Although under bitter and difficult slavery for over four hundred years, the oppressor could not make the Greek nation disappear. The Ottoman Empire used the most abominable methods and means to convert Greeks to Islam. Burdensome taxes were levied. Ethnic cleansing and religious persecutions were government policy, but the most lethal was the satanic plan of the induction of children into the Janissary corps. The Ottomans would enter a town and steal children from the protective and loving embrace of their mothers in order to take them away forever, raising them as fanatic Muslims, trained to oppress their own people. They would teach them to hate their former Christian Orthodox Faith. They were taught that their own parents and siblings were faithless heretics, and therefore liable to death and destruction. Even with these evil means, the mighty Ottoman Empire could not manage to make the Greek people and nation to disappear.
The life preserver of Hellenism against this dark and difficult four-hundred-year period of slavery was the Greek Orthodox faith. The Church. The Clergyman who taught and educated his down-trodden people. The "underground school" run by Churches and Monasteries. It is this same life preserver that must be used today so that our Communities and the Omogenia can be saved.
Life in Canada is obviously not on par with the slavery endured under the Ottoman Empire. Canada is one of the most enlightened democracies and the most civilized country in the world. It does not ask minorities to be put in a melting pot to be "Canadianized". The domestic policy of multiculturalism and religious tolerance helps our Communities and the Omogenia to be maintained. Furthermore, financial aid is also given in some provinces to preserve and support our Greek Schools.
With this support and Canadian domestic policy being as it is, why is Greek Orthodox education the life preserver of our Communities and the Omogenia?
Yes, it is true that there is no slavery or compulsion in Canada, nor any type of pressure. There are, however, other problems. There are other "songs of the sirens" that bring people to a state of lethargy and indifference. The way of life in Canada can sometimes brain-wash some of our people to forget their roots. They forget who they are and what are the more important objectives in their lives. These "sirens" are the absolute freedom we are privileged to enjoy, as well as the opulent life-style that almost everyone seeks to enjoy. We should never forget that everyone loves opulence; however, the greatest empires breathed their last breath while lying on the bed of opulence.
We must be careful. We said the life preserver is Greek Orthodox education here in Canada.. We did not say "Greek Education" nor the simple teaching of "the Greek language". In Canada, Greek Education on its own and the teaching of the Greek language without any reference to the Greek Orthodox faith cannot progress very far. The Orthodox faith, in connection with education, can be the means to save our Communities and the Omogenia here in Canada. Greek Orthodox education is the root that supports the tree of the Omogenia. It gives it nourishment and life so that it may flourish and grow.
Many mistakes have happened in the past. In some of the Greek schools, there were certain teachers who were atheists, or who espoused the teachings of the "twelve gods of Olympus", thereby disparaging and ridiculing the Orthodox Christian faith. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. A Greek school teacher once gave his students an assignment, asking them to write sentences in Greek using the word "good". One child wrote: "The good Priest". The teacher mocked and laughed at the child, saying that "there are no good Priests". Admire this "educator", indeed!
Education in Canada is under provincial jurisdiction, not under the federal government. In the four Atlantic provinces of Canada, there is not enough of a Greek population to have Greek Orthodox Day Schools. In the other six provinces, though, there is enough of a Greek population to have Greek Orthodox Day Schools. With the exception of the Province of Ontario, Greek Education is subsidized by the Provincial Governments as much as 50% to 60%.
We have Greek Orthodox Day Schools in the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario. We do not have any in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Everywhere and always, I urge all our Communities to organize Greek Orthodox Day Schools, for they are the life preserver of our Communities and the Omogenia.
Once again this year, we will celebrate the feast day of the Three Hierarchs and the Week of "Greek Education". This will be done with celebrations. With poems. With recitations. With dances. However, the best way to celebrate "Greek Education" would be to organize even one more Greek Orthodox Day School in 2014. While I fully support the Greek Orthodox afternoon and Saturday schools, the ideal solution are the establishment of Greek Orthodox Day Schools across Canada. In these schools, students will be taught the basic curriculum of any other school, while they are also taught the essentials of our Greek Orthodox Faith, the Greek language and our Greek culture and civilization.
I thank our Communities who support our Greek Orthodox schools, be they Day Schools, Afternoon or Saturday Schools. I thank all the dedicated and mindful teachers. I thank all the parents and the volunteers who help our Greek Orthodox Schools. I thank God that I am not the only one who cries out in support for Greek Orthodox education. I hope that everyone comes to understand that Greek Orthodox education is the life preserver of our Communities and the Omogenia, and that they help this cause with all their hearts. For this cause, I urge each and every one of us to assist this important cause with every means at our diasposa, pouring our hearts and souls into it as the saying goes, "Because I put my heart and soul into this cause, this is why it has succeeded."
With fatherly love and fervent prayers for all,
Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios of Toronto