to live off the land when supply lines vanish.
The Greek nation, that has a military history of valor and self-sacrifice to the state, from the time of the “300” over 2,000 years ago, is to be commended for their commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Patriotism and Nationalism is expressed by a small nation under siege. They are being devastated by the cutting of pensions the citizens contributed for thirty years, interest on ill-advised personal and government loans and an immigration of refugees and persons fleeing failing states. Young and old joined together to be proud of a national identity identified by language, culture and religion.