With anger and dismay, we have heard the news of the abduction of Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo (brother of His Beatitude Patriarch John X of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East), and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo. We strongly condemn this heinous act.
The conflict in Syria is neither religious nor sectarian, but political. We urge all sides to refrain from using religion as a weapon in this conflict. These bishops were with some of their priests and deacons (one of whom was killed as he was driving). We know very well that the role these bishops are playing in Aleppo is to encourage the Syrian Christians, and strengthen them to remain in their land. As their brothers and sisters in the ELCJHL, we demand the immediate release of these two bishops, and that they be unharmed—in good health, with no trauma.
We call upon Arab and Middle East Christians and Muslims of goodwill to join forces for peace and justice in resolving this problem. We ask for prayers for the Syrian people, and for those who have been abducted without cause, particularly these bishops, who are simply being faithful shepherds of their people.
Every day, my heart aches with each new report of bloodshed and violence. Bloodshed like this will only bring hatred, revenge, and retaliation; not reform or peace. We call on all governments of the world to discontinue providing weapons for all sides in this conflict and demand a return to diplomatic relations so that people can live with dignity and their full human rights.
Furthermore, as one of the presidents of the MECC, I stand in solidarity with the Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox church, with the diocese and with the patriarchs of the churches, remembering the words of Jesus Christ:
“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).