Syrian church head condemns violence against religious institutions

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Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the supreme head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, during a press meet at the Patriarchal Centre. He is on a 11-day long apostolic visit to India. (TOI photo: Jipson Sikhera)
KOCHI: Condemning acts of violence against religious institutions, the Supreme head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II today urged the Union government to ensure that religious extremism and violence do not ‘creep’ into Indian society.

“We condemn any religious desecration of (institutions) Christians, Muslims or Buddhisits. These are sacred places and should not be targeted,” the patriarch, who arrived in Kerala on a 11-day state visit this morning, told reporters at the church headquarters near Puthencurz.

When asked about his views on the recent attacks on churches in the country, he said, “We will raise our concern with the government and ask the government of India to make sure that extremism and acts of violence do not creep into Indian society’.

Referring to the unrest in Syria and neighbouring nations, he said the situation was ‘very difficult and dangerous’.

“In places like Northern Iraq, people are being driven out of their homes. They are in miserable conditions. Unfortunately, the world is mostly silent on what is happening there … ,” he said, adding, two of his Archbishops had been kidnapped since April 2013.

“Unless the world does something to combat terrorism and religious extremism, it will spread to other countries. People are leaving … Christians are leaving their own land and lining up in the embassies. This is very dangerous,” he said.

On the feud between two warring factions of the Malankara church — Jacobites and Orthodox — he said they should settle their differences in an amicable manner.

“The division is not acceptable. It is not something we want. We all long for peace. We want peace. Both factions want peace and conciliation,” he said.

“Both the leadership and faithful want peace. They are tired of fighting,” he said.

Kerala Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, revenue minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and excise minister K Babu and catholicos baselios Thomas I were among those who received Aphrem-II at the airport here.

This is the first time the patriarch is coming to India after being elected the supreme head of the Orthodox church in March last year.
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