Sunday, March 27, 2005 

Public Relations vs. Public Alienation?

For the past two months, the Greek Orthodox church has been overwhelmed by so many scandals being exposed on a daily basis, it's nearly impossible to keep track of them all. One thing that has remained consistent and apparent throughout the debacle, are the ridiculous and even more damaging responses to each accusation. If the Church is going to weather this hurricane of media attention, then it had best get on the phone and hire some spin doctors with combined Ph.Ds in Public Relations, Damage Control and Diplomacy. Considering that these hyperbolic defences used by the Church are also employed by Greek politicians, Athletic Associations and anyone else who finds themselves on Page 1 of a Greek newspaper, they better start dialling long distance to the US of A to find their saviour. I hear Bill Clinton's not too busy these days. Since he, himself, has squirmed out of so many potential political deathtraps, I know he'd be my first choice.

Archbishop Christodoulos
Before the members of the Holy Synod and a host of the faithful, the Archbishop set himself in charge of the purging, while he appealed to all those making revelations to stop, as they hold people hostage. Christodoulos also stressed that it is hypocritical to claim that they reveal the truth in this way, and he expressed the conviction that all this is taking place to strike a blow at people’s faith in the Church and not to cause cleansing. "Such problems are not faced via prosecution. They are faced by the Church itself," he said, stressing that spiritual fathers are not prosecutors, lawyers, policemen, judges, they are simple spiritual fathers and should follow the example of Christ and be close to sinners. (Feb. 6, 2005)

The wolf tending the sheep. With charges of trial fixing, drug dealing, sex scandals and embezzlement swirling around him, Archbishop Christodoulos is actually telling the media to stop reporting these revelations and refers to these scandals not as the crimes which they are but as "problems" to be faced only by the church and not through legal prosecution. And as later allegations and charges surface against Christodoulos himself, how convenient it will be that he's in charge of his own investigations.

"These revelations are an orchestrated and targeted slanderous attack on the Church.” (Feb. 9, 2005)

When all else fails, blame someone else.

“I considered, but immediately rejected, the possibility of resigning because I do not believe I am a part of the problem.” (Interview on Alpha Television--Feb. 28, 2005)

The man who is at the helm of the Church of Greece considers himself not to be part of the problem while bishop after bishop, priest after priest are being involved daily in yet more scandals. If an organization promotes itself as the beacon of all that's good and righteous in this world and yet employs nothing but corrupt, lying and fraudulent men, is the president not responsible for the creating an environment where criminal behaviour is allowed to flourish?

Bishop Anthimos
On the other hand, Metropolitan Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki blamed the attack suffered by the Church on the Media, calling on the faithful to turn off their televisions. (Feb. 6, 2005)

This defence is original. Condemn the media for exposing the sins and protect the faithful (the church?) by encouraging them to turn off their televisions. No scandals if no one knows about it right? I wonder if this defence will also work when the religious Armageddon comes and the fireball meant to destroy earth is in plain sight of the faithful...will he then instruct us all to cover our eyes because what we can't see won't hurt us?

Irenaios, Patriarch of Jerusalem
"Demons are circling the walls of the holy city and trying to crush those who support the Jerusalem patriarchate and the brotherhood of the Holy Land." (Feb. 28, 2005)

After the story broke that Orthodox church property had been sold illegally to Israelis in Jerusalem under the Patriarch's watch, Irenaios deflects the blame with grand use of biblical hellfire vocabulary and calls anyone who reported on the story or believes the story 'demons' and accuses them instead of trying to destroy the church.

“If I have done this, let my hands be cut off." (March 26, 2005)

Time to get measured for the prosthetics, Irenaios since the Church’s general secretary, Archbishop Aristarchos, claims that Irenaios was solely responsible for giving the Church’s former financial manager, Nikos Papadimas, the authority to sign the long-term leases.

Saturday, March 19, 2005 

The Olympic Gold for Scapegoating Goes to Greece

Yesterday, the disgraced Olympic medallist Greek sprinters, Ekaterina Thanou and Costas Kenteris were acquitted of charges that they dodged three drug tests leading up to the Athens 2004 Olympics. SEGAS, the Greek Amateur Athletics Federation, instead laid the entire blame for the missed tests on their coach, Christos Tzekos.

Greece's two most popular Olympic medal winners, Costas Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou were supposed to take a drug doping test prior to the Athens 2004 Olympics. On the eve of Opening Night, they were involved in a suspicious motorcycle accident which sent them to the hospital for 5 days with injuries which prevented them from taking the doping tests. These 'injuries' could not be confirmed by other doctors 48 hours later, nor could the accident itself be confirmed leading many to believe that it was purposely staged to avoid the doping tests. Considering that they also missed doping tests in Chicago and Chania, Crete as well, a pattern of missing the dope tests became apparent and therefore, charges were laid against the two sprinters and their coach.

The story becomes more interesting since two years prior to the August 2004 scandal, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) "demanded better cooperation from Greek athletes in anti-doping tests to "avoid unnecessary embarrassment" before the 2004 Olympics. A report by the IAAF's anti-doping commission in Monaco said many Greek athletes cannot be found for out-of-competition tests for banned substances." SEGAS responded with the usual hyperbolic Greek victim defence... "Who created this non-existing issue? Obviously those in Greece and abroad who lead this orchestrated attack on Greek track and field." SEGAS dismisses the concern as non-existant and slams anyone for even asking about it. Had they listened to the IAAFs advice back then, maybe Greece wouldn't have found itself disgraced on the opening day of the Olympics.

