Celebrating Christmas & New Year in a War Zone – Fr Themis Christmas Message

OCP News Service- December- 2014- January 2015

Lock-Down Mode Festive Season In Sierra Leone Due to Ebola Crisis

“Our nation is at war with a vicious enemy.” (E.B. Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, 17 / 12 / 14).

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Except for going to church services all the population of Sierra Leone must stay home this Christmas and New Year. We will be under a semi – lock-down mode the for the Festive Season. No restaurants, no sporting events, no public celebrations, no wedding receptions, no street celebrations, all shops must close on weekdays by 6.00 PM, by noon of Saturdays and no trading on Sundays .

Indeed the army will be out in force to enforce this. Violators will face the full weight of the law. Why? Are we facing some sort of anti-Christian campaign? No! Then why these draconian measures during the Holy Season? The simple yet tragic answer is that this nation is at war again.

Just as ten times in the last twenty years this nation is at war again through Christmas and New Year; But this time there are no AK 47s or bullets killing innocent people; This time there are no rebel forces invading cities, towns and villages and amputating arms and legs.

This time the enemy asks no questions, takes no prisoners and is totally indiscriminate in its killing spree. This time the enemy is silent, invisible and even deadlier. This time there can be no truce or treaties it’s a zero-sum situation. This time the enemy is a virus – a vicious and deadly hemorrhagic fever virus called Ebola!
For this reason and by Government decree all Christmas and New Year celebrations have been cancelled in order to avoid the gathering of a crowd of people in enclosed spaces and thus limiting the risk of body contact – the essential source of Ebola contamination.

When I first heard this new decree my initial instinctive reaction was negative. But then I reconsidered the situation from a purely spiritual perspective. What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is it about street dancing? Is it about wild parties? Is it about getting drunk? Is it about carousing all night? Or as the habit here, a street parade by the native “Devil people?” Perhaps these rigorous measure may be an unintended blessing in disguise. By removing all thee unnecessary commercial and un​-​spiritual layers from this Christmas and New Year in Sierra Leone, we may finally have a purer celebration of the Nativity of Christ in a sober and sensible manner where the opportunity to focus and reflect upon the essential meaning of the Bethlehem Event.

Those of you who are reading this in other countries please consider not to get caught up in the commercialization trivialization, degradation and secularization of Christmas which aims to displace the Holy Child of Bethlehem from center stage by Coca Cola’s “Father Christmas,” reindeer’s, fir trees accompanied by drunkenness, eating marathons and improper behavior.

In a world of increasing uncertainty, declining moral standards and selfishness let us cling to the eternal and unchanging truths, let try to keep this Christmas holy! Like the Wise Men let us worship Christ! Let us also help the less fortunate! In other words let us bring back the authentic expression of Christmas.

To those who have helped and are continuing to help our Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone, our sponsors (P4K Australia; P4K USA; St. Comas the Aetolian Missionary Alliance / Greece & Fraternity of External Orthodox Missions / Greece) as well as the individual donors, ​you are constantly in my prayers, ​kindly accept on behalf of all our people here a warm note of gratitude.

The blessings of Christ be upon you.
+ (Archimandrite) Themistocles
Freetown, Sierra Leone

OCP News Service