Albert Laham, former president of Syndesmos. (July 2003)
“It is a great fortune to have a Primate of Orthodoxy coming from the Missionary field” – Albert Laham, of the Patriarchate of Antioch, former Vice President from 1958-1964 and former President of Syndesmos from 1964-1977. The youth movement of the Patriarchate of Antioch has its beginnings in 1942. It had the contribution of many young theologians or not, especially those who while studying abroad, came in contact with the Orthodox youth movements of other churches. Here we can mention the current Patriarch Ignatius, the Metropolitan of Lebanon Zharxh Kodr, etc.
From its inception Syndesmos was considered a bond of unity between different churches and groups with the aim of spiritually renewing the Orthodox youth. Starting from youth, she would do the renewal of the whole community and further prepare for ecumenism and Orthodox witness to the world. This was Syndesmos’s first idea since its inception.
In 1961, the missionary aspect was also emphasized. In the Assembly of Beirut, by the theologian John Majendorf, a “Porefthendes” was created, led by Archbishop Anastasios, with Missionary activities.
– What are the reasons for being Syndesmos and the tasks for the future?
– Today the whole world is becoming one. Careful. When I went to America as President of Syndesmos in 1966, to persuade the American Orthodox youth movements to join Syndesmos they asked. Why? The answer was that we are a church, we have a spiritual life, because our people ask the same questions about faith, doctrine, follow the same Liturgy, are the target of the same attacks. They are worried about what is happening in the world and how we should respond. The question is not why we should be united, but why we should be divided if we are a Church.
Even this Assembly, like any other, after the speeches, the key word, which was delivered by Archbishop Anastasios, is to put all the members of the movement together, according to the statute; to elect a new board, the president and vice presidents. But at the same time, this is also an opportunity for exchange of experience, since all the movements are gathered here. We have seen the formation of a number of groups to discuss, a range of different practical issues of working with youth, such as festivals, training of youth leadership, etc., or issues that concern the testimony of young Orthodox in other testimonies in the world today .
– Your impressions about the organization?
– The first is the revival of the Church in Albania. I have known Archbishop Anastasios for 40 years and I have valued and loved him as a missionary, as a bishop and minister of the church and I pray for him in every Liturgy, that God may give him life and strength to continue his work. It is a great fortune to have an orthodoxy primate coming from the Missionary field.
I look around and when I notice all this complex that was born from the ruins of the Albanian Church, I thank God. As I said in those few words of mine in the Assembly, this is surely the result of the blood and tears of the persecuted Orthodox in Eastern Europe. Tertullian, one of the first great theologians of the church in the twentieth century. III, has said that the blood of martyrs is the symbol of Christians. It is this that brings to the Church the experience that comes from the tears and blood of martyrs and confessors. Young people are called to reflect on this heritage and turn it into a flame for the whole community.
I thank God that the Archbishop of Albania led the whole community towards this vision.
Every time I come to the Assemblies and see more and more people coming from more and more places, with the same spirit of love, with the same spirit of faith, with the same sense of love before the God of their hearts, I rejoice and I feel renewed by these young people who are dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a great thing to do them here together, to work together, to pray together, to play together, to sing together, to think together about their problems, to benefit from their experience, In different places.
Korresp. of the “Resurrection”