“As a Christian and an American, it sickens me to see others not enjoy the same freedoms I have”, says George Gigicos, co-founder of a newly formed Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC). He tells Pavlovic Today, that that he intends to hold politicians around the world accountable for their actions as well as inactions regarding the issue of religious freedom.
What is your personal motivation for creating OPAC?
George Gigicos: I am an Orthodox Christian and the son of a Priest who was raised to stand up for what is right. And one of the things that is right and just in the world right now is to defend those Christians who are persecuted and indeed, people of all faiths who are persecuted, excluded, and face prejudice. So, with a few very good and like-minded friends who, like me, had grown tired of just watching things happen with no real response, decided that at the very least, we could raise our voices and shine some light on what is going on around the globe. Christians whose rights are abridged and are outright persecuted and even martyred need others around the world to speak up and shine a light on the truth. And that’s what we are doing.
I, along with my fellow Co-Founders, Andrew Veniopoulos and Nick Furris aren’t religious scholars. We aren’t academics. We aren’t theologians. We are normal everyday people, who see a problem that isn’t getting enough attention. Additionally, we are honored to have at OPAC a very talented and esteemed Advisory Council who are from all over and in some cases, have been persecuted themselves. In my view, one voice heard, one life saved is worth any effort and that is my personal motivation. Look, it’s pretty simple. We are engaging in this endeavor because of love – love for fellow Christians and all human beings. One should never underestimate the power of love!
Do you think being the son of a priest helped plant the seeds of your interest in your desire to help the persecuted and give a voice to the voiceless?
George Gigicos: As I said before, I am the son of a priest, but this goes beyond my upbringing. I am fortunate to have the parents I have and would not have been raised any differently had my father been a doctor or a lawyer. Here in America, we value above all else, the freedom of the individual to worship in peace and security, the very thing that Christians are being deprived of around the world. As a Christian and an American, it sickens me to see others not enjoy the same freedoms I have, and we’d like to do whatever we can to help change that.
Let’s flash forward five years. Where do you see OPAC in 2025? What would like to have achieved by then?
George Gigicos: I think holding politicians around the world accountable for their actions or inactions regarding the issue of religious freedom would be the most beneficial achievement. Further, we are living in an age of free flow of information. When people are allowed to cover their injustices with darkness, and the media doesn’t pick up on it, then something is wrong, and the media isn’t doing its job. We want to shine a light on that darkness. As we say, truth lives in light! Not everything is about power and money. Justice counts. Righteousness counts. Truth counts. Five years from now, we hope to have brought these issues a little more to the surface and to have alleviated some of the conditions that so many people around the world are facing.
You’ve worked in politics for most of your career. How does that background lend to the success you hope to have with OPAC?
George Gigicos: First of all, it allows me to be realistic about success metrics. There are usually many layers to any political conversation, and many of them are just for “show.” Knowing where things really matter and how the game is played is very useful for a project like this. We are peaceful agents of change who will use the public square to expose wrongdoing and encourage global consensus to pressure those in power to accord all people their inalienable rights. My background and travels all over the globe have also given me a very broad worldview. I have seen the injustice with my own eyes not only with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey but in China, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.
You worked for President Donald Trump as the Director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance. You were there from the beginning, the very moment he descended the escalator in Trump Tower to the first major Trump rally in Alabama. What lessons did you learn along the way which will make OPAC effective
George Gigicos: I was one of the original staffers, one of 4 who started with him from before day 1 of the campaign and saw it all the way through to the inauguration; eventually becoming a Deputy Assistant to the President for the first seven months of the administration. The most important lesson I learned along the way that I think will make OPAC effective is communication, communication, communication! President Trump was wildly successful in 2016 with getting his message out. Another lesson learned was to never give up. Keep fighting.