The Celebration of the Greek Independence on March 25, 1821

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE CELEBRATION OF THE GREEK INDEPENDENCE ON MARCH 25, 1821

From 1453 with the fall of Constantinople until the revolution in 1821 Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. This day is the black day in Greek history. By the end of the 15th century, Greece was under Turkish rule. Over the next 400 years, the Greeks were slaves to the Turks, deprived of their human rights, considered as second class citizens (rayas means beast in Turkish language), worked and lived only for their rulers. Harems of Pashas were full of Christian girls while the body guards of Sultan (Jenitsars) were Christian boys who were taken by force from their parents. The passion for freedom is best described in the ward song written by Regas Velestinlis (Ferreos) in 1797:

"Better one hour of free life, Than forty years of slavery and prison."

Many attempts were made by the Greeks to gain their freedom, but they were unsuccessful and paid by Greeks in very high price. The population was diminished to a critical point, and after thousands of years of existence the Greek race was in danger of extinction. 

The conditions were intolerable in Morias (Peloponnese), Roumeli (South Mainland), and Macedonia where rayas (as Turks called Greeks), worked all day in the fields just to be able to pay their huge tax (head-tax) to the tyrants. Many Greeks rebelled against the Turks and hid in the mountains and caves. The Turks called these men "Kleftes" (Thieves). The Turks gave Greek villagers, who were called "Armatoloi", weapons in order to protect the Turks against the bandits. However, the Armatoloi avoided fighting their "brothers" and in most cases, they united with the Kleftes and went against the Turks in order to destroy them. So places like Mani (near Sparta), Suli (near Ioannina) and Sfakia in Crete remained for most of the Ottoman period free regions.

These types of Greek troops such as the Kleftes and Armatoloi were of great importance because they gained a significant amount of combat experience. This group was based on a simple order of rank. The "Kapetanios," being the most prominent position, was usually from a family of great warlords and had to have experience in battle. He had to be accepted by the men he would command, and his orders would not be questioned or disobeyed.

In 1814, three Greek merchants named Emmanaouil Xanthos, Athanasios Tsakaloff, and Nicholaos Scouphas established a secret organization known as the "Philiki Etaireia." The purpose of this organization was to prepare Greece and gather support for the oncoming struggle for independence. The patriotic conspiracy took place in Odessa, now city in Ukraine. As the struggle developed, the revolution was united with a crude plan of action. The nation was ready to start the armed struggle for independence.

he phrase "freedom or death" signified the Greeks' commitment to achieving their independence. On February 22, 1821 General Alexandros Ypsylantis, the leader of "Philiki Etaireia", along with a small army crossed the Pruth River, which marked the border between Russia, Bessarabia, and Moldavia. Unfortunately, he and his army were defeated by the Turks. The unofficial but actual date of the beginning of the revolution was March 23, 1821, when Petrombeis Mavromichales, Theodoros Kolokotronis, Papaflessas liberated the city of Kalamata. 24 March 1821, Bishop Germanos declared Greek Revolution in Megali Lavra at Patras. Greeks found refuge in the castle of the city.

As retaliation Turks massacred thousands of Greeks (Romeoi) in Constantinople, Adrianople, Smyrne, Kydonies and elsewhere in Asia Minor. On the 10th April 1821, Patriarch of Constantinople Gregorios the 5th was tortured and hung. In 1822, the Turkish fleet reached the Island of Chios. The Turks murdered 50,000 of the Greek inhabitants, burned their homes and property, and the rest were sold to slave bazaars.

But for 4 years Greeks had only victories and managed to throw the Turks out of Peloponnese, Aegean sea, Rumeli and Epirus. Many powerful nations in Europe, such as Great Britain, France, and Austria became involved. Although the governments of these European nations officially sided with the Turks, their people supported Greece contributing food, money, and some even fought for the independence of Greece. The people who supported the Greek people were called "Philhellenes" or "Philellines". Two great Philhellenes were the British romantic poet, Lord Byron, and the French artist Delacroix, who helped in raising money to support the revolution in Greece (also French Victor Hugo, and German Gaete supported the Greek struggle to be free of this slavery. The "Philhellenes" involvement to the conflict brought attention to it, until the powers of Europe decided to intervene.

The Turks were unable to stop the revolution and so the Sultan of Turkey asked Muhammad Ali, the Pasha of Egypt for help. So under Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad, the well trained by French officers, Egyptian army successfully invaded the Peloponnese in 1825. In April 1826, Turks and Egyptians captured the city of Messologhion where they slaughtered almost all the population.

In 1827 a treaty was signed in London in which all warfare should stop. So European powers (Russia, France, England), sent their naval fleets to Navarino Bay on October of 1827, in order to guarantee for the observance of the treaty. There accidently broke out a naval battle and the united Turkish-Egyptian and Tenesian fleet in a few hours, was destroyed. Finally and after Russian pressure against Sultan, the independence of Greece was declared in 1829 in Adrianople which was then under Russian control.

"According to several accounts, from the conquest of Constantinople to the last phase of the Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Muslim Turks condemned to death 11 Ecumenical Patriarchs, nearly 1000 bishops, and several thousands of priests, deacons and monks...the above thousands, several have been canonized and raised to Sainthood by the Greek Orthodox Church."

"In a brief but pioneering article in the English language about Eastern Orthodox neomartyrs, the leading Belgian hagiology expert Hippolyte Delehaye (1921) wrote some 50 years ago that "the perfidy of the Turks new no limits" and that they used ingenious and varied means to induce numerous Christians to convert to Islam. He added: 'The martyrology of Christians of the Orient, who were victims of Mussulman fanaticism, contains many interesting and often moving pages that may be compared to the venerable monuments of the history of ancient persecutions.'

"Under the Ottoman Empire the Christians suffered a steady decline. Forced conversions to Islam, the abduction of children to serve in the fanatical Janissary corps, persecutions and oppression reduced the Christian population. Oppression intensified, leading to Genocide. Christian clergy were a constant target of Turkish persecution, particularly once the 1894 policy of Armenian genocide had been declared by sultan Abdul Hamid."

"Victims of horrible torture, many Orthodox clergy were martyred for their Christian faith. Among the first was Metropolitan Chrysostomos who was martyred, not just to kill a man but, to insult a sacred religion and an ancient and honorable people. Chrysostomos was enthroned as Metropolitan of Smyrna on 10 May 1910. Metropolitan Chrysostomos courageously opposed the anti-Christian rage of the Turks and sought to raise international pressure against the persecution of Turkish Christians. He wrote many letters to European leaders and to the western press in an effort to expose the genocide policies of the Turks.  In 1922, in unprotected Smyrna, Chrysostomos said to those begging him to flee: 'It is the tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his congregation.' The tribunal in Angora (now Ankara) had already condemned him to death. A mob fell upon Chrysostomos and tore out his eyes. Bleeding profusely, he was dragged through the streets by his beard. He was beaten and kicked and part of his body were cut off. All the while Chrysostomos, his face covered with blood, prayed: "Holy Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Every now and then, when he had the strength, he would raise his hand and bless his persecutors; a Turk, realizing what the Metropolitan was doing, cut off his hand with a sword. Metropolitan Chrysostomos was then hacked to pieces by the angry mob."

Now, dear friends, you know why Greek and Armenian Christians honor this day and the millions of men, women and children that were martyred. The total Greek Christians martyred from 1914-1922 1, 750,000. Armenians massacred from 1915-1916 1,500.000 (perish in massacres and forced deportations. Total Armenian Christians martyred 1894-1923 1,800,000.

We must never either take our faith or our freedom for granted.

In Christ our Savior,

+Father George