Antiochian Orthodox Church

PRESS RELEASE 2016/01, Thursday 17th November 2016 from the Archbishop’s Office

Press Release   •   Nov 18, 2016 14:56 GMT

The Antiochian Orthodox Church of Antioch yearns to maintain the Christian community in the Middle East living in peace with her neighbours. This depends on the restoration of peace and on a society which respects the rights of the Christians to live freely, in peace and harmony, regardless of who forms the government. In the absence of such conditions, they may be forced to abandon lands known to Christ, with Christian communities founded by His disciples and apostles for two thousand years. Before the current civil war in Syria, about 1.25 million Christians in the Middle East were members of the Church, mainly in Syria and Lebanon. This number has since been greatly reduced by forced emigration and the flight of refugees from persecution and the utter carnage of war.

One of our bishops, Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, has been held in captivity since April 2013 by a rebel group, along with Syriac Orthodox Archbishop John Ibrahim. Many have suffered; priests taking the ransom to free their parishioners from their extremist captors have been martyred along with their parishioners. Many have died, been tortured, wounded, permanently disabled, forced to flee the utter destruction of their homes, towns and villages, their churches and monasteries, only then to suffer persecution for being Christians in refugee camps. They cannot return to homes reduced to rubble, with no water, no electricity, no food, no way to grow food and no work to sustain their lives as total war has destroyed and laid waste to everything. Yet this is what many hope and pray that they will be able to do, to go back and work to rebuild their homes, churches and communities and live together in peace with all their neighbours of all and any faith, if only this demonic war is brought to an end.

Metropolitan Silouan, Archbishop of the British Isles and Ireland, addressed a meeting hosted by the Irish Council of Churches in Belfast in July 2016.

“The Christians of Syria are frightened for their future, and particularly for their children’s future. Families are facing very difficult choices: whether they leave or stay, their lives may be at risk, and they face a real struggle to survive. The international community needs to prioritise conflict resolution to address the root causes of this suffering and protect the future of this community.

Solidarity and cooperation between Christian churches is vital because we have a common mission to defend the dignity of the human person and freely live the Christian faith of our communities.

At this time, the Christians of Syria need their fellow Christians throughout the world to pray for them, to listen to them and feel their pain.”

Patriarch John X addressed the Blood of Martyrs Seed of Communion Monastery in Bose, Italy in September.

“Dear Brothers, we are people that love and long for peace. We [have] had enough of historical wars, and we abhor weapons, having realised, as ages went by, that violent confrontation only ends in destruction, dispersion and desolation. Indeed, we realise well that violence cannot build nations, nor can it establish democracies, or any kind of freedom; it rather disseminates such plagues as animosity, enmity and division.

Hence, the Christians of the Levant are looking for someone to hear their call; but in vain. In our country, we are [the] ones who call for peace; we call for reconciliation, for harmony and fraternity. We do not beg the powers of this world for mercy, but we rather shout at them: enough takfirism[1], terrorism, and garbled reality; enough exporting barbarism and displaying propaganda; enough of your fabricated statements that call nations to receive Christians. The world would assist both Christians and Moslems much better if it spread the culture of dialogue in our East and wiped away the culture of the sword… Release our country from the grasp of terrorism; stop the flow of weapons, and turn back your ships! The vessels of war cannot protect us, nor can the ships of emigration! Only implanting peace in our mainland can protect us, for we have been rooted here for two thousand years now! We were born here, we have lived here, and here will we die.”

[1] Takfiri - The practice of declaring another Muslim to be a nonbeliever and thus an enemy of Islam.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East is one of the four ancient Patriarchates and one of the fifteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. These together comprise the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ and His disciples in an unbroken apostolic succession. By the Holy Spirit, this Church preserves the Holy Tradition of Truth for those who are willing to receive Christ fully with love and humility and receive God's loving salvation and eternal life in Him, by faith and love. The Antiochian Orthodox Church is the continuation of the Christian community founded in Antioch by St Peter and St Paul.

The Very Reverend Archpriest Gregory Hallam (Press Office)

07780 970884

on behalf of His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan Oner (Archbishop)

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland