Syrian Christians’ Safety Threatened by Extremism and Instability, Says Catholic Bishop

By MidEast Christian News
Syriac Catholic Bishop Gregoire Melki said the current situation in Syria is very sad and has left people very anxious, and fears the same thing that happened to Christians in Iraq will happen to Christians in Syria.

“Growing extremism in Syria could jeopardize the safety of all Christians,” Melki told the Assyrian International News Agency. “Those who can, escape … For more than two years there has not been a solution (to the violence) we have to pray.”

Though the situation in Syria is grim for all, it is even worse for minorities, such as Christians.

“It is always the minority which is attacked first,” Bishop Melki noted, adding that he hoped this would not mark the beginning of the end of Syria’s Christian community.

“The church in Syria continues to be a victim of the total chaos and war,” Bishop Melki said to a large crowd during the 10th prayer service for reconciliation, unity and peace at the Syriac Catholic Church, attended by the heads of Christian churches in Israel.

Church leaders in attendance participated in the special Syriac blessing of the water ceremony recited over small bottles of water, later distributed to the worshippers, AINA reported.

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“We pray fervently day and night for (Christian) unity and peace, especially in Syria, and for the two bishops who have been kidnapped and their release and for others kidnapped elsewhere in the Middle East,” Bishop Melki said to the audience.

Syriac Orthodox Bishop Swerios Malki Murad of Jerusalem also helped lead the prayer service.

“We, both bishops, and all churches here in Jerusalem, are concerned about the civil war in Syria and the terrible impact it is having on the population and also of course on the Christians,” Bishop Melki said.

While the congregation prayed for peace, two members held up a large banner displaying a picture of the two Aleppo archbishops, kidnapped by unknown assailants on April 22.

After the prayer service, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said, “we are powerless and the only thing to do is to pray and give moral and spiritual support to the Christians there to be strong.”

“We have to remember we can’t always be in winter, it can’t rain continuously. Sooner or later the rain will come to an end, and we have to pray to be strong during this period so we can be ready when the sun comes out,” he concluded.