Athens to Host 1st Ministerial Conference of ‘Ancient Civilizations Forum’

Athens, on April 24, will host the first ministerial conference of the member states that comprise the Ancient Civilizations Forum (ACF Forum), with the participation of foreign ministers of ten countries (GC10), namely Greece, China, Bolivia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Mexico and Peru. 

The formation of the GC-10 (Great Civilizations) was an initiative of the Greek Foreign Ministry and involves ten member states with the longest cultural history.

The conference is taking place upon the initiative of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi and will mark the forum’s official launch.

The forum’s main objective is to bring together representatives of countries, which – although in various geographical regions – are considered “cradles of ancient cultures”, a Foreign Ministry announcement said.

Through a broad agenda of joint actions, the forum aims to “transform” culture into a source of power and a fundamental tool for introducing a contemporary, multifaceted foreign policy. 

The forum will also highlight the economic prospects of cultural synergies among nations.

Greek Artist’s Painting Sold for $132,000 in London

Girl with Two Doves by Angelos sold at auction for $132,186 at Bonhams’ Greek Sale in London. Photo courtesy of Irene Vandaraki

The Girl with a Pair of Dovesby Greek painter Angelos Panagiotou, aka Angelos, was auctioned off for the top price of £106,250 including premium in The Greek Sale at the British auction house Bonhams, on April 10.The amount is equal to $132,186.

Angelos was born in Farkadona, Trikala. He studied painting at the Fine Arts School of Athens with teacher Giorgo Mavroidis. He continued his studies making multiple trips to the museums of Europe and especially the Louvre, where he studied Western art.

His works are in many private collections and museums. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Greece and abroad, mainly in Europe and the United States.

The periods of his career are: Religious (1983-1990), The Shroud (1995-1997), Pigeons (1990-2000), Still Life (1988-2002), Metaphysical Landscapes (2000-2008), and Full Moon Nights (2004-2006).

Angelos said “I want my painting to be an emotional and spiritual retreat. I want to be a serene, peaceful image, opening a path to our inner redemption.”

His representative in New York,Irene Vandaraki, said that she is especially pleased with the result as it justifies the assessments about the painter and his artistic value is provided by the Greek artists who have created large current in the United States and has quite significant private collections.

Angelos’ work was featured in the recent exhibition Phos/Greek Light, held at the Long Island City offices of The National Herald in December.

Bonhams holds two auctions of Greek paintings each year, which include works by Greek and European artists dating from the late 18th century to the present day.

Greek artists whose works have sold well and even made records in the past include Theodore Jaques Ralli, Pericles Pantazis, Theofilios Hadjimichail, Thanos Tsingos, Alecos Condopoulos, and Nicholaos Gysis.

Greek Paganism legally recognized as ‘known religion’ in Greece

On April 9th, the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE), a religious organization working to restore the indigenous religion of Greece, put out a statement saying Greek polytheism has received legal status in Greece. 

Prior to this, Greek Pagans did not have religious freedoms such as the ability to buy land to create houses of worship nor could Pagan clergy perform marriage ceremonies.

Yesterday the Secretary of the Supreme council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE) announced that after more than twenty years of struggle, the Greek state has finally recognized the Hellenic Religion as a ‘Known Religion’ according to paragraph 17 – the only form of recognition for a religion in Greece. The mentioned paragraph includes the permission to build a temple as well as the right of public exercise of any recognized religion.

The recognition of Hellenic Religion as a ‘Known Religion’ is only the first step towards a general recognition of Hellenism. Now the YSEE at Athens is still waiting for recognition as a religious statutory body in Greece. The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes will approach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the state leaves them no other choice, said its Secretary.

Unlike the United States, Greece does not have a blanket freedom of religion law built into its legal system. It is instead governed by the Organization of the Legal Forms of Religious Communities and their Organizations in Greece. 

As of now, only six religions outside the Greek Orthodox faith are recognized as ‘known religions.’ And, even those practices that achieve this status often face an uphill battle in exercising their rights. For example, Muslims in Athens have fought for over 10 years to build a mosque, and have so far been unsuccessful.

The recognition of the Greek religion came after it was rejected in 2015. According to the YSEE, the rejection demonstrated that the Greek government, “…has yet to get rid of its byzantine and medieval whims and […] unable to respect with dignity its own laws.”

“It has rejected by intermediate on of its court of First Instance the motion signed by hundreds of Ethnikoi Hellenes to obtain recognition as a statutory corporation of religious character for their ancestral, indigenous, and historically continuous to our day despite cruel persecutions by Christianity.”

YSEE is currently registered as a non-profit organization and, as explained on its website, has been on the front lines in the on-going battle for religious community recognition.

The Wild Hunt spoke with Mr. Vlassis Rassias, the General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, about what it means for the Ethnic Hellenic Pagans in Greece and what the next steps are in achieving religious right in Greece.

TWH: If this is the first step towards a general recognition of Hellenism, what is the next step?

Vlassis Rassias: This was recognition of our Religion as such, by the official authorities of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Matters. To their credit, they gave us official permission for a place of worship in Athens, thus promoting the Hellenic Ethnic Religion to the status of a “known religion” in Greece, according to article 3 of the Constitution. 

