Three hundred and fifty young Greeks; 20 countries; one shared passion – the motherland. These are the elements that ensured the success of the first ‘Hellenic Youth in Action’ Forum which took place in Athens, last weekend.
Organized by nine Global Hellenic Unions, as part of the ‘Olympia 2016-2018’ events program, run by the Zappeion Megaron’s Olympia and Bequests Committee, the Global Forum was hailed as a unique opportunity for the Greek Youth diaspora to strengthen their relations with the homeland, and learn how to cooperate in order to achieve common goals and objectives.
During the weekend, the 350 delegates delivered speeches, took part in workshops, discussed issues of local and international policy affecting hellenic interests, issued statements and resolutions, and joined voices to demand the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
All participants represented the youth branches of established organisations of the Diaspora: The World Pontian Youth Coordinating Committee; the World Federation of Young Overseas Cypriots; the Youth Coordinating Committee of World Confederation of Thessalians; the Youth of World Council of Epirotes Abroad; the Youth of World Council of Cretans; the Youth of Pan Macedonian Association USA; the Youth of Thracian Association of Europe; the Youth of World Vlach Amphictyony; the Youth of World Panarkadian Council.
They were greeted on Saturday morning by Ioanna Samprakou, Secretary General of the Board of Directors of the Olympia and Bequests Committee of the Zappeion Megaron, where the Forum was held; she was followed by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Terence Quick, and a series of representatives of Diaspora organisations.
Emceed by Greek Australian media personality Kyriakos Gold, the first day of the ‘Hellenic Youth in Action’ Forum included a Conference of the Global Hellenic Youth, during which representatives of the nine organizations presented their activities and suggested ways of approach and collaboration between the youth of the Greek diaspora and the motherland.
The first day concluded with a large dance festival, held at the Syntagma Square. After a short walk from the Zappeion Megaron to the space in front of the Greek Parliament, the 350 delegates were treated to an impressive display of traditional dancing, by 200 dancers, coming from nine Global Hellenic Associations: Cretans, Thessalians, Epirotes, Cypriots, Macedonians, Arcadians, Thracians, Vlachs, Pontians each showcasing their unique traditional dances.
The event culminated in a spiral “Dance of Friendship”, choreographed by the acclaimed director Fokas Evagelinos; 500 dancers and spectators joined hands to form a spiral, a symbol of tradition and contemporary Greek culture.
On Sunday 1st of April, the 350 young delegates attended the Divine Liturgy at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral, and held workshops on issues concerning the diaspora. In the afternoon, they marched from the Zappeion to the Pnyx, the hill facing the Acropolis, where Athenians gathered to debate. This march was the culmination of the #bringthemarbleshome campaign, which was held as part of the Hellenic Youth in Action Forum. Upon arrival on the historic landmark of ancient democracy, the delegation read a statement, addressed to the UK Parliament and the British Museum: “We, the 350 young Greeks from all over the world, ask for the illegal retention of the Parthenon Marbles to end. The Parthenon Marbles are part of a Greek monument with more than 2,000 years of history, and they should be returned to where they truly belong, their homeland Greece.” After reading this statement, the 350 Young Greeks headed to the Acropolis Museum, where they attended a lecture by Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors.
The ‘Hellenic Youth in Action’ Forum reached a conclusion on Sunday afternoon, with a closing ceremony that included the reading of the Forum’s resolution statement. This included a pledge by the delegates to remain faithful to the values of Hellenism and Orthodox Christianity, as well as to strengthen their ties and work to provide the utmost support to the Motherland, during this time of economic crisis, but also to keep fighting for the National Rights of Hellenism. The delegates made reference to the Macedonian issue, to the plight of the two Greek army officers remaining in detention by Turkey, to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, and other issues of National interest. In conclusion, the 350 participants of the forum requested from the Greek government and all political institutions to offer their support and, in particular, to create infrastructure allowing for the teaching of Greek language in all centres of the Greek diaspora, and designate 2019 as year of Greek language within the Diaspora.
They also urged the Government and Greek Parliament to proceed in reinstating the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, in which the Youth Network aspires to play an active role, to grant voting rights to the Diaspora, to establish an official lobbying and advocacy team, which would aim to liaise among prominent members of the Greek diaspora, energising them to collaborate for the benefit of Greece, but also to designate a Hellenic Diaspora Day, which would include awards to acknowledge the work and dedication of individuals and organisations.
“We believe in the power of hellenism, the power of unity, to a better future, guaranteed by all of us, our fights and works,” reads the resolution’s closing statement. “We believe in the future and prospect, because simple we are the future of Hellenism. We will make it!”