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Hellenic Voice reports on ‘Patriarch, activist named ‘human rights champions’

The Hellenic Voice newspaper recently reported on ‘Patriarch, activist named ‘human rights champions’.

The Hellenic Voice is the largest and most widely accepted English weekly dedicated to Hellenic Americans. According to their website, The Hellenic Voice is dedicated to the values and virtues of Hellenism, to the lively and majestic Greek American spirit and to the piety and holiness of Orthodox Christianity.

The published article can be read in its entirety below.


‘Patriarch, activist named ‘human rights champions’

By Steve Crowe, The Hellenic Voice

The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church and a Greek-born, American-educated activist in the Palestinian territories were named “Human Rights Champions of 2009” by the D.C. Human Rights Examiner, part of the national network.

His All Holiness Bartholomew I of Constantinople was commended for his “commitment to the environment and our global community” and for his courage to speak out about “human rights abuses and religious intolerance in his native land of Turkey.”

Dr. Maria Khoury, wife of the mayor of the West Bank village of Taybeh (ancient Ephraim) and a children’s book author, was praised for speaking out on behalf of Palestinian Christians who face persecution by Muslims and restrictions on their freedom of movement by Israel.

The author, lawyer Justina Uram, honored four “Human Rights Champions of 2009” in all. The other two are US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexican human rights activist Esther Chavez, who died on Christmas Day. is a network of websites in 240 markets in the United States and Canada. Writers, called Examiners, submit blogs on various topics. Uram is the Washington, D.C. Examiner who writes about human rights issues.

In an email interview with The Hellenic Voice, Uram said she selected her Human Rights Champions from a list of people she had met, written about or researched for her blog in the past year.

“These two human rights champions spoke to me because of their unwavering dedication to human rights amidst dealing with their own, personal human rights plights,” Uram said. “I felt as though 2009 was an especially important year for both of them.”

She noted that Patriarch Bartholomew was “quite visible” in 2009, from his visit to Washington, D.C. last fall to his participation and interest in the Copenhagen Summit, to his highly publicized interview on “60 Minutes.” One of her readers (Chris Kotsakis) informed her about Dr. Khoury and her work.

“After researching her, I became drawn to her story as well as her courage in the face of the many dangers and discrimination that Palestine’s Christians face on a daily basis from ‘both sides’ — Israeli and Palestinian Muslim.”

“Dr. Khoury stands as a symbol of strength, faith and optimism for both persecuted Christians who live in the Arab world and persecuted Palestinians who live in a nation severed by the West Bank barrier.”

Uram said “both of these individuals could choose to escape, or run away from, their personal persecutions. Instead, they stay firm in their convictions and human rights work, choosing to fight and struggle.”

She said His All Holiness could easily relocate to Greece or elsewhere, “but he continues to stay in Turkey, despite threats to his life and ability to worship freely.” And Dr. Khoury, who is not a Palestinian, could move back to the United States or return to Greece, “but she continues to strive for the fair treatment of Palestinian Christians and the well-being of the residents of Taybeh, while facing many dangers as an Orthodox Christian in Palestine’s last remaining Christian city.”

“Finally, and on a personal level,” Uram said she felt drawn to them because they were “two remarkably kind, unselfish and humble individuals who are unwavering in their dedication to protecting their fellow man. Their human rights work coupled with their personal stories and struggles, to me, could not be ignored this year.”

Here is what Uram wrote about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Khoury:

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople

His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, is best known for his role as spiritual leader of the world’s most ancient Christian religion, Eastern Orthodoxy. But Patriarch Bartholomew also goes by another title, as he has been affectionately dubbed, “The Green Patriarch” for his unwavering commitment to environmentalism.

This past fall, Patriarch Bartholomew was welcomed to the White House for a substantive discussion of environmental and human rights issues with President Barack Obama. As a result of this meeting, the president confirmed the United States’ pledge to confronting global climate change and expressed his admiration for Patriarch Bartholomew’s long-standing commitment environmentalism. During that same visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted His All Holiness at the State Department, calling him “a living embodiment of the positive role that faith can play in healing and humanizing our world.”

Despite Patriarch Bartholomew’s commitment to the environment and our global community, His All Holiness himself has fallen prey to human rights abuses and religious intolerance in his native land of Turkey. The Green Patriarch was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” [December 20] to talk about these struggles.

Dr. Maria Khoury, of Taybeh, Palestine

For her tireless efforts in the protection of oppressed Palestinian Christians, author and activist Dr. Maria Khoury makes 2009’s list of notable human rights champions. Born in Greece and raised and educated in the United States, Dr. Khoury moved to Palestine with her husband, David Khoury, mayor of Taybeh, shortly after the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993.

Taybeh, which is completely surrounded by the Israeli West Bank barrier wall, is Palestine’s last Christian city. As a result of the West Bank barrier wall’s confinement compounded by Israel’s occupation over Palestine, most of Taybeh’s residents have emigrated to escape. Over 50 percent of Taybeh’s remaining residents are unemployed and all face restricted freedoms of movement and religious worship.

Through her role as First Lady of Taybeh, Dr. Khoury has been instrumental in creating projects to sustain Taybeh’s infrastructure, essentially saving the small city. From establishing Taybeh’s Educational Fund to promoting the One Dollar Campaign for Holy Land Housing to writing children’s books about the Holy Land, Dr. Khoury remains an active figure and powerful voice for Palestine’s Christians.

Justina Marie Uram is a lawyer, writer and human rights commentator. She holds a JD from Pennsylvania State University and a BA in policy studies from Syracuse University. She has studied at the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the University of Vienna School of Law. She writes The Human Rights Blog for

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