The next step for us is the recognition of the official organization of the Hellenic Ethnic Religion (The Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, YSEE) as a statutory corporation of religious character, according to the relatively recent law 4301/2014, something that is so far absurdly rejected by the Greek courts, which resist our very name, and more particularly the term “Ethnic”, although the official authorities of the state have already accepted us under our proper title Hellenic Ethnic Religion. We have a rather strange situation here, exactly what our ancient ancestors were calling “tragelafos” (“τραγέλαφος”).

TWH: How was YSEE informed that the Hellenic religion is now a known religion?

VR: We received the official reply of the official authorities of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Matters, in response to an application of ours that we had submitted together with the requested big number of state documents, certifying the appropriateness of our place of worship, concerning its legality, fire safety, sanitation, and such. The above mentioned reply was also notified to various competent authorities, as the Ministry of Interior, the Registry Office, and such.

TWH: What is gained by being recognized as a religious statutory body?

VR: We are now under the protection of the law, to the same degree as the other 5 – 6 non-christian religions that are already classified as “known religions” in our country. We can henceforth register our children at the Registry Office as belonging to the Hellenic Ethnic Religion, and we shall perform hellenic wedding rituals with full legal value. We still remain though a Non-profit Organization, not a religious statutory body. As a religious statutory body, that is what for the time being is denied to us, we will function more properly in the matters that concern our Religion and, of course, we won’t pay every year the 500 – 1000 euros chargeable since 2011 by the indebted Greek State on all the Non-profit Organizations.

TWH: Was YSEE responsible for this change in status? What did you do to bring this about?

VR: This and all the future attainments of the goals of the Hellenic Ethnic Religion, is and will be the outcome of the uninterrupted, strategic, collective and devoted struggle of our organization that this June celebrates the 20 years of its operation under its present name. A decade before YSEE’s foundation we were operating through “Diipetes” (“Διιπετές”), a now defunct quarterly journal for the moral defense and restoration of our Religion.

 * * *

Mr. Rassias says YSEE will be celebrating their religion’s legal recognition during their annual celebration of Charisia-Aphrodesia, which is a religious observance in honor of Aphrodite and the Charities, on April 22nd.

Ancient Egyptian mummies discovered in tomb near Luxor

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered several mummies, 10 colourful sarcophagi, and more than 1000 funeral statues in an ancient tomb.

The discovery was made on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, near the Valley of the Kings. 

The Antiquities Ministry said the tomb was constructed for Userhat, a judge who lived during the New Kingdom period, from approximately 1500 to 1000 BC.

The tomb contained an open courtyard which lead into two halls, one which held four coffins, and the other housing six.

“There are 10 coffins and eight mummies. The excavation is ongoing,” Mostafa Waziri, the head of the archaeological mission, told AFP.

Waziri said the tomb has been opened to hold more mummies during the 21st Dynasty approximately 3000 years ago, to protect them during a time of tomb-robbing.

Inside one of the rooms, archaeologists found a vast collection of figurines and masks.

“It was a surprise how much was being displayed inside the tomb,” Egypt’s antiquities minister Khaled el-Enany told reporters.

“We found a large number of Ushabti(figurines), more than 1000 of them,” he said.

The coffins were well-preserved, and were found to be painted in red, blue, black, green, and yellow.

Another room inside the ancient tomb was discovered, and is yet to be excavated.

“There is evidence and traces that new mummies could be discovered in the future,” Nevine el-Aref, spokeswoman for the antiquities ministry said.

ISIS Gunmen Attack Historic St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Monastery in Egypt 

One of the world’s most important Christian sites came under gun attack. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine, built over 1,500 years ago is one of Christianity’s holiest sites.

Gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint near the monastery killing one policeman and wounding four others. The gunmen then retreated and did not reach the monastery compound, which is heavily fortified and guarded by Egyptian police and security forces.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via its news agency.

The attack on the monastery comes just over a week after suicide bombers attacked two Coptic Christian churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria, killing 45 people on Palm Sunday. 

According to the officials, the gunmen were shooting from an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint just outside the monastery, which is located in a remote desert and mountainous area in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, where, according to scripture, God spoke to the prophet Moses from a burning bush.

The Greek Orthodox monastery was a popular destination, primarily for Orthodox Christian pilgrims, but was closed to the public for security reasons in 2015, leaving only the monks and clergy inside the compound.

According to Orthodox Christian history, in the early 4th century, St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, built the Chapel of the Burning Bush at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the miracle.

The fortified walls were built around the chapel by the Byzantine emperor Justinian (who also commissioned the Hagia Sophia) starting in 527. The Church of the Transfiguration was completed by Justinian’s workers in the 560s, around the time of his death.

In 2002, the area centering on St. Catherine’s Monastery was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of Mt. Sinai’s importance in three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the natural environment of the area and St. Catherine’s historic architecture and art.

In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammed and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possess a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history that has remained safe for 1,400 years under Muslim protection.

The Promise to St. Catherine:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

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