The Survival of the Hellenic Diaspora: A Current Issue

The Survival of the Hellenic Diaspora: A Current Issue
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Hellenism in North America is living a reality that is forcing it to increasingly succumb to its melting pot surroundings. Its distant roots, the cessation of immigration from back home, the mixed marriages and the education systems of the host countries are all contributing to a day-by-day mitigation of the Greek conscience on this side of the Atlantic.

The opinion makers of the Hellenic Diaspora tend to believe that the Church is destined to become the last bastion of Hellenism as they foresee a growing number of second, third and even fourth generation Greek-Americans opting to celebrate their marriages, baptisms and holy feasts under the Greek Orthodox banner.

However, Orthodoxy in and of itself can not be a source of renewal of ethnic identity as it is not a religion or doctrine that is exclusive to the Greeks. Unlike Judaism that is unique to the Jewish Diaspora, for example, Orthodoxy does not provide for a historical designation of the Greek Diaspora as it is a faith that is shared by the Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians and other Balkan peoples.

Consequently, other levers must be used in tandem with Orthodox traditions in order to encourage the Hellenes of coming generations worldwide to adopt and feel closer to their Greek roots:

1) The teaching of the Greek language:

It is crucial to understand that language is an essential tool for the preservation of Hellenism in the Diaspora as the Greek language is the basic tool that fosters communication with the Motherland, enabling the young Hellenes to connect with Greece's culture, history and art. The issue of Greek language instruction should not be relegated to the backburner but one whose promotion must be encouraged whatever the cost;

2) The Acquisition of Greek Citizenship:

The possibility of obtaining Greek citizenship is a hereditary right and can be very useful to those in the Hellenic Diaspora who seek employment in the European Union. Just like their neighbors, Greeks are considered citizens of Europe and are free to work and live anywhere in the EU. This valuable tool should be used to sell young Greek-Americans on the benefits of being Greek;

3) Networking:

As with any other group, the creation of associations, institutions, chambers of specific interests (such as the association of Greek-American doctors or lawyers) can enhance ties among the young Hellenes of the Diaspora. Having their Greek origins as a common denominator, networks must be developed to promote these historic ties;

4) Creating Websites of Greek Special Interest:

Offering the opportunity to connect without borders, the digital age can be used to promote musical, personal or professional interests among Hellenes worldwide and enable them to enhance their identity through communication;

5) Renewal of the Institutions of the Diaspora:

Unfortunately, Greek associations and communities abroad have become outdated entities. New institutions that rely on less traditional systems should be built in order to generate common interest among young Hellenes in their origins;

6) The Support of Politicians of Greek Origin:

The mobilization of young Greek-Americans in support of candidates of Greek origin can be a powerful motivating and uniting force;

7) Other Sources:

Many other sources of support exist with which to ensure the survival of Hellenism in the Diaspora such as the establishment of Greek Studies Chairs in universities and the export of Greek culture by funding touring Greek theater troupes and establishing Greek Film Festivals. Nothing can be more stimulating to the patriotism of the Hellene as the witnessing of a performance of ancient Greek drama.

Alongside the Greek Orthodox Church which has proven to be the cornerstone of the Hellenic Diaspora through the years, it is time for its leaders to find more innovative ways to ensure the survival of Hellenism in North America.

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