→Eastern Christian Education
In Russia the Jesuit method was introduced into all church seminaries by tsarist fiat, and continued until the virtual dissolution of the Orthodox Church in Russia under the atheistic soviets. A few seminaries were permitted to continue under very closely supervised and reduced circumstances. These continued to follow the rigorous militaristic seventeenth century Jesuit method. Students lived in barracks with no heating. In winter, most of Russia has snow with temperatures regularly dropping to minus 40 degrees centigrade and to minus 60 in parts of Siberia. Educational discipline was spartan, health breaking, and capricious.
When Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria wrote his influential outline for the reform of Russian seminaries in 1999
(Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Orthodox Witness Today, WCC Publications, Geneva, 2006 ), the 17th century Jesuit method was still the norm in Russia.
At the same time, the other great Orthodox world centres were all suffering the after effects of atheistic communism’s depredations, purges, closures, destructions, and slaughters; or similar actions under the Ottoman Turks, the Seljuk Turks, the Islamic Marmalukes, the Islamic Fatimids, the French Catholics in Lebanon and Syria
, and later the Islamic Arab states.
For instance, it is still illegal for any Christian in Syria to attempt to convert any Moslem to Christianity. Consequently, the Orthodox Church of Antioch has no missionary programs in Syria whatsoever. They are illegal under Syrian law. Similarly it can only educate those who are still of the Orthodox faith who are willing to risk being seen educated in a non-Islamic faith.
Education in the Arabic countries for the Orthodox clergy and laity is still a rather hidden affair, like it had to be under the communist regimes of eastern Europe.
None of the Orthodox Churches with perhaps the exception of the Church of Jerusalem, and some of the Orthodox churches in the United States, is financially well-off. Consequently they cannot endow centres of learning or fund modern style catechetical programs for the lay. Some of the great centres of learning in Greece, such as Thessalonika and Athens, continue to train fine theologians. Romania also trains a large number of doctoral students in theology, who have proven most profound in their thinking and influence over the last 20 years or so.
But the independent Orthodox Churches of Finland, Poland, the Czech lands and Slovakia, Belarus, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Constantinople itself in Turkey, Cyprus, Antioch in Lebanon and Syria and the Arab Peninsular and Kuwait and Iran and Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and Alexandria in Africa, plus the almost extinct Orthodox Church of China, all suffer the continuing after effects of massive confiscations, theft, and hostile government domination. In all these places, education is in the family home, during liturgical services, or in small gatherings at friends’ places. In these places, formal education is largely not apparent.
The current world scene for Orthodox education therefore is largely non-formal, and almost tribal, in much the same way as a lot of remote barrios in the Philippines pass on their tribal history and traditions.