Holy Hierarchical Council of the Serbian True Orthodox Church
STATEMENT TO THE PUBLIC
In regards to the media assault on the St. Lazar Orthodox Youth Camp organized by The Serbian Orthodox Monastery New Stjenik under the spiritual jurisdiction of our Church, I consider it my arch-pastoral duty to decisively raise my voice against the unscrupulous attack on the camp’s organizers and participants.
From the very beginning, St. Lazar Orthodox Youth Camp (Svetolazarov Pravoslavni Omladinski Kamp – SPOK) was envisioned and realized as a place where, for ten days out of the year, living in nature and in harmony with it, St. Sava’s and St. Lazar’s ideals of love for God, and accordingly love for one’s neighbor and fatherland would be nurtured. Let us clarify what these ideals for which SPOK stands actually mean.
The answer to this question is given on the SPOK website:
To be at the same time defiant and obedient: defiant to the world, and obedient to God and the internal murmur of St. Lazar’s Kosovo Battle, which in every Serb’s soul calls him to Christian freedom: “For you, brothers, are called to freedom” (Gal. 3:13).
At the same time to renounce the earthly kingdom for the sake of the Heavenly, yet to fight for the earthly to the end, with the awareness that in it the Heavenly begins already.
Grant, O God, that this golden longing take deeper root in our souls than breath itself.
Grant, O God, to live for this Freedom and to die to sin and death, to be freed by Thy Freedom, O Lord.
Let the battle be unceasing! The battle of loyalty to the holy crown of the Nemanjić dynasty – for Serbian unity – The battle against sin – for the Heavenly Kingdom, for the Orthodox soul and spirit of Serbia, for Serbian holiness – Svetosavlje.
The battle for these ideals, even without a final victory is Serbian salvation and Serbian Freedom. May the battle be unceasing, may both our peace and our war be for the Serbian Autocratic King, the Precious Cross and Golden Freedom, even in these days when we have been defeated. Our battle begins again, for it is not finished and never shall be.
From the above cited it is clear that St. Lazar Youth Camp truly calls for a battle; but this is a battle for spiritual and moral values of each individual and for an entire nation. St. Lazar Orthodox Youth Camp is not and cannot be a camp of military training for children and youth, as the ill-intentioned media is attempting to portray it. Like any other scout camp SPOK has a touch of military spirit and discipline in its various activities. The day begins with the raising of the national flag with the group singing of the national anthem “O God of Justice,” then calisthenics followed by daily activities such as mountain climbing, orientation, finding food in nature, national history lessons, art workshops, sport competitions, fun activities such as singing around the campfire, folk dancing and socializing among the camp participants. Furthermore, the activities of the camp are adapted to the individual needs and age of each child. The activity of shooting with AirSoft plastic toy rifles was planned and carried out only in the course of one day, and that lasting for a few hours, shooting at paper targets. The use of AirSoft plastic toy rifles thus did not at any moment resemble military training, nor was the shooting conducted with the intention of training for armed combat. It is well known that marksmanship, just like the other activities of SPOK, can be found among the other ordinary activities of scout camps throughout the world (the models for SPOK were the scout camps of the Russian Church Abroad in the USA, which have several-decades-long experience). The only way in which SPOK and other similar church camps differ from other classic scout camps is in their cultivation of spiritual values in children and youth through prayer and catechism classes.
Every year, over the ten-day period of St. Lazar Orthodox Youth Camp, special care is paid to the safety of the children and young participants; all activities are planned carefully well in advance. This special care is also attested to by the fact that during the entire session of the camp, with the fifteen camp participants, ten adult volunteers (educators) are also present, among which are always several parents of the child participants. In what daycare, school, field trip, or sports club exist such a ratio between young participants and adult educators, of 1.5 participant to 1 educator?
We should especially emphasize that this is a matter of people who wish to spend quality free time with their children, without computers, televisions, cell phones or even electricity, but rather, with conversation, socializing and group overcoming of the difficulties of life in the Serbian mountain wilderness. Thus every year, at the end of the camp, farewells are especially poignant…
Four centuries before the glorious birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Athenian court condemned philosopher Socrates to death because he allegedly corrupted the Athenian youth. In fact, he taught the youth certain other values, not those which reigned during that time: for example, he told his disciples that one should not strive for wealth or anything else, only for virtue. Right before the execution of his death sentence, Socrates begged his accusers and condemners for “this much more”: to take revenge on his sons when they grew up and to “corrupt” them as he had “corrupted” the Athenian youth.
At our St. Lazar Camp, children learn virtues which perhaps today are not popular, but they are eternal, virtues which four centuries after Christ, the great Orthodox teacher St. John Chrysostom taught his disciples: that one should not fear anything except sin, for of all human evils, sin is the only true evil.
This media attack on our camp has needlessly upset the parents and children themselves who participated in the camp with a slanderous comparison of SPOK with extremism and even fascism which are entirely foreign to the ideals of our camp. We wonder, after all of this, will anyone apologize to the young participants, parents and organizers? We call upon all reasonable people to do all that is in their power to stop the slanders directed at SPOK by the media influenced by various anti-Serbian non-governmental organizations and the ecumenists from the ranks of the official church.
Chairman of the Hierarchical Council of the Serbian True Orthodox Church