Church asks Christians in fear to stay in Syria

Vercihan Ziflio?lu
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Syriac clerics call on Christians in Middle East, especially those in Syria, to avoid leaving their homelands amid harsh violence. Justice in Syria can only be achieved by meaningful dialogue between all belligerent elements, they say
Pope Benedict XVI waves at the end of his weekly audience from his summer residence in Rome. Pope will attend a meeting in Lebanon on September in which all the Christian spiritual leaders in the Middle East are expected to attend. REUTERS photo

The Syriac Orthodox Kadim Patriarchate Synod in Damascus called on Christians not to leave the Middle East after a meeting the on escalating tensions in the region ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s critical visit to Lebanon.

The Syriac Orthodox Kadim Patriarchate Synod met Aug. 24 to discuss current high tensions in the Middle East and the condition of Christian communities within the region.

“We refuse all kind of immigration as a response to the recent crisis in the Middle East and strongly condemn all propagators, instigators and provocateurs who call to Middle Eastern Christians to migrate,” the second provision of a seven-provision declaration read. The declaration, which was issued with the signature of H.E. Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim, metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Lebanon in September.

The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches in Turkey also backed the call for Christians to stay put. Heybeliada Halki Seminary Archpriest and Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros Lambriniadis said the Fener Greek Patriarchate also announced a similar declaration on their official website though it does not clearly mention the Middle East. Lambriniadis said they supported the declaration and added that it was very important for Christians to remain in the region.

“Above all, it should not be forgotten that the Middle East is the place where Christianity was born. So it has a great spiritual importance,” Lambriniadis said. Likewise, acting Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ate?yan, the religious leader of Turkish Armenians, outlined the importance of Christians staying in the Middle East. “If they presented the declaration to us, we would also support it without hesitation,” Ate?yan said.

Accepting the other

Pope Benedict XVI will attend a meeting called the “Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops” in early September as part of a program that was arranged last year. All the Christian spiritual leaders in the Middle East are expected to attend the meeting and discuss the situation Christians in the region are currently facing, especially in Syria.

“We reiterate our convection and belief that the only path to achieving justice, peace and the rebuilding of our homeland is through the love, co-operation and accepting of the other,” the declaration read. “This can only be achieved by constructive and meaningful dialogue between all belligerent elements of our country,” the sixth provision of the declaration read. Christians constitute 10 percent of the population in Syria. However, Armenians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Arameans and Greeks are leaving Syria due to the high tension prevailing in the country. Members of Syria’s Armenian community who have fled to Armenia due to the ongoing violence in Syria fear the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood may seize power there if the regime falls. “If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over in Syria all Christians will have to leave the country,” said Narbey N., a Syrian Armenian who recently fled to Armenia.

Refrain from violence

The fifth provision of the declaration addresses all people in Syria and the Middle East. “We call on all people with conscience to refrain from all types of violence against their fellow human beings. We also call for meaningful reform and to stand by and enable law and order, justice and peace,” the provision read. The seventh provision calls on peace advocates and humanitarian organizations from all over the world.

“We urge all peace lovers and humanitarian organizations to seriously endeavor to provide all possible means of humanitarian and medical relief to those innocent Syrians who were caught in the vicious spiral of violence, badly affected, displaced by the current conflict and underwent internal and external relocation and emigrations. They are currently suffering an unprecedented harsh summer temperature and expected to endure severe winter conditions,” the provision read. Before the patriarchate’s declaration Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean intellectuals from all over the world also issued a statement in July about the Christians latest situation in the region.