St. Paul describes Jesus as “he who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity…[He] came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Ephesians 2:14, 17) This description corresponds to the desire of all people in the Middle East. Our appeal responds to the injunction of St. Ignatius of Antioch in his Epistle to the Romans, “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria.” (Romans 9)
Every day brings more news of atrocities and horrific, inhuman crimes, carried out by the variously-named godless groups, while the world remains divided on how to combat this apocalyptic terrorism and criminality, which are sowing terror and causing the global scourge of continual migration, displacement and dispersal in different directions.
Pope Francis referred, in his 2015 Lenten Message, to the problem of a “globalization of indifference.” Today we are facing a kind of third world war: let us now therefore work together towards global solidarity.
The present crisis, which has been building up over the last five years, has now spread beyond Syria’s distress and tragedy to become a regional disaster, with repercussions all over Europe and indeed the whole world.
Through this situation each and every human being in the Arab Middle East is threatened:
- Co-existence between the peoples of the region is threatened!
- Prospects for future generations and their faith values are currently threatened!
- The future of the whole region is in danger: religiously, culturally, educationally and economically… all are threatened!
The International Community has to date proved incapable of defeating takfiris, those barbarous and inhumane extremists – no doubt because some of its members continue arming and supporting them.
Yet the whole International Community loudly proclaims that it is impermissible for these criminals to continue terrorising law-abiding citizens and making our God-created world a world of heartbreak, slaughter and mayhem.
Since these current overwhelming tragedies and dangers are crushing our people and their morale, paralysing their Christian spirituality and even shaking their Christian faith, and the faith of every human being of every confession, we have to sound an alarm call to historic and global action.
It is the role of Christian leaders to set out clearly the urgency of the situation and to call for peace in the region, and the cessation of violence, terrorism, political chaos, universal radicalization and the exploitation of Arabs and Easterners in the name of a global policy of manipulating the fate of the region’s peoples.
Therefore, in the face of these atrocities, we express our deep pain, and appeal to the Arab world and the whole world, especially the Great Powers, (including the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union) and other countries of the Americas, Asia, Australasia and elsewhere, and confide to them with great trust our most earnest plea, and the cherished expectation and hope of millions, that they will stop the wars that have flared up in our Middle East, particularly the wars in Syria and Iraq.
- The influx of weapons to all sides must be stopped.
- Syrians of all parties and confessions must be in the vanguard of the peace process.
- Human rights, dignity and religious freedom ought to be guaranteed according to international standards.
- Support the governments of those countries that have been fighting terrorism and fight alongside them to achieve victory together, and after that, the peace and security of the whole region.
Only peace can stem the flow of emigration which is sapping all our communities. Otherwise, the fire of violence, terrorism and takfirism will consume the world, East and West, and unparalleled religious conflicts will erupt, heralding a world war.
“Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibus tractari et approbari debet.”[note“What concerns all must be discussed and approved by all.”] Thus thought the Church in the first millennium: let us act accordingly!
We are grateful to members of the International Community for welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian citizens and other asylum seekers arriving in their countries.
Pope Francis emphasized during his visit to the Holy Land in May 2014, that there are two keys for peace in the region and in the world:
- A comprehensive peace agreement to end the war on Syria.
- Justice for Palestinians (i.e. a resolution of the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict.)
It has been sixty-seven years and more since the conflict began, since when it has caused many wars and crises (more than twenty) and has constituted one of the most important reasons for the emigration of Christians and others. At present neither Israel nor any Arab country can enjoy safety and stability.
Since therefore peace in Syria and Palestine is key to peace in the whole region, we need a kick-start towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is an urgent need for greater stability to enable us to create a forum for dialogue and reconciliation.
In conclusion we must emphasize that no bombs or weapons can defeat ISIL and make peace but only a common voice of the Church and a common voice from a coalition of the International Community, without excluding any country.
The Churches of the Middle East in their different denominations need encouragement from their fellow Christians in Europe and the whole world to continue to fulfil, by their presence and witness, their role, vocation and mission in the Middle East. In making this appeal, we, as a pastor and spiritual leader, are fulfilling Pope Francis’ call to be workers for peace! With this conviction we want to go out into the world and down in the annals of history as a peacemaker and so fulfil the Beatitude of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem