Dear Friends — I am so glad to share an Easter greeting from Malkhaz Songulashvili, Baptist Archbishop of the Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
In Georgia we will be celebrating Easter a week later but it does not
Really matter when we celebrate it. The thing that matters is that we do
Χριστός ἀνέστη! ქრისტე აღდგა! – Christ is Risen!
Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! ჭეშმარიტად! – Truly He is Risen!
Christ is risen! That remains sure, no matter what times
we are living in! Alleluia!
Metropolitan Bishop of Tbilisi
I would like to share some excerpts from a letter in March just to let you know how Malkhaz is doing.
The coronavirus arrived in Georgia from Iran before the Lenten season started. Like many other countries we are also struggling with the affects of the virus. We have been told by the government to stay at home. However we are live-streaming of our Sunday and Friday liturgies. The faithful are discouraged to attend services. The Orthodox Church behaves rather responsibly by re administering eucharist with a common spoon. They literally continue “spoon-feeding” their people! This is very dangerous yet the government is not able to stop them.
Perhaps a world crises like this will have some benefits in the long run, but now it is very distressing hearing of all the tensions and sufferings particularly in poorer countries and in refugee camps where there are few of the necessary safeguards. For the time being I am thinking of three main conclusions that we need to make:
a. Humility. We have to admit that we are all vulnerable and we are all helpless in facing global issues. This should lead us to the understanding that we need to foster global compassion and solidarity in order to survive as a civilization not only now but in the years to come.
b. Contemplation. We need to start deeper contemplating about our life styles and the greedy consumerism which may endanger not only human lives but the entire planet.
c. Solidarity. It seems we need to realize that without showing and offering solidarity to each other and entire creation we have no future. We need to forget our petty animosities related to our race, culture, religion, ideology and start working together to make this planet better place for living together and sharing responsibly all the gifts of creation with each other.
Do these points make any sense?
The virus has very seriously curtailed my travel plans although I had managed to take three international trips before it all started. ….. (personal information)
To cheer you up, I have a story to tell: I went to Iran right after the New Year along with Bishop Ilia for distributing aid to the people affected by a devastating flooding. Initially we wanted to distribute toys and clothing but we were told that they would appreciate carpets! They said: “why on earth we need toys, we need carpets!” I was rather shocked to hear their answer because in Georgia carpets are luxury items. Than I was told that carpets are homes for Iranians: they sleep on carpets, they eat on carpets, they pray on carpets – carpets are center of their domestic lives. So we found ourselves engaged in fundraising. It took us more than seven months to get necessary funds. German Baptists came to help. We had 7 000 Euros which would buy 100 good, family type carpets from Kashan (Iran). Than an interesting thing happened. The director of the Carpets factory, Alia Akbar Pur-Ibrahim, learned that I was in charge of the project and told my friend: “I saw the Bishop on Iranian TV when he was participating in Arbaeen pilgrimage in Iraq and prayed I would be honored to kiss his right arm!” He never kissed my right arm but instead of it he gave 125 carpets more for free! Bishop Ilia and I went early this year and participated in the distribution of 225 carpets in flood affected region of Lorestan.
Please do stay safe. This is the time for being still. The pestilence will eventually come to its end, but God is at work even in this strange time.