News Regarding the April 2013 Abductions of Bishops in Syria
On Friday, December 6, 2013, Metropolitan Philip issued a letter which was read on the following Sunday in all the parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese. In it, he expressed his deep concern over the recent abductions of the bishops, nuns, and children in Syria.
Dear Clergy and Faithful of our God-Protected Archdiocese,
Greetings and blessings in the name of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the midst of this Holy Advent season.
It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the abduction of our beloved nuns and orphans from the Convent of St. Thekla, Maaloula, Syria. It is inexcusable for such peaceful, God-loving and defenseless people of God to be abducted and displaced from their place of residence and worship, after having suffered so much angush for the past three months. St. Thekla Convent, through the intercessions of its patron Saint and the prayers of all its nuns, has been since its inception in the first century a beacon of light for peace, miracles, and the spreading of our Lord's message of love for all. It is unfathomable to hear that peaceful servants of Christ are being treated in such barbaric manner, as have Metropolitan Boulos and Archbishop Youhanna been treated.
His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, met on Friday, September 27 with Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican in Rome. According to a report from Vatican Radio, "In his encounter with the Holy Father, the Patriarch spoke about the difficulties facing the Christian community in Syria and the surrounding region. He also talked about the plight of his own brother who was kidnapped last April, together with the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo. The two leaders also shared their hopes for progress on the journey towards full Christian unity."
His Beatitude was interviewed by Vatican Radio after his meeting with Pope Francis. The interview is available here.
The following brief video report of the meeting has been made available by Rome Reports.
From the Department of External Relations, Russian Orthodox Church:
The Primates and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, who came to Moscow for the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, adopted the joint Statement. The main theme of the Statement is the situation of Christians in the Middle East. On 25 of July 2013, the Primates and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. On behalf of all those present at the meeting, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia handed over the text of the Statement to Mr. Putin.
We, heads and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, who have come to Moscow on the occasion of the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia at the invitation of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, consider it our duty to raise our voice in defense of our Christian brothers subjected to persecution for their faith in various parts of the world today.
Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death. Read the full statement of the Primates.
Since the so-called Arab Spring began in Libya in 2011, we have seen the devastation and destruction of that Arab country by Libyan and NATO forces. This Arab Spring has since spread to Tunisia and Egypt, the most populated Arab country. This fire has burned relentlessly in Gaza and all of Palestine since 1948. It is spreading into Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq and has caused the most devastation in Syria, where many of us have ancestral roots. Unfortunately, the American and European news outlets are not reporting such stories to the world, neither through the written word nor graphic photographs like the ones you see in this sad issue of The WORD magazine. The WORD has been able to obtain these pictures and information from reliable sources. Syria has been most victimized and experienced the most devastation by this seemingly endless war. The WORD believes that the only country that can bring peace to this most explosive region of the world is the United States of America, because America has leverage over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Europe.
Letter sent to President Obama
June 11, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write you as leaders of Christian Churches Together in the USA, an organization comprised of 43 denominations and organizations representing the full spectrum of Christian faith - Catholic, historic Protestant, Evangelical/Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Historic Black churches. We wish to share with you our deepest concern over the kidnapping of two prominent archbishops in Syria, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo. As you know, they have been missing since April 22, and the driver of their car, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was killed.
The members of our churches and organizations deeply lament the ongoing and horrible tragedy in Syria, with the deaths of tens of thousands, the displacement of millions, and the bitter sectarian hostility which seems to grow daily. Our prayers for comfort are with all who suffer, and our prayers for wisdom and courage are with all who are working for peace.
But we are addressing you in particular about the fate of these two courageous and well-loved Archbishops in Syria because of what they mean to the Christian community in that country and around the world. While we understand that there may be limitations on what the U.S. government can do directly to secure their release, we also know that the U. S. and its allies have considerable influence with a number of governments and factions on the ground who could make a difference in the fate of these two kidnapped church leaders. The fact that they were traveling on a humanitarian mission makes this matter all the more tragic and horrific.
May 29, 2013
A World Council of Churches (WCC) conference, “Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East,” has issued a joint statement calling churches and ecumenical actors to commit themselves to support one another in prayers and actions to support the Christian presence and witness in the Middle East. The statement was an outcome of discussions engaging representatives of the ecumenical organizations in the Arab world. Held at the Notre-Dame du Mont Monastery, the conference included patriarchs, heads of churches, and representatives of every Christian church in the Middle East, along with Christian churches and organizations from 34 countries.
In this context, the statement called the churches to “continue to be involved in the building of democratic civil societies, based on the rule of law, social justice and respect for human rights, including religious freedom....this is a time for action, for a new vision of Christian cooperation in the region, for recommitment to Christian Muslim engagement, for engagement with Jewish partners also working for peace and justice, expressing our Christian vocations by working together to express mutual support and solidarity.” The full text is available here.
Charles Ajalat writes on May 13:
The following needs just a minute or two of your time to help obtain the release of the two bishops who were kidnapped three weeks ago in Syria while on a humanitarian mission. One of the bishops is Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), brother of our Antiochian Patriarch, John X. The other is the Syriac Archbishop Youhanna (Ibrahim). Six prominent members of Congress are already spearheading this effort, and yesterday sent a Dear Colleague letter to their remaining 429 colleagues to join as co-signers of the letter they are sending to the Secretary of State later this week (with a copy to Ambassador Ford), asking the Representatives to commit to their signing by this Friday noon. I have been working with the Congressional Representatives and they have asked me to contact you for needed help.
Republished May 10: The Archdiocese encourages all of her members to show their continuing support for kidnapped archbishops Paul and John of Aleppo, first and foremost through heartfelt prayer. We also encourage people to sign and promote the online petition available here at the website of the White House, calling for United States government action on behalf of the abducted metropolitans. Please use the petition at this link.
Support and attention for Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John continues to grow. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published their joint letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry here. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has published Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's call for the release of the archbishops. The Russian Orthodox Church has published several statements, including the patriarchal message from Patriarch Kirill to Patriarch John X available here, along with the list of documents available below. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church prayed for the release of the metropolitans, as announced here. The Archdiocese is grateful for these and all other ongoing efforts for the sake of Archbishop Paul and Archbishop John, and all our brothers and sisters suffering in the region.
The following official joint statement has been released by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. (Original PDF here.)
On Monday the 22.04.2013, we were surprised by the news that our brothers Bishop Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Alexandretta and Bishop John (Ibrahim) Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, have 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 their lands. They suffer the pain every person suffers, work as messengers of peace to lift the injustice off every oppressed: They follow the teaching of their Gospel telling them that love is the basis of human relations. The official positions issued by the spiritual leaders of the various churches, are the best expression in this respect and the mission fulfilled by the two kidnapped bishops is but a further proof of this orientation.
There have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.
We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.
Confirmed updates will be published as soon as they are known.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip is saddened to report that, in a telephone discussion that he had today with His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, it was learned that Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Of Aleppo, and the brother of His Beatitude, as well as Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, were both abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo as they were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) to Aleppo.
The deacon who was driving their automobile was shot and killed in the attack. As you know, Syria has been suffering from these acts of terror for more than 2 years.
We ask all of you to remember Metropolitan Paul, and Archbishop Gregorios in your prayers, asking the Lord to deliver them safely from this ordeal. All official information will be released from the Archdiocese Headquarters through official communication channels.