The Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch appeal for the release of two of their bishops

(Vatican Radio) The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East released the following joint communiqué on 23 April 2013.

Please find below Vatican Radio’s full translation of the text:

On Monday, 22 April 2013, we were taken by surprise at the news that our brothers Bishop Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Alexandretta and Bishop John (Ibrahim) Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, had been kidnapped on their way back to Aleppo after accomplishing a humanitarian mission. We deeply regret what happened as we regret all similar acts targeting civilians, regardless of their belonging and therefore we address to the local and international communities the following declaration:

1- The Christians living here are an essential part of the land. They suffer the pain every person suffers; they work as messengers of peace to stop the perpetration of injustice against the oppressed. They follow the teaching of the Gospel that says love is at the basis of human relations. The official positions expressed by the spiritual leaders of the various churches highlight these beliefs and the mission fulfilled by the two kidnapped bishops is further proof of this orientation.

2- The Christians in this part of the East are deeply saddened by what their country is going through, namely the violence that is dividing the sons of the same country and endangering civilians who conduct their lives in peace. Kidnapping is a terrible expression of this violence and it is to be condemned without hesitation as it threatens the lives of unarmed individuals. We appeal to the kidnappers to respect the life of the two kidnapped brothers, and we call on everyone to put an end to all the acts that allow or create confessional and sectarian schisms among the sons of the same country.

3- We understand the preoccupation of the Christians following this event. We call on them to be patient, to adhere to the teachings of their faith, and to rely on God whose strength lies also in our weakness. We believe that to remain in our land and to do all that is possible to make it a land of love and coexistence, is a powerful tool in its defense. We are also aware that all citizens from all confessions are suffering the same pain due to the violence, and we pray that the Lord may strengthen them and console in their difficulties. Together with them we raise our voices and reject all sorts of violence that tears our country and makes our hearts bleed.

– 4 In this painful situation, we call on the world to work to end the Syrian crisis, so that it may go back to being a garden of love, security and peaceful coexistence. Political strife should not be resolved at the expense of the men and women of this region.

5- We also call all the churches in the world to stand fast in the face of what is happening and provide a witness to the power of love in this world. It is necessary to take steps that attest to the fact that they reject the violence to which the populations of these lands are being subjected to today.

6- We take the opportunity to call on our brothers of all Islamic confessions to work together, the ones with the others, to demonstrate that we refuse to consider man as a product that can be bought or sold, a shield to be used in war, a political or financial good of exchange.

7- We address the kidnappers and tell them that those whom they kidnapped are messengers of peace in this world, as witnessed by their religious and social missions. We appeal to them to deal with this painful episode peacefully as violence is useful only to the enemies of our nation.

Finally, we pray the Lord in these blessed feasts that this tragedy may end, that peace may prevail in the hearts of all, and so that country may enjoy the peace and prosperity it deserves.

Patriarch Jhon X Yazigi Patriarch & Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

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