The Patriarchs of the East – “religious extremism is a major
threat for the area and the whole world”
18. August 2014
English translation of statement from
Arabic provided via Al-Bushra the U.S. based Arab Catholic news site.
PRESS RELEASE– On 7 August 2014, at the heart of a Middle East soaked in blood, the Patriarchs of the East published a press release condemning conflicts and violence which overwhelm
the entire region, and most particularly the persecution of innocents and Christians. The religious fundamentalism, and those who feed it through financing its armed movements, affecting the
balance and stability in the region, is unequivocally denounced. The Patriarchs therefore send forth an urgency plea to the international community. Arabic original
Press Release by: Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the East
Following a brotherly invitation by His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Bishara Butros al Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and of the whole East for Maronites, Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs of Eastern
Churches convened at the Patriarchal Palace of Dymane, on 7 August 2014. Among the attendants :
Catholicos Aram Kshishian I, Catholicos of Beit Kilika for Orthodox Armenians ;
Patriarch Gregorius Lahham III, Patriarch of Antioch and of the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem for Greek Catholics ;
Patriarch Yuhanna Al Yazajee X, Patriarch of Antioch and of the East for Greek Orthodox ;
Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Yousef Younan III, Patriarch of Antioch for the Syrians ;
Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Afram II, Patriarch of Antioch and of the East for Orthodox Assyrians ;
Patriarch Narcis Bedros XIX, Catholicos and Patriarch of Kilika for Catholic Armenians ;
the representative of Patriarch Louis Raphael Sakko I, Patriarch of Babel for Chaldeans ; and Bishop Shlimon Wardouni,
The Church leaders expressed their awe at the unprecedented, terrific incidents taking place in the area, by wars and internal fighting, in Iraq and in Syria, by the religious fundamentalism which erodes the social fabric and its unity in our countries, by the emergence of
fundamentalist armed groups and Takfiris who kill, murder, shatter and violate the sacred nature of
the churches, scorching their heritage and manuscripts, and by foreign mercenaries who fight at the side of those who assault the citizens and their dignity. The prelates feel deeply hurt by
the tragedies affecting their Palestinian brethren in Gaza in the wake of
arbitrary air strikes by Israel, void of all human considerations, targeting innocents, violating all legal principles. They are also anguished at the bloody incidents taking place at Ersal in
Lebanon where foreign terrorist groups have assaulted the Lebanese army and the internal security forces, killing several soldiers and kidnapping many others. The armed groups have beleaguered
the inhabitants of the town, using them as human shields, ordering them to evacuate their homes.
After having assessed these horror events from all sides, and having considered the dangers which threaten all inhabitants of the region without exception, taking a cover of sectarianism never
known before in history, and the effects which these conflicts may leave on the people living in the region, including their children the Christians who live in the midst of these turmoils, and
believing in the role of the State in protecting these persons and their properties, the situation reaching a point where these persons are obliged to relinquish the land of their fathers and
ancestors, without any valid reason, they published at the conclusion of their meeting the following statement :
I. Eviction of Christians of Mosul and Nineveh Valley
Evicting Christians from the town of Mosul and of other cities in the Nineveh Valley, cannot be considered an ordinary
emergency incident which goes down in the annals of wars and conflicts, or as a voluntary immigration because of the fear which affect persons who look for temporary and secure shelters to escape
from death : that’s the result of a decision by ISSI and other jihadist groups which forced them to leave the land, because of their religious feeling and attachment to religion – which
contradicts international law. This initial decision taken by people in the name of Islam is a new disaster which hits the Arab-Muslim region and co-existence between its inhabitants. After their
eviction, the armed groups took everything away from them. It is a disgraceful act of racism which people reject and which international community condemns outright.
This alarming phenomenon it hits badly religious, cultural and human values which have shaped throughout the ages a rich
heritage of coexistence between Christians and Muslims. We condemn and refuse with strength the expulsion of our Christian children from Mosul and from neighboring towns/villages of Nineveh
Valley, which were indeed a model of Islamo-Christian coexistence, like many other ancient Arab towns. We ring the bell of alarm, asking everybody to support this condemnation, coming also from
Muslims, who share with us the same destiny, with the aim of taking up initiatives to put an end to this situation which is a deviation from the rules of normal life provided by Islam. It is
regrettable that the Muslim, Arab and International positions remains so weak, timid and lacking, which does not neutralize the dangers of such a phenomenon the consequences of which were
dramatic for the historical and demographic diversity of peoples of this region. Rendering the situation yet more alarming, certain European countries urge Christians to emigrate, in order to protect them from human massacres and terrorism, which we
condemn and refuse so strongly, for we remain attached to our mission in this East dear to every one. The international family, through the Security Council, should take a firm decision so that
the land will go back to its owners the earliest possible. We do not ask for protection from anybody, but we have a duty ; we consider that it is the duty of international bodies to keep up their credibility
and prevent any brutal demographic change, for us and for other religions.
We call upon all regimes and countries which support, arm or finance,
directly or indirectly, terrorist groups to stop what they are doing. Religious extremism, no matter where it comes from, will hurt any person who takes it upon himself and affects negatively
the one who does not counteract it.
The forced eviction of Christians from their homes, the seizure of their properties, the killing of unarmed civilians, the assaults on religious minorities, churches and worshiping places in
Mossul, Sadad, Maaloula, Kassab and elsewhere is certainly a crime against humanity, a violation of human rights and humanitarian international law. The Attorney of the International Court
of Justice should launch a counter investigation in order to bring citizens back to their homes, to restore their belongings and rights.
II. The Syrian conflict
The bloody events in Syria have become more of a foolish war which brings about more destruction, killings and
displacements. The Patriarchs condemn all these events and urge the parties and the States, which supply them with arms, to put an end to this bloodshed and to find peaceful solutions for the
sake of just, global and durable peace, with the possibility of bringing displaced Syrians back to their homes and on their lands, extricating them from the misery they live in, at a time they
are innocent, and to free them from every political, confessional or terrorist abuse.
After 1 year and 3.5 months, we are still looki9ng forward in Christian faith the return of our brothers the two bishops : Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna
Ibrahim, kidnapped since 22 April 2013. We underscore the fact that the reaction of the international community is lacking. Of course we are thankful for all the sympathy and condemnations,
but at the same time stand amazed at the indifference which wind up this matter. Consequently, we appeal to the whole world, in the East and in the West, to translate these words into acts, so
that we can reap the immediate release of the two kidnapped Bishops.
III. The events in Gaza
The events in Gaza afflict the Patriarchs, at a time when Palestinians pay the price through their lives, homes,
institutions, following brutal Israeli air strikes. They ask for an end to this aggression, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the lifting of the blockade on Gaza and its inhabitants,
the release of prisoners, the end to fighting which have over the three last weeks killed close to 2000 Palestinians. This amounts to a crime against humanity. The Patriarchs appeal to
international legitimacy to solve the Palestinian issue altogether, approving a State for Palestinians with Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of a 2-State solution and the return of
Palestinian refugees to their homeland, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Arab occupied lands in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon.
IV. The events in Arsal
Events in Arsal afflicted the Patriarchs very sharply, because of fierce assaults led by foreign terrorist groups, taking
advantage of the reality of the town and of Syrian refugee camps, preliminary to a wide scale terrorist scheme. The Patriarchs feel thankful to the Providence which has protected this land dear
to everybody, and also to the armed Lebanese forces which stood against these attacks and worked firmly to help civilians come out of this painful situation despite their losses in human lives.
The Patriarchs express their full support to armed forces and to Lebanese security forces, and pray for their protection and their success. They commend the unified Lebanese position which
supports the army and which does not tolerate terrorists or extremist groups. That was expressed in a statement by the Lebanese Cabinet, interpreted by its Head, three days ago.
V. Experience of coexistence
The history of the region has known periods of turmoil and violence, the price of which was paid by ordinary people whose
prime ambition was to live in dignity and genuine citizenship. These periods were often the consequence of actions by tyrannical leaders whose hearts have never known neither Christianity nor
Islam. We have put aside all this painful past. And we have worked together to undo the memory of those past events. We have also opened a new page in cooperation, based on mutual respect and
recognition of high spiritual values respected by the two religions. That urged us, Christians and Muslims, to consider these as positive initiatives through which we should cooperate to start a
better cooperation between faithful of two religions everywhere in the world. Subsequently, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has gone under way, for the sake of a mutual cooperation and
contribution to overcome the inconveniences of the past, and to pave the ground for a new future on the basis of truth, justice and charity among all.
Would we accept that the progress in relations between Christianity and Islam be exposed to such regression which, through eliminating all positive elements, threatens to draw us generations
VI. The outrage of religious extremism and the duty to stop it
The observers of events in present times see in religious extremism a disease which threaten the entire Middle East, in all
its components, and consider that more time is needed before this region heals from this disease. Many victims fell as a result of these repercussions. It is therefore imperative that we,
Christians and Muslims, unite in order to avoid such complications and to spare our region and children all these horrors, by stirring both spirit and conscience , to hold firm to what is genuine
and basic in religion, and not to use it for personal interests or to realize wider regional or international interests. We turn on to States, to local and international media, in order to seize
the gravity of the discourse which fills screens and social websites, so that they might – through the moral authority they now enjoy – stand up like dams and shed light on points of agreement
and cohesion, leaving to Almighty God the good judgment of hearts.
A spirit of responsibility should prevail in all Arab and International spheres in order to restrict this aggressive
extremism which obstructs the road between Christianity to Islam, whether in the region or across the world, and to put jointly an end to its dramatic consequences. If certain circles some
stealthily finance these extremist trends and spend money to send forth corruption across the earth, it is necessary to expose them before the international public opinion and forces of moral
actors of the world. The only way to achieve stipulates that Arabs and Muslims should rebuild an image of cohesion among themselves and discover the advantages of diversity which is a
characteristic of our East. It is also necessary to accept one another mutually, to live together on the basis of general respect, equality and citizenship everywhere. It is an plea deep
from the heart to all the world, as we search unity with our Muslim brothers, an integration in the same fate binding us today and tomorrow, as it did yesterday, carrying thus abundant fruits.
We call upon Muslim authorities, Sunnis and Shiites, to issue official and clear worded “fatwas” which prohibit attacks against Christians, against innocent people and
belongings. We call upon all Arab and Muslim Parliaments to issue rules which urge towards such an opening, setting aside clearly all shapes of exclusion and rejection of the
other, making those who do it accountable before law for their errors. We turn also to all sister-churches throughout the world to show solidarity with our pleas and prayers, in order to protect
the salvation message of Christ in the Middle Eastern countries, swept by a wave of wide-scale persecutions.
VII. Solidarity with our brothers and children
On the basis of this belief and principles, we declare our unlimited solidarity with our children and brothers, deported
from their homes and properties. We do our best in order to bring them back to their homes with honor and dignity in an atmosphere of reconciliation and brotherhood among peoples of all nations
in their native countries. Thus they will restore the unity of their country and also a life in dignity to everybody. We send forth an appeal to international community not to relinquish its
responsibilities regarding the painful political, human and social reality affecting the peoples of the East, and not to transform the cause of our people, injured in his dignity, rights and
existence, to a purely humanitarian cause which draws just compassion and charity, to be settled by securing the fostering of deported from their land and culture, which stands for a most
valuable treasure. We also ask the countries to stop handling this cultural diversity with a minority logic, as if the human presence was only a reunion of individuals forgetting what
each person can contribute through talents and gifts granted by Almighty God. For that we shall by all means plead for this cause with the highest international bodies, starting with the Arab
League, reaching the Security Council, the General Assembly of the UN, and the International Court of Justice, hoping that everybody will rise up to the level of civilian responsibility, above
tight political interests which affect their owners every time they betray their conscience and values of justice and law prescribed by
The most important feature is the help which we should provide to our displaced children, living in distress as a
consequence of these assaults. We call upon all International bodies to provide for their fundamental needs and secure the basics of a decent life, in order to facilitate their mission to remain
steadfast over the land of their ancestors. Once the danger is gone, they can go back to their homes and enjoy the coexistence which they had lived since centuries back.
VII. The pleas
At the end of this statement-appeal, the Patriarchs of Eastern Churches declare that:
Christians of the Middle East suffer from a serious persecution. They are expelled from their homes and properties seized by
extremist groups and “takfiris”, under the guise of
a world silence. It is a shame for humanity. As if our times go back to what they were before any law and human coexistence.
The religious components and faith-linked values, whether of humanitarian, cultural and ethical nature, are also at stake,
menaced in a very dreadful manner.
The terrorist extremism and “takfiri” in the name of religion is a major threat for the region and the entire world.
