September 7, 2004
To the Clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:
Over the Labor Day weekend, as the tragic events surrounding the terrorist attack on the school in Beslan, Russia and Hurricane Frances in Florida unfolded before our eyes in the media, the Orthodox Church in America Department of Communications fielded a remarkable number of e-mails and calls from clergy and laity, as well as many non-Orthodox Christians and agencies, enquiring as to how assistance may be rendered to the victims of these two extreme tragedies.
We were most heartened to learn that many parishes had already taken collections on Sunday, September 5, as a sign of their desire to reach out in love and concern to the suffering people of Beslan and the anticipated needs of those most affected by the hurricane.
In an initial press release posted on the OCA web site on Sunday, September 5, preliminary information with regard to rendering assistance was offered, adding that on-site reports were gradually arriving as to how best assist the terrorist and hurricane victims.
As of Tuesday morning, September 7, sufficient information on the needs of the traumatized survivors of the Beslan terrorist attack had been received to ascertain the best means by which assistance might be offered, received and channeled. In response, the Orthodox Church in America has established the “Beslan Relief Fund” which will receive contributions from parishes, individuals, organizations, and everyone so moved to offer expressions of Christian charity.
Therefore, we kindly request that collections for the suffering people of Beslan be taken in all parishes on Sunday, September 12 and Sunday, September 19. Donations in any amount, which certainly will be appreciated deeply by those most affected by this tragedy, may be sent to the “Beslan Relief Fund,” Orthodox Church in America, P.O. Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791. All donations will be channeled to the needy in Beslan through well-respected and reliable means.
With regard to the situation of our many parishes and faithful across Florida, information is just now beginning to filter into the OCA Chancery. Telephone service has been sporadic at best, many of our faithful were among the 2.5 million evacuees, and the prospect of Hurricane Ivan descending upon the already hard-hit state continues to loom. Nevertheless, the OCA has also established a second fund, the “Florida Relief Fund,” in anticipation of the mounting needs that obviously will surface in the coming days.
Hence, we also request that collections for the Florida hurricane victims be taken in all parishes on Sunday, September 26 and Sunday, October 3, and forwarded to the Chancery at the above address by Friday, October 15, 2004.
While we are well aware that special appeals are often directed at the same parishes and individuals to which we continuously turn in times of extreme need, we are equally well aware of the fact that the faithful and friends of our Church have always responded, not only with their fervent prayers, but also with extreme generosity and compassion, placing the needs of others before their own in the supreme example of Christian stewardship.
As the enclosed letter by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, states, “Who among us was not moved to tears as we learned that innocent children were fired upon, with no regard for the sanctity of life? Who among us was not moved to tears as images of grieving parents burying their children, flashed before our eyes…? And who among us could not help but consider the immense burdens placed upon those who lost everything in the hurricane, realizing that in other circumstances, any one of us could have experienced the same tragedy?”
I ask you now, as never before, to give, and give generously, that the bond of love that unites us as the Orthodox Church in America once again will move us to reach out to those who so desperately need our prayers and financial assistance. And I pray that God will bless you abundantly now, and in the life of the world to come, for your heartfelt expressions of love and concern for those suffering in ways that, for most of us, seem unimaginable.
Yours in Christ,
Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick