Smith Receives 2017 AHEPA Pericles Award
This week, the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA) awarded Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) with the “2017 AHEPA Pericles Award,” based on his “proven history of excellence in public service and commitment to principles and ideals.”
“The Order of AHEPA is proud to present its Pericles Award for outstanding public service to Congressman Chris Smith,” said AHEPA Chairman of Cyprus/Hellenic Affairs Savas Tsivicos, who resides in New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District. Tsivicos presented the award to Smith alongside fellow New Jerseyan and AHEPA Supreme President Andrew Zachariades at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. “The Congressman’s achievements in public service are widely respected and his dedication to public service is to be applauded and emulated.
“Moreover, in the distinguished history of his public service, he has demonstrated an active interest in issues of importance to the American Hellenic community, including a strong relationship with NATO ally, Greece; religious freedom for all, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is the world’s oldest Christian Church; and justice for Cyprus and protection of its cultural and religious heritage. We further honor and recognize Congressman Smith’s leadership as co-Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe as evidence of his commitment to religious freedom and the rule of law.”
In accepting the award, Smith stressed the ongoing battles worldwide for religious freedom and defending human rights. He cited actions taken by the Turkish government, such as restricting the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch’s ability to freely choose its leadership and failing to honor pledges to reopen the Halki Thological Seminary—now closed for over four decades.
Smith also expressed great optimism in the future noting a recent ecumenical meeting in the region.
“I am encouraged that the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis; Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II; and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohammad Al-Tayeb, recently joined together in Cairo at a meeting convened by the Grand Imam, to call for unity and an end to hate and vengeance,” said Smith. “Their actions embody hope for the future that politicians both within the United States and abroad must emulate.”
Smith also thanked AHEPA for their nearly century long dedication to community improvement, “From battling the bigotry of the early 20th century to assisting natural disaster victims in the 21st, AHEPA’s dedication to education and community engagement is well documented. I am thankful to be a small part of their storied history.”
AHEPA was founded on July 26, 1922 in response to rising levels of bigotry and racism that were emerging in the early 20th century. It was created to help bring the ideals of ancient Greece—philanthropy, education, civic responsibility and excellence in community service—to American society. This year’s bipartisan award winners, which also include Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), were particularly noted for their strong work in international religious freedom.