Remarks by Ambassador Pyatt at the reception honoring “faith-based leadership in a turbulent world”
Piatt AmbassadorRemarks at the reception honoring “Faith-Based Leadership in a Turbulent World”
with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University,
and the Athens Institute of Foreign Affairs at the American School of Classical Studies, Athens
May 4, 2022
Kalispera, thank you Dr. Prodromou. Let me first of all thank the team at the Embassy who made this possible tonight. Cindy Harvey, Evgenia, I see Brian Breuhaus is there, Christina… we’ve traveled many, many roads together. Eleni Alexaki, everyone, this is the last public affairs event I will be doing. [in Greece]. I haven’t written down how many times we’ve done together over the past almost six years. I’m sure it’s triple digits.
I would also like to thank Dr Prodromou for the introduction and his remarks. She may not remember: Elizabeth and I first met in the summer of 2016, when I was attending the State Department‘s “Ambassador School.” Elizabeth was one of the people the State Department brought to Washington to prepare me to be Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic and to teach me what they thought was all I needed to know about Greece .
But I will say that it was Elizabeth’s presentation that I paid particular attention to, and not just because it was impressive, but also because I was coming to this moment after three years as a ambassador to Ukraine and I understood the importance of these questions of religious freedom or religious identity [and] the future of the Orthodox Church were part of the larger program that the United States seeks to pursue in its effort to build a Europe whole, free and at peace. So, thank you, Elizabeth, for six years of partnership and education.
I would also like to thank Dr. Jenifer Neils and the entire team at the American School of Classical Studies for hosting us this evening. It is one of the most sublime settings in Athens. I am very, very proud of our institutional partnership with the American school and thank you, Jenifer, for lending us your garden for an evening.
I think everyone here knows this is my last week as US Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic. Sand is running out of hourglass. I think I have about 40 hours left. And – inchallah – my bags will be packed and I will arrive at the airport on time on Friday afternoon, although you won’t know that by looking around me at the moment.
I wish I could have welcomed everyone to the residence for this reception, but trust me, you don’t want to be there right now. It’s not a pretty picture.
But no matter what was happening back home, I wouldn’t have missed tonight’s event as it is an opportunity for me to offer my personal greetings to all of you who are participating in this Faith Based Leadership program. in a turbulent world.
I know that some of you I have met this evening have traveled great distances, from Africa, elsewhere in Europe, and you have all taken time out from your professional and personal obligations to join us here in Athens this week, and I want to thank you for that.
As Elizabeth mentioned, we’ve been working on this for almost two years. I am very grateful to the partnership we had with the Fletcher School, with the Office of Executive Education at Tufts University and with the Athens Institute of Foreign Affairs for helping us organize this event.
I will echo Dr. Prodromou in thanking some of the other team members who helped with the implementation, including Loukas Katsonis, Father Grekas and Jenny Strakovsky. I know there’s a lot of effort to put something like this together, so thank you all for making it work.
I would also like to thank the professors who participated in the discussions this week. You represent expertise in many different areas, from conflict resolution to financial strategy, operational change, cybersecurity, maligned influence and of course faith-based influence.
When I leave Greece on Friday afternoon, I will do so with a heavy heart, but also with a tremendous sense of pride for all that we have accomplished to advance US-Greek relations to the highest level that we are able to. to celebrate. today.
I am particularly proud in this regard of all the cooperation we have had with the Greek government. As Prime Minister Mitsotakis said so well in his speech to Parliament a few weeks ago on the issue of Ukraine, Greece stands on the right side of history. I want to emphasize, as I know President Biden will do on the 16thand of May, our admiration for Greece’s clear and vigorous response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a critical moment in the history of the world and of European security. Due to the brutal, unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of its neighbor by Vladimir Putin, it is more important than ever that all of us, as NATO allies, do all we can to help the Ukrainians prevail , to ensure that the territorial integrity of Ukraine is protected and to ensure that Putin pays for his active aggression.
