Last Fall I had the opportunity to get in touch with with Stephanie Muzekari, a Christian in the Orthodox tradition, wife and mother of two boys, and holder of an M.Ed. in Humane Education. Stephanie is author of the wonderful blog Everyday Synergy which draws attention in a very personal way to issues of social, environmental and animal injustice and "also hope(s) to show some simple choices we can make in our everyday lives to help manifest a more compassionate world" ("Everyday Synergy").
The following is from her posts "Silent Tears" and "Friends of Adam," which reflect a poignant perspective within her community:
After Liturgy every week, I feel as though I am surrounded by a lack of care and concern for the animals who provided the foods upon which people dine.
And I can't say a word about it. Sure, I could talk about the horrific conditions in which these animals suffered in order to become food. But I have learned that the world does not want to hear. I can vividly remember when, as a child not so inhibited by the "right" way to act, I was greeted by a slightly raised hand, and the words, "I don't want to know."
Why don't we want to know? Perhaps because knowledge without action would lead to feelings of guilt? Has the long Lenten fasting period not shown us that it is possible to live without eating animal products? Are we so driven by our passions that we cannot choose kindness over killing? Is there no hope for humanity to become more humane?
So, I steel my face and cry my silent tears. Silent tears for the animals who are not shown God's mercy by the people He entrusted to care for them. Silent tears for the people who have become so blinded and desensitized to the truth that they are able to participate in such madness ("Silent Tears").
I started this blog with the intention of giving people hope. I intended to give all sorts of practical tips on things we could do in our everyday lives to help manifest a more compassionate world. Recently, however, it seems as though I've allowed to get myself bogged down in my sadness about animal suffering. I guess there's just an ebb and flow. But even when I'm struggling more with the grief and despair, I have still not given up hope.
I have recently revisited a wonderful book, Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness by Joanne Stefanatos (Light & Life '02), an Orthodox Christian and holistic veterinarian. The description of the books notes that it is, "A book that reveals the mysteries of God concerning man, animals and salvation." It is a wonderful book that speaks of God's original intent for His creation ... that all would live in harmony, and that Man would lead creation in love. In the book, there are countless stories of Orthodox men and women living in peaceful coexistence with animals throughout the ages. A few weeks ago, I also purchased a copy of her second book, Animals Sanctified: A Spiritual Journey (Light & Life '01). As noted in the description of the book, "This book is a revelation of Orthodox spirituality from the days of Jesus to the present, addressing the question, "How can we save ourselves and God's creation: the animals and the earth?"
I cannot tell you how much I treasure both of these books! To finally find something written by someone of my faith who addresses these issues is like a dream come true for me. I have often felt alone in circles of people who have compassion for animals, because they most often do not share a Christian faith. Then, in my own parish, I often feel alone because of my compassion for animals ... I think I may have been the only person in my parish who celebrated Pascha with an all-vegan feast. But to hear of another voice in the wilderness who so eloquently speaks of the sacred beauty of animals, and our God-given duty to be loving stewards to them, is music to my ears. I wish that all could read her words ... perhaps more hearts would be softened toward the animals ... the first friends of Adam ("Friends of Adam").
(posts courtesy and copyright Stephanie Muzekari, photo copyright 123rf.com)