A Tragic Incident at the Church of St Andrew – Lattakia

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy – December 2015

From the Archdiocese of Lattakia’s Facebook page in Arabic, posted on November 28, 2015 here

Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14)

In a tragic incident that took place yesterday evening, a young man threw a stun grenade into the courtyard of the Church of Saint Andrew, as the Rev Fr Elias Sharbak was attempting to remove him and prevent him from throwing the grenade. This led to the death of a five year-old child as well as injuries to some of the young people who were present in the courtyard and light injuries to the priest. 

We implore our children not to believe any rumors or stories about the incident and we call on you to pray for the healing of those injured and for the repose of the soul of the martyred child, that the Lord God may number him in the ranks of the holy angels so that he may sing with them divine hymns to our Lord and God Jesus Christ and intercede for us and our churches, that He may grant us peace and security and send down His divine consolation to the hearts of his parents and relatives.

In a further clarification of the incident in Arabic here, posted on December 2, 2015:

To our beloved children in the God-protected Archdiocese of Lattakia

To prevent any confusion resulting from the circulation of details about the incident that happened at the Church of Saint Andrew and so that we may not come under judgment, we the priests of the Archdiocese saw fit to explain the incident as it happened on Friday, November 27, 2015:

At 5:45 in the evening, a young man in his twenties entered the courtyard of the church, where a special celebration was being held for the feast of church’s patron, and started a verbal altercation with a group of the church’s young people who were in the courtyard. Following this, one of the church’s priests was called to break up the dispute and he removed the young man in a calm and  tactful manner. About an hour later, around 6:45, the young man returned and entered the courtyard of the church with a knife and hand grenade, running into one of the church’s pastors. When the priest tried to calm him, he shouted even more, threatening him and attacking him with the knife he was carrying. When the youth of the church, who gathered around the priest, attempted to push him away in order to protect the priest, he threw the grenade he had with him and it detonated. After this, the crowd was able to overpower him and take away the second grenade that he was about to throw. After that, he was handed over to the relevant security authorities. This incident resulted in the death of a child and various injuries to over 35 people. The priests of the diocese flocked to the scene of the incident to see what happened and to visit the wounded in the public and private hospitals in the city of Lattakia. A team from the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch visited the patients and covered their costs at the public and private hospitals, in addition to the Red Crescent’s gracious presence to rescue the wounded at the scene of the incident.

We, the priests of the Chuch first of all condemn this criminal act and express our heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the family of the departed child, asking the Lord Jesus to have mercy on him and to anoint the wounds of the souls of his parents and all his relatives with His divine grace. We also ask the Lord to quickly heal all those who were injured.

We also express our gratitude to the medical teams at the public and private hospitals for their speedy response in offering all types of aid. We likewise thank the security officials who have been performing their duties to the fullest since the moment of the incident.

Last but not least, we ask our faithful brethren to pray to ward off every danger and harm and danger from the children of our flock and all our people. We request that all the faithful brethren assist the security officials if they know of weapons in the possession of individuals that have been committing crime and causing harm to all.

May the blessing and mercy of the Lord be with all of you.

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