Then, in February, 2004, Christos Tzekos used the same defence when his name was involved in an American investigation of banned substances with a company called Balco in San Francisco. He described the mention of his name in the report as "“immoral and cowardly attack,” while threatening to take legal action against other “groundless reports and slanderous remarks.” Of course, SEGAS defended him back then calling the reports "anti-Greek propaganda and an insult to Greek athletics". Fast forward one year and those reports aren't so groundless or slanderous since SEGAS decided to lay the entire doping saga on his shoulders alone.

Even the Greek doping inspector, Psarellis testified that he was warned by SEGAS to be"less stringent" in performing the doping tests or locating the Greek athletes. Again, SEGAS responded by calling these allegations "slanderous and lies".

The verdict came as a shock to many but considering SEGAS' history of not heeding warnings, non-cooperation with international athletics governing bodies and repeated denials of any wrongdoing or incompetence, it really shouldn't have come as a surprise. They couldn't admit to any responsibility for not having taken appropriate measures to prevent the doping scandals which plagued the Greek athletes at the 2004 Olympics. They certainly couldn't admit that the same athletes they had vouched for as being drug-free, were, in fact, dopers so they did the next best face-saving thing...they pinned all the blame on a dispensable coach.

I do hope that the IAAF appeals this scapegoat decision and forces SEGAS to clean up its act because the country famous for the creation of the Olympic games may end up being the country notorious for providing scandals and not athletes to future Games. Future athletes deserve to perform without a cloud of suspicion over their heads and the fans deserve drug-free performances from their athletes.

Saturday, March 12, 2005 

The Case for Immigrants & Culture Immersion Courses

My last blog focused on the culture clash between immigrants and their host countries. I referred to the case of a young Sikh woman who was murdered by her father because it was customary among Sikhs to restore a family's honour through honour killings. Now, another case has come to light and this time involving a Korean family.

In January, 2005, a 16 year-old Korean high school student was subjected to at least 3 hours of punishment by caning. Hundreds of blows were administered to the boy by his father as punishment for skipping classes, staying out late and being rude to his mother. In March, 2005, the father pleaded guilty to assault and was "to submit an article for anonymous publication in the local paper about what forms of discipline are acceptable." The father said that caning was a 'traditional Korean culture". I understand that the father was upset that his son was squandering away his educational opportunities after the father had spent over $27,ooo a year to keep his son in Canada studying but to justify caning his son for 3 hours??? It wasn't just one episode where the father lost his temper, the boy admitted that he had been caned on other occasions as well and was waiting for another caning when his father returned to Canada after he had found out the boy hadn't reformed his behaviour.

The excuse that Koreans accept caning as justified punishment does not absolve him from his crime. I'm sure that this man, a CEO of several international companies, would be the first man to run to the police and file charges if someone had hit him once in the board room, on the street or in his house. Yet, he nearly killed his son with his perverse form of punishment.

If it weren't for the direct intervention of school officials upon seeing his injuries, I'd probably be blogging about the boy's obituary instead as in the case of the Sikh girl.

Again, I reiterate my opinion that all immigrants must be forced to take cultural immersion classes upon their acceptance into their host countries in order to prevent more atrocities like these ones from happening. These courses should include language, law, history and culture lessons and once the prospective immigrants have passed tests on these subjects, only then should they be given their residence papers.

We may not be able to eradicate all criminals but we may be able to prevent many from happening. By informing potential victims of their rights and freedoms, they may be less willing to remain silent about their suffering if they have the support of the community and law behind them.

Sunday, March 06, 2005 

Honour Killings--Dishonourable Murders

Last week, in British Columbia, Canada, an Indian Sikh father was found guilty of stabbing his daughter to death in July 2003. Her crime? She had dated a non-Sikh man against her father's wishes. Her death is categorized as an "honour killing". And there is nothing honourable about it.

Honour killings occur when a male family relative kills female relatives for perceived offences against the family's honour. The accusations don't have to be verified. The woman is not allowed to defend herself. The woman is murdered to restore the family's honour. Honour killings are prevalent in muslim societies and in India. Even though many Islamic scholars and leaders condemn the practice and refute the claim that it is based on Islamic law, the practice is still common and it is believed that over 5,000 women each year are murdered by family members for disgracing a family. Apparently, only women can disgrace a family since women don't murder their male family members for any of the same offences. If a woman is raped, she is found guilty of disgracing the family rather than the rapist. Flirting and being a rape victim is more shameful than the rapist or murderer himself.

It is not always a male member of the family who commits the murder. Another Canadian-Indian woman was sentenced to die by her own mother. The mother hired assassins in her village in India to find her daughter and kill her.

So many cultures criticize Westerners for our seemingly lax view of family values but when I keep hearing about women who die at the hands of their own family members because it's a time-honoured custom, I can't help but think that I'd rather a society with a high divorce rate than a society where a woman's life is valued less than the local livestock.

Sure, we have instances where husbands kill their wives and mothers kill their children but it's not a custom or tradition but an aberration.

What bothers me even more, is that these people come to our countries and believe they can keep these draconian practices alive in their host countries. Maybe Immigration Departments in western countries should be asking more questions on the Immigration forms about prospective immigrants feelings about the role of women in society. Based on the answers given, we could then submit the applicant to some sort of attitude readjustment program before their entrance to our countries is approved.

We can't pass laws in other countries but we can give some of these women a chance for a life full of opportunities in our own countries by establishing hotlines and safe houses for women who believe they may become a victim of an honour killings. If we could have intervened on behalf of Ms. Atwal in British Columbia, she might be alive today. She lived her life under constant threats and fear of death and it was not a secret to those who knew her. The lack of a concerted effort by community members ensured she died a horrible death at the hands of her father.