The United States does this by contributing billions of dollars in security aid, but we also hold Moscow to account. This is done with sanctions, export controls, visa restrictions, whatever holds the decision makers accountable for this invasion and all the atrocious violations of international law and human rights that have been committed in the name of this war.
Russia clearly did not appreciate the clarity that Foreign Minister Mitsotakis brought to this conflict. He is pushing false accounts here to sow uncertainty about his horrific deeds in Mariupol. Indeed, I read in the newspaper when I came here that Moscow was planning to hold a parade to celebrate their conquest of Mariupol on the 9thand of May. It makes me sick reading the stories of the hundreds of bodies that were found in the Mariupol Theater where women and children were sheltering [and] as we see the reports of the destruction of a maternity ward of all things in Mariupol. The idea that anyone should celebrate this atrocity boggles the mind.
Moscow is also spreading lies about the Greek government’s decision to join other European governments in expelling 12 Russian diplomats following the atrocities committed, including in cities I have known and cities I have known for my stay in kyiv, like Bucha.
We have seen firsthand across Europe how disruptive Russia’s malignant influence has been. In the United States too. That’s why it’s so important for everyone – politicians, journalists, community leaders, religious leaders like you – to counter this with facts and transparency.
We are witnessing today the formidable struggle between democracy and authoritarianism [and] between freedom and tyranny that will determine the future of our world. It is a struggle between the values that were founded right here in Athens, a few hundred meters from where we are today, and another aggressive, destructive and ignorant vision of human rights.
The democratic values founded here in Athens have inspired millions around the world, including the 40 million brave Ukrainians we see fighting today. They are fighting for the same fundamental European rights that we all take for granted here. Freedom of expression, rule of law, judicial and electoral accountability. Things we have every day.
The values that unite us as Americans and Greeks are under threat in ways we haven’t seen in generations. The effort to affirm our commitment to these democratic values at home while supporting those who fight for the same rights in their country is more important than ever, and I am sure that this theme of democratic values will be at the forefront. when Prime Minister Mitsotakis meets with President Biden on 16and of May.
As part of our bilateral relations with Greece, all of us at the Embassy in Athens and the Consulate in Thessaloniki work every day to deepen our partnership on some of the most pressing challenges facing our two countries. It’s because we believe that together, Greece and the United States can be an even more powerful force for peace, prosperity, and human dignity.
A crucial area for this cooperation is our people-to-people ties. This covers the full range of relations between the citizens of our two countries. From educational exchanges, civil society engagement, culture and the arts, to professional development exchanges and more. Supporting the aspirations of emerging and aspiring leaders through training and exchanges is something we have been doing here in Greece for many years.
The United States is also strongly committed to the defense of religious freedom. We believe that every human being should be able to practice their religion freely and we regularly engage with communities of all faiths to support this right. Here in Greece, we often meet Greek Orthodox Christians, leaders of the Greek Jewish community and Muslim groups throughout the country.
The Faith-Based Leadership in a Turbulent World program is part of this interpersonal pillar of our bilateral relationship. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the U.S. Embassy has supported a program specifically focused on leadership development in the Greek Orthodox Church.
The fact that we are able to do this with some of the most distinguished scholars in leadership and one of the most important schools of foreign affairs in the United States is a huge honor. And I hope this week will be just the start of a longer and more productive relationship between everyone here.
During my six years in Greece, I have come to understand through meetings and travels around the country that leadership in the Greek Orthodox Church takes many forms. I have met with clergy and community leaders from across the country and have been struck by the role you have not only championed important religious traditions, provided guidance and comfort, but also led and influenced millions of people.
You are all united by a common motivation to serve others. The idea of being a delegated leader within your church and community places you all in a position of significant responsibility. I hope the leadership training you are receiving this week will give you the opportunity to reflect on the trends and challenges impacting our world and how you, as leaders, can influence the future of all your communities.
I will conclude by noting again my great appreciation, Dr Prodromou, for the partnership, and to all my Greek friends, be well. Thank you for your friendship. Thanks for the partnership. And I look forward to seeing your success in the future.