IAO Secretary General Maximos Charakopoulos pointed out that, in the past, this international parliamentary organisation has shown the ability to adapt to new circumstances and get used to new ways of cooperation, through modern technologies.
He expressed satisfaction that this meeting, the first live meeting after the improvement of the situation caused by the pandemic, is being held in Belgrade, in the National Assembly, saying that the selection of venue was not accidental as Orthodoxy and Christianity in Serbia have a long tradition, one associated with identity. Orthodoxy is alive and strong as a faith among the Serbian people, Charakopoulos emphasised. In his address, he also stated that the IAO has 28 years of experience and in its work it is focused on issues of importance for the Christian world. He mentioned the conversion of the Church of Hagia Sophia into a mosque as a particularly important topic, listing the activities the IAO plans carry out until this decision is annulled.
Europe without a Christian heritage will not be Europe, said Maximos Charakopoulos adding that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Greek uprising, which thousands of Balkan Orthodox Christians took part in, starting tectonic changes that led to their liberation in the Balkans.
In his address, the President of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy Sergei Gavrilov pointed out that there is a spirit of mutual understanding and Orthodox solidarity in the organisation. The pandemic caused by the coronavirus taught us all a lesson about the need for cooperation in disease prevention and availability of medicines, he stressed, highlighting the important role of the Orthodox volunteers who helped lonely, sick and old people in the difficult days.
Gavrilov stated that it is important to preserve the brotherhood based on Orthodox values and to oppose neo-Nazism, stirring again in Europe after 75 years. Orthodox values and relations should be developed through culture, economy and youth work, said Sergei Gavrilov.
Addressing the opening of the meeting, National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic pointed out that the Republic of Serbia holds the activities of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in very high regard, especially the promotion of noble virtues through democratic institutions and the creation of a network of communication and cooperation between our parliaments. He reminded the attending that at the previous meeting of the International Secretariat held in Athens last year, at Serbia’s initiative, the fact that Christian churches in Kosovo-Metohija were endangered was noted, due to increasing attempts by Pristina to appropriate the Orthodox cultural heritage in Kosovo-Metohija as "Kosovo” heritage, which is a rough attempt to revise history and build the identity of the Albanian nation in Kosovo on the Serbian and Orthodox cultural heritage. Dacic stressed that Pristina’s attempts to join UNESCO are a very dangerous step toward disrupting the protection of the Orthodox Christian heritage in Kosovo-Metohija and urged Christians to greater solidarity.
The Head of the National Assembly delegation to IAO Sanja Lakic said that the state had done a lot for the Orthodox faith and the Serbian Orthodox Church in the previous period, adding that as the Serbian state grows stronger, so does the church. "Let's keep our Orthodox way," Sanja Lakic told the attending at the end of her presentation.
At the meeting of the, the IAO presented its activities in the past year were and the participants discussed the impact of the pandemic on the IAO member states.
The parliamentarians also discussed the situation of Christians in African countries, based on the information from George Alexander, secretary of the Pan-Orthodox Christian Society network.
The participants also prepared for the upcoming 28th annual session of the IAO General Assembly, to be held in Crete in July, with the main topic "The future of the world, the future of Europe after the pandemic."