Priests and Priestesses, Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with regret that I was not able to attend this year, but also a pleasure to know that the Parliament decided to come so close to my temple's home here in Illinois.
I'm Priest Christopher. I'm the founder and Head Priest of the only ancient Greek temple in Illinois. While many would classify me as Pagan, I am part of a religion that is a minority within a minority at present time, and that is Hellenism, the adherence to ancient Greek religion and theology.
But even as such a minority, I speak with firm pride and confidence in my community. We are a growing movement, not only in America, but in Greece herself, where the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes finally won the legal battle to have the Greek government once again recognize the legitimacy of the Hellenic religion.
I myself have also enjoyed a wonderful experience of interaction and growth during my past 14 years in Hellenism.
But one thing that should draw us all to an admiration of Hellenism, is the fact that ancient Greece built the Western world upon which we stand today. In a society of freedom and democracy, of human liberation, where the courthouses and government buildings are built of ancient Greek architecture, and where the faces of famous ancient Greeks overlook the chambers of the federal House of Representatives, I never feel alone or out of place.
As even former presidents such as Bill Clinton have said, "We are all Greeks." And more specifically, ancient Greeks in that metaphorical sense, because all that we are and hold dear as a national institution, originated there.
It has also not been without extreme strife, however. Since the forcible take over of Greece by the Christian Orthodox powers, the traditional Hellenic identity has faced the threat of extermination. It's true that my people have no readily available temples from historical times because they were all burned and left to decay. We have no treasuries because they were all looted. And we have no nation because the land was taken from us.
But even after enduring over 2,000 years of persecution, we still know who the ancient Greeks were enough to continue on their religions and ideals. And even though temples and sanctuaries are ruins scattered about the landscape, we Hellenists still meet there to pray and sacrifice to the Gods. The faith and spirit of a Hellene or a Hellenist simply cannot be conquered.
Knowing the Gods of Greece has been the most blissful experience of my life, and I am so honored that I found myself able to participate in their religion's movement in such a crucial time for Greece, America, and the world.
I am also delighted to see such an amazing turnout of diversity in the Parliament this year. We are all unique. We all may have completely different ways of looking at Deity, humanity and the world. And yet there is no hatred or holy wars here. We are living together in peace, with respect for each other's humanity and human right to freedom of religion.
Instead of listening to those who tell us all the reasons we should be against one another, we know it's vital that our world conquer hate and intolerance, and free itself from ignorance and propaganda through education and experience. And it's wonderful to live in a nation, still carrying on that ancient ideal, where we are free to pursue that interest.
In the Goodness of the Gods,
Thank You, All,
and May Olympos Smile On You Always.