EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): How could we miss the vast triumphs of two of our Serbian Orthodox brothers, Novak Jokovic and Nikola Jokic, in less than a week?  Jokovic won his 23rd Grand Slam and passed in the league of legends in Tennis… Last night Nikola Jokic, the center for Denver Nuggets, got his first NBA title, with 28 points and 16 assists, a remarkable performance!… They are both Orthodox and proud of it – although Jokovic seems to have been wondering in Buddhism for a while (But we should note that early Buddhism was influenced by Greek/Byzantine monks – link here)…  We should be proud of their achievements and their Orthodox faith.  The two posts below prove it…

Speaking about Faith, it is a necessary element of great success, both personally and socially.  Just today, I saw a post on Monomakhos.com, on the “Spiritual Revival in Russia”. I have been trying to impress this idea on my sons for as long as I remember: Faith will make the difference between an average successful personal career and your reaching the top.  Not to mention the numerous other side-effects that have been noted by intellectuals for the longest time and can be summarized as: “How can you raise a child as an “atheist”, as someone without faith in God? In the first encounter with trouble in their life they would be gone with the current downstream…”

Let me close this with a mention to another great Serbian, the greatest inventor of all time, Nikola Tesla.  Did you know that his father was an Orthodox priest?  And did you know that Nikola Tesla’s Byzantine icon is now in a church in Serbia? Please follow the link to the amazing icon...

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Tennis Star And Orthodox Believer Novak Djokovic Refuses To Get Vaccinated

Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic said he’s willing to miss more major tournaments after he was forced to sit out the Australian Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. An eccentric Orthodox Christian, Djokovic’s faith plays a role in his decision to skip vaccines — even if it costs him titles and jeopardizes his ranking as the world’s top men’s tennis player.

Missing the French Open in May and other tournaments “is the price that I am willing to pay,” he told the BBC in an interview this week, adding he would miss Wimbledon and sacrifice his top ranking if need be. “The principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title or anything else.”

Djokovic’s plans of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open ended as he flew out of Australia. Weeks before the tournament, he tested positive for COVID-19. Thinking this would medically exempt him from Australia’s vaccination order according to rules from two medical panels and Tennis Australia, he expected to play in the tournament he had won nine times before.

Border officials disagreed on his eligibility when he arrived and detained him in an immigration facility. Djokovic, 34, was forced to leave Australia before the tournament began last month when Australia’s immigration minister canceled Djokovic’s visa and called the player a threat to public health and order, according to Reuters. His rival, Rafael Nadal, ended up winning the tournament and getting to the 21st Grand Slam milestone ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer, who each have 20 such titles.

“What people probably don’t know is that I was not deported from Australia on the basis that I was not vaccinated, or I broke any rules or that I made an error in my visa declaration,” Djokovic told the BBC. “The reason why I was deported from Australia was because the minister for immigration used his discretional right to cancel my visa based on his perception that I might create some anti-vax sentiment in the country or in the city, which I completely disagree with.”

This hardcourt hero does not hide his faith. He regularly wears a wooden cross around his neck at matches and is often seen looking up and praying with arms open in thanksgiving after big wins, according to Greek City Times.

An Eccentric Orthodox Christian

Earlier in his career in 2009, Djokovic was playing in the Australian Open when he felt support from the wider Orthodox Christian family. He realized supporters of Greek Cypriot player Marcos Baghdatis — an Orthodox Christian — were chanting for Djokovic.

“I have never experienced anything like this before in my life where my opponents team is chanting my name. … We are Orthodox brothers,” an emotional Djokovic told Jim Courier in his post-match interview.

Along with his 86 career singles titles and 20 Grand Slams, Djokovic demonstrates his faith as an Orthodox Christian. Off the court, the tennis champion is known for being generous to his fellow Orthodox Christians and his home country of Serbia.

Djokovic grew up in Serbia as a Christian amid violence in Serbia’s war between Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to Greek City Times. In 2005, he met his wife, Jelena, who now works alongside him in efforts to rebuild churches and schools affected by natural disasters.

In April 2011, Djokovic received the Order of Saint Sava, which is the highest honor given by the Serbian Orthodox Church. “This is the most important title of my life, because before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian,” he told Aleteia, an international Roman Catholic news publication. The honor was given to him for financial contributions to the renovation of religious buildings in Serbia and generosity within the Orthodox community.

In 2012, Djokovic was honored with another award from the Russian Orthodox Church for “outstanding activity in strengthening unity of Orthodox Christian nations and for consolidation and promotion of Christian values in the life of society.”

During his quarantine in Australia, The Associated Press reported that a priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne asked to visit Djokovic to celebrate Orthodox Christmas — celebrated on Jan. 7 — but was denied permission to do so by immigration officials, who said the hotel was on lockdown.

Believer: Not ‘Anti-Vaxxer’

Serbia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than half of the population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Reuters. While some church leaders may be against vaccination efforts, many top Orthodox leaders from Serbia, Russia, Greece and beyond have encouraged Orthodox believers to be vaccinated.

Djokovic’s beliefs are more complicated. He had been against medicine, surgery and some vaccinations for years before the pandemic started because they go against his somewhat complicated religious beliefs, The Daily Mail reported.

He’s also known as a yoga enthusiast, a father, husband, Buddhist meditator, speaker of five languages and president of the ATP Player Council. So Djokovic’s unconventional views on medicine are another piece of this eccentric Orthodox man.

“Everyone has the right to choose, to act, or say whatever they feel is appropriate for them,” he told the BBC, adding that he believes in “the freedom to choose what you put into your body.

“And, for me, that is essential.”

Djokovic also said he has always been careful about everything he ingests. “I am trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can,” he said. “Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine.”

Djokovic had to get surgery on his elbow in 2018 to save his career. While others are relieved to be healed, he felt guilty instead. “Every time I thought about what I did, I felt like I had failed myself,” he said in an interview with Telegraph after the surgery.

Although his standoff in Australia fueled anti-vaccination movements, Djokovic supports the vaccination of those people who want it; therefore, he “should not be associated with the anti-vax movement,” he told the BBC.

Up Next for Djokovic

Djokovic is consulting his legal team about suing Australia for $4.4 million, which includes the $2.75 million prize he was expected to win, according to The Sun.

Djokovic said he does not plan to get vaccinated but hopes to play in the French Open in May. HuffPost reported that under France’s vaccination law that took effect on January, anyone who has proof of a positive COVID-19 test within the previous six months is exempt from vaccine pass requirements. Since Djokovic tested positive in December, he would have been eligible to play unvaccinated. Then France changed the window to four months, making him ineligible. So it seems he can only play in France if the government changes vaccine requirements again between now and May.

As for Wimbledon, new rules in England allow unvaccinated people to come into the country if they test before and after their arrival. Djokovic has won Wimbledon six times, including the last three. He has won the French Open twice, including in 2021.

Djokovic is said to use the Buddhist Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon during his preparation for the Grand Slam each summer. His yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and Christianity perhaps all factor into his unusually strident beliefs about his body, medicine and modern vaccines.

“His religious beliefs — backed with years of discipline and practice — were at the heart of the clash in Australia, where he wanted to defend his crown in that tournament,” wrote religion journalist Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org.

Madi Marks is a journalism student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

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ESPN reporter wished Nikola Jokic Merry Christmas. Being from orthodox Serbia, the player corrected the journalist that it was not his Christmas.

Talking after the match, the Joker admitted that it’s cool to hold the record but didn’t want to talk about himself.

“It’s nice. It’s just one game, everybody can have one good game,” the player told.

Aaron Gordon delivered possibly the dunk of the year during the match. Asked whether his teammate should go back to competing in the dunk contest, Jokic didn’t want Gordon to do anything that could possibly hurt him.

“He doesn’t need to go there, we need him healthy,” the center joked.

 

When the interview finished, the reporter wished Jokic Merry Christmas. The player immediately answered “It’s not my Christmas’, leaving the reporter momentarily confused.

Since Jokic is Serbian, the orthodox church celebrates Christmas by the older Julian calendar and not the Gregorian calendar that most of the western world is used to. For Serbians just like Jokic, it works out on January 7th instead of December 25th.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t call them Serbian Orthodox simply call them Bona Fide Christians! All the other qualifications are redundant and misleading…

  2. If he’s attending Buddhist temples and doing “yoga & transcendental meditation”, that would qualify as an attempt to “serve two masters”…hopefully that is not the case, but who knows these days…there’s already a lot of confusion out there among people who can actually “read and write”…(the “educated ones” as St. Kosmas Aitolos had once warned us about…)

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