This is a letter I recently received from the Friends of Mt Athos regarding recent events that have left the small monastic republic vulnerable in a new way. They need our help and here is a way we can offer it.
Letter From the Membership Chairman of the Friends of Mount Athos in the Americas
I hope you all had a chance to see the CBS episode of 60 Minutes on Sunday which featured the role of Xenophontos Monastery in the resurrection of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero in New York City. https://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/video/UBOOkG0l5yPkvuNgYloytM5_4Pi3hzmU/the-resurrection-of-new-york-s-st-nicholas-greek-orthodox-church/
I am writing today to bring you up to date on recent events on the Mount Athos and ask for your help in a very simple way that will cost you nothing.
On the Holy Mountain
First, Coronavirus has stricken the Holy Mountain, which is very vulnerable due to the traditional close living arrangements in the monasteries. The first monks stricken are, thankfully, recovering, but it remains to be seen how many others will be hit. The Greek government has officially closed Mount Athos and pilgrimage has ceased.
Then, a few days ago, a huge storm hit the mountain. Landslides destroyed the main road from the port of Daphni to the capital, Karyes in several places, and many of the smaller roads connecting individual monasteries were destroyed or blocked by landslides, hindering the transport of food and supplies to the monasteries.
The past year has been a challenging one for the Holy Mountain for other reasons, too — please look at the full list at the end of this letter.
Three Simple Things You Can Do For FoMA
We, the Friends of Mount Athos (FoMA), exist to be a community of friends for the Holy Mountain in a world that hardly knows about this unique place. As you probably know, the American membership of FoMA has created a 501C3 charitable foundation, the Mount Athos Foundation of America (MAFA — www.mountathosfoundation.org), to promote awareness and understanding of Mount Athos and to support it in times of need.
MAFA looks forward to launching its first-ever nationwide fundraising campaign in the Fall, hoping that the virus will be history by then. But we have ONE VERY BIG PROBLEM: no one knows about us except the Friends of Mount Athos, and we are only a small group of around 215 people scattered across this nation. To remedy this situation, we have now created a MAFA FaceBook Page to help in raising awareness of MAFA and of Mount Athos.
Here are 2 very simple ways to help us expand our efforts to help the fathers on Mount Athos:
(1) Visit our new Facebook page and “Like” us. This will give us a big boost of awareness. Here is the Facebook link:
(2) pass this letter on to all your friends, and especially to your local Orthodox priests for circulation to Orthodox parishes all across this country, but to friends in other denominations as well. Do it right away, while memory of the 60 Minutes episode is still fresh! This is a gentle way to encourage them to “like” us and to join the Friends of Mount Athos. Membership dues go toward our work in support of the monasteries.
If you have an idea of something else you can do to help build awareness of MAFA and the Friends of Mount Athos in your local area, please contact me. I would love to hear from you.
Difficult Times for the Holy Mountain
Conditions have been challenging for the monasteries on Mount Athos for a number of reasons.
The Greek economic crisis has reduced the government’s resources for helping
Funding from the European Union and Russia have been reduced or lost. the result of world events
A great number of tenants in the rental properties that constitute an important part of the monastic endowments are unable to continue paying rent because of the financial crisis
Homeless people and large numbers of immigrants fleeing the Syrian wars are taking refuge in vacant rental buildings, and the monasteries have left their buildings open to them as a way to help
Grigoriou Monastery was hit by a fire that destroyed its electromechanical facility, and now must rebuild. It is operating on temporary generators and will have to take on debt to rebuild because the building in question was not a historic one eligible for restoration funds from the European Union.
All of these circumstances are contributing to a dangerous situation, with scarce funds remaining to provide for ongoing maintenance of historic buildings
Please circulate this letter wherever you can!
Robert W. Allison,
Membership Secretary for the Americas, The Friends of Mount Athos
President, The Mount Athos Foundation of America