That’s why the Patriarchs insist on:
All church leaders adopt a common position, clear and strong, against this persecution and menace.
The Arab league, Conference of Islamic Cooperation, UN Security Council, International Court of Justice, the International
Community, react immediately through an efficient and massive relief work.
All states and parties which finance, directly or indirectly, through arms and money, fundamentalist groups, terrorists and
“takfiris” for political and economical purposes, to
stop this financing, this support.
The Patriarchs express their support to their Christian children ousted from their homes by force and disdain, assuring them
that they remain close to them in prayer ; that they will do everything possible for them to find a secure shelter, before getting back to their homes and properties, and restoring their rights.
They also approach their children spread all over the five continents of the world to show solidarity with their brethren of this East in suffering, to help them materially, spiritually and
morally, to enable them to hold on to their country in a a firm Christian hope, and to carry on their mission, by announcing the Gospel of brotherhood, justice and peace which the Lord – Man and
World Saviour – has entrusted them with, who repeats in these difficult times “ Do not be afraid little flock … In this world you will have trouble. But take heart ! I have overcome the world.”
(Luke 12:32 ; Jn 16:33)
We pray together for the repose of the soul of those who were killed during these tragic events, for the consolation of their parents, for the healing of the wounded. We pray also that security
and peace prevail in the world, and in particular in our beloved countries, imploring the Lord to inspire leaders and persons of good will, so that they could jointly put an end to this dark and
dreary juncture of our history, in order for our region to troubled region to restore its life and stability.
* * *
(1) Takfiris “(from the Arabic word Takfir wal Hijra, Anathema and Exile, a group founded in 1971) are Islamist extremists, who hold on to a violent ideology. The term “takfiri” means
literally “excommunication”. The takfiris consider Muslims who do not share them their point of view as apostates, therefore “legal targets” for their attacks.
H.E. The Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun - “I am the Mufti of all Syrians – Sunni Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze – of all the diversity of sects we had before the war. There
is no choice other than reconciliation."
H.B. John X Yazigi, Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch -
The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch in Syria, John Yazigi, says Syrian Christians "will not submit and yield" to foreign-backed extremist militants who attack "our people and holy places."
Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, Sunni Grand Mufti of Lebanon -“Christians’
fears nowadays over their presence and their dignity in the Middle East are right and justified”
H.B Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - The West and other countries are helping to foment conflict in the Middle East "there is a plan to destroy the
Arab world for political and economic interests"
H.ESheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, Deputy President of the Higher Shiite Council Lebanon - Called on the U.S to “work on giving people their freedom
in Syria by refraining from supporting radical Islamists and criminals who are killing innocent people and violating their freedoms.
H.B. Gregorios III Laham, Melkite greek-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch - "Every day Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to
kill and not one country has done anything to stop them."
H.H. Mor Ignatios Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (R.I.P.) - "Syrians are the only ones who will decide their destiny, and that decision will be taken in Damascus, not in a European country."
H.H. Mor Ignatius Ephrem II Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch - “Christians and Muslims alike are exposed to a terrorist war in the region”.... the Patriarch denounced
the silence of the world regarding crimes committed by armed terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
H.B. Youssef III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch - "We Syrian Christians, sold by the West for oil” -
"Christians in the Middle East have not only been abandoned, but we have been lied to and betrayed by Western nations, like the United States and the European Union."
H.B. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, “Who appointed them [United States] as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East?
H.E. Maroun Laham, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan - “This interest, on the part of the United States or of Europe, for human rights or for the defence of the weak, no
one believes. No one believes it!,”
H.E. JacquesBehnanHindo,Syriac Catholic Archbishop ofHassaké-Nisibi (northeastern
Syria) - Regarding the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabuis “Please excuse my expression. They are screwing all Syrians”
H.E. Theodosius Hanna, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia (Nablus, Palestine) - "Will the displacement of Christians from Syria, their killing and slaughter and the
destruction of their churches lead to an alleged democracy?"
Rev. Georges Massouh Antiochian Orthodox priest and director of the Christian Muslim Studies Center at Balamand University, Lebanon. "It goes without saying that Christians in
Syria do not consider themselves greater or more important that their Muslim partners in the one nation. They find themselves in solidarity with all the people of Syria, in the calamities that
they share and the strikes that fall upon all their heads."