While people often feel compelled to giveback to national-level charities, one Homer Glen church has found a cause to support that hits close to home.
Rev. Sotirios “Father Sam” Dimitriou, of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, joined by members of his parish has been working to bring greater awareness to Strongyli Megistis, a Greek island in which the Turks have called into question ownership.
“We have that sense of Greek nationality,” he said, referring to the church’s commitment to the cause. “You could say there’s some pride, but also I want to say some responsibility [for] everything that has transpired since being freed.”
The Homer Glen church, along with the archdiocese and other religious institutions throughout the metropolis, recently started an initiative to raise funds to bring greater awareness to challenges in the Aegean region concerning Greece and Turkey. It involves selling limited edition bottles of extra virgin olive oil dubbed Viannos Village Land of the Olive Oil, and the cost is $15.
“It’s going to help sustain this little island and bring awareness to the region of what’s going in that area,” Dimitriou said. “A lot of these things, people don’t understand what goes on, what happens in our history of the Greeks, and our church itself.”
The dispute between the Greeks and Turks dates back to the 1400s.
“I think a lot of it has to do again with the history between the two countries, between Greece and Turkey, just not the recent events but you have 400 years of hostility and so forth,” Dimitriou said. “A lot of it has to be toward military [strategy] and so forth. Even though it’s just a little island and people think it’s insignificant, it’s significant to the Greek people because of all the things the Greeks went through. For 400 years, to be under somebody’s rule and enslaved, and now to have your freedom, and now someone trying to take your land away again, that’s a lot to deal with.”
Beginning in 1453, the Ottomans took over Constantinople for a number of years, at which point the Orthodox Church ceased to exist.
Dimitriou said the Orthodox Church became silent and remnants of the past still linger even today.
“If I go to Constantinople, I can’t wear my robe,” he said. “Only the patriarch can wear his robe. Bishops have to wear a suit and tie. … It’s a religion that’s not always allowed to be practiced freely and openly and independently, like we have our freedoms like we have them [in the U.S.].”
Since Greece claimed its independence, the Turks have gone on to invade and occupy a portion of Cyprus.
Dimitriou said he is optimistic the parish’s initiative is making strides to push for greater awareness of the challenges the Greek motherland faces.
“Now, you have this threat of these islands that are there in this area of Greece, and there’s always threat of war over some of these islands,” Dimitriou said. “Now, there’s a cause that people feel that they can help with.”
To purchase the extra virgin olive oil while supplies last, visit Assumption Greek Orthodox Church or place an order online at www.viannosvillageoil.com.