Following the invitation of the Community of Sant’Egidio, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II participated in the opening of the “Peace is the Future: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue, 100 Years After World War I” in Antwerp – Belgium on Sunday September 7, 2014. The opening session was attended by many dignitaries and politicians from Europe as well as religious leaders from all religions.
In his speech, Patriarch Aphrem II gave a true picture of the situation of the Christians in the Middle East. First, he informed the audience that he is carrying “the voice of millions of Christians and non-Christians in the Middle East; the voices of Sunnis that are killed by Sunnis, Shiites that are targeted by Islamist fanatics, Christians and Yezidis that were expelled from their homes and towns, children who have lost their parents, and millions of people who desire to live in peace with each other, but international politics and religious fanaticism prevent them from doing so…”. He demanded a quick intervention to allow Christians from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains to return to their houses and enable them to defend themselves.
His Holiness also spoke about the situation in Lebanon and expressed his worries about the consequences of the acts witnessed in Arsal. He called the politicians to elect a president in order to get the country out of this situation that threatens its stability and security.
Patriarch Aphrem II emphasized that “we realize that the war in Syria benefitted no one”; on the contrary, it is a great loss for all. He wondered how one can justify all the barbaric acts of kidnapping, beheading, killing and destroying everything, even uprooting old trees” which are committed in the name of reform in Syria? He called upon the international community to increase its humanitarian help to the Syrian refugees whose number has exceeded 4 million.
Isn’t the international community ashamed of its silence about the abduction of the two prominent bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji?” Patriarch Aphrem II declared this expressing his worries of the absence of trusted information and communication on this matter. He addressed all people of good will to work together demanded them to have immediate actions in order to have their immediate release.
At the end, His Holiness stressed that the situation of Christians in the Middle East must be a top priority to the international community and called upon all parties to cooperate to implement a solution that will guarantee an everlasting peace in the region and security for all the religious minorities in the region