The small Russian mission and monastery in Mexico are reacting to the current situation between Russia and Ukraine by praying for both Russians and Ukrainians and helping them to survive in these difficult circumstances. Archimandrite Nektariy (Haji-Petropoulos), the mission’s head, spoke in an interview about how parishioners are confronting the tragedy and temptations.
– Fr. Nektariy, you have a lot of Ukrainians and Russians in your mission in Mexico. How has this situation impacted them, and how are you able to keep peace among them?
– It has been difficult. We have different responses from our parishioners. Some Ukrainians keep coming to our monastery for services, while others have stopped doing so. Some of them even wrote letters, saying that the Russians are the enemy of their country and the Russian Church is under the control of the Russian government.
I had to tell them: Listen, we do not serve any state, we do not serve any country. We serve the Lord, and we are open to the Orthodox people, not only to the Russians. This has nothing to do with us, but here we are praying for both Russians and Ukrainians.
Some Ukrainians who have lost relatives came immediately to our monastery. There was a young woman who lost her mother because a bomb exploded near the place where her mother was working. They could not find her body, they just know that the bomb exploded and many people died and disappeared.
This woman came and talked to our fathers, and we immediately served a panihida.
To express our openness to everybody, I decided to place two flags – Russian and Ukrainian by the iconostasis. We have many Ukrainians who know our community for a long time and have received help from us for many years. These parishioners understand that we do not discern between people and we are not serving interests of any particular country.
We really can do nothing to resolve geopolitical issues. We just serve the Lord, we serve His Church, and we serve His people.
– What did you want to show by putting up Russian and Ukrainian flags?
– We also have Georgian, Serbian, other flags. I want people to see: yes, we are the Russian Church, but we are not just for the Russians. We are open for the Orthodox people.
– The Fund for Assistance to the ROCOR (FFA) began fundraising for the refugees from Ukraine. Are you planning to participate in this campaign?
– I received a request from our Western American diocese. We also know that the Fund for Assistance is launching a big project to collect money for the refugees, and I was invited by several organizations in Mexico as well. Of course, we will collaborate particularly with the FFA. There is not much we can send because we are a poor monastery, but we will do our part.
Besides participating in fundraising, we keep serving those Ukrainians who are in need living here in Mexico, so they become witnesses that the Russian monastery is helping them.
– People ask for your spiritual advice in these difficult circumstances. What are you recommending them?
– I tell them to try to abstain from watching news, because much of the news is manipulated. In order to avoid this temptation, do not get drawn into the news, do not participate in discussions, do not talk about politics in the monastery when you came to church. Just pray. Of course, you are in touch with your families and friends, and you will get some information from them, from those people who are there, on the ground, but not from the news.
– My personal experience is that I allow passions to enter my heart, and it is very difficult to drive them away. What can you recommend for me and others who are experiencing similar issues?
– We have to trust God. Yes, in human terms we can blame, we can put the guilt to others. But do we share this guilt? Should we blame ourselves, or should we blame others? When we see this battlefield in the world, we have to look for our inner peace, which can come only from God. So, close your eyes to what is happening in the world in order to get peace from within yourself. God will sustain you, He will give you the courage, endurance, and wisdom.
– Father, you had to change countries several times in your life, and not by your own will. What did you come to understand from those situations?
– My whole life has been the life of a refugee in the middle of the battlefield. My family had to leave many times, so I know the feeling of being in such a situation. That is why now – yes, we have a monastery, we have some things – but nothing belongs to me anymore because I am a monk and I know that everything belongs to the church. I own nothing. Nothing.
– What would you recommend – based on your experience – to those people in need?
– Trust God. Only trust God. Put your live in the Hands of God. He will decide what to do, He will decide what you will do in your life. Just be open to any change, and forget what you had. It is easy to say “no”, but you have no choice – whether you accept it or just suffer by refusing it. It is better to accept the fact that there is big change in your life. Maybe it is unfair? Yes. But put your trust in the Providence of God, put your life in the Hands of God. He will sustain you, He will hold you and give you new life.