Dear Governor Kasich,
(The following letter was sent to Governor John Kasich of Ohio and two prominent State senators)
I write to you today as the spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in Eastern and Central Ohio (with communities in the Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, and Steubenville areas) regarding a crucial matter facing the world: the topic of religious freedom. Our nation was founded on a principle that each man and woman would be free to practice their faith without oppression or compulsion; however, this principle is not shared by all the countries with which we have relationships.
One particular place that has not allowed the free exercise of religion is Turkey, where many faiths, including Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and our Orthodox Church have historic roots and communities of believers who have lived in their lands for many centuries. There are a number of good people who now live in this great state of Ohio because they needed to flee religious oppression in Asia Minor at the hands of the Turkish government.
A shining example of strength in the face of this oppression is our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who as the first among equals is the senior-most cleric in the Orthodox Church world-wide, a faith that includes hundreds of millions of adherents. His plight as the leader of a Church under heavy restriction in Turkey has been well-documented, especially with recent interviews by 60 minutes and Charlie Rose. Thousands of Orthodox Christians of multiple jurisdictions in this great state look to him for spiritual strength, but are also greatly distressed at the oppression he suffers in the land of his ancestors.
To date, 42 of our United States have responded to this situation by passing resolutions condemning the religious persecution, and calling for freedom of religious practice for the religious minorities of Turkey, especially for our Ecumenical Patriarch. On behalf of the thousands of adherents to Christian Orthodoxy in Ohio, I ask you to support these measures that have been introduced in the Ohio Senate (S.C.R. No 3) and Ohio House of Representatives (H.C.R. No 7), and send a message that the people of the State of Ohio oppose religious oppression wherever it exists.
I thank you for your time, and for your continued support of freedom.
Yours in Christ,
Metropolitan of Pittsburgh