The Antiochian Patriarchate – 18/4/17
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East – Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East
Beloved spiritual brethren and children,
Christ is risen, truly He is risen.
Christ is risen and the East is bleeding. Christ is risen and our people of all faiths pay with their own lives the cost exacted from selfish interest. Christ is risen and the destiny of our brother-archbishops Paul and John is still unclear. Pascha falls this year close to the day of their abduction, the twenty-second of April. This fourth anniversary is perhaps the most appropriate time for us to raise our voice once more, and to put in the ears of our believers and of all the world the voice of our pain in the Church of Antioch, and the voice of all those who are afflicted in this East.
We are being crucified in this East, suffering this great ordeal. The world looks at the cross of our agony, and is satisfied merely by expressing grief over us. Nevertheless, the power of this world will not drive us out of our land, because we are the sons of the cross and the resurrection. We have been displaced throughout history, and we are still being displaced up to this day, but each of us is called to remember that the land of Christ will not be emptied of his beloved ones and of those who were named after him two thousand years ago. And if the act of kidnapping the two archbishops and priests aims at defying our Eastern Christian presence, and uprooting it from this land, our answer is clear. Even though it has been four years since the two archbishops were kidnapped and this crisis has lasted six years, we are staying here next to the tombs of our fathers, and their hallowed ground. We are deeply rooted in the womb of this East. We are determined not to leave our land, furthermore we will defend it with our own blood and lives.
In giving his peace, Christ said, “Fear not, for lo, I am with you until the end of the age.” We remind ourselves and our children and the whole world that the open-minded Christian presence in this East is more than a presence; it is an identity rather than a boast. Our summons today brings to the attention of the world, organizations, states, governments, associations and embassies, a cry of truth: We want to live in this East in harmony and peace with all faiths. We are not in need of sympathy for us or denunciation of others, but we are in need of serious and sincere good will from all parties to foster peace in our land. The lives of our people are not cheaper than anyone else’s life. Archbishops Paul Yazigi and John Ibrahim were kidnapped and no one troubled himself to issue more than a mere statement of denunciation or promise yielding no results up to this very moment. We value and appreciate the work and zeal of some who have worked with all their strength in behalf of this issue, but the truth must be said: We were, and are still awaiting more than that, especially from those who have the power of binding and loosing internationally and regionally. We do not leave this issue in the care of the civilized world, which has burdened us with its talk about democracies and reforms, while our eastern man is deprived of bread and of all means of livelihood. The ever-higher cost of living and the asphyxiating siege are affecting the livelihood of the poor. There is a war, unfortunately, imposed upon us as Syrians, and there are consequences that burden us as Lebanese. And there is a price which we pay as Easterners all over the Middle East stemming from the results of all wars, as though bets are waged on our land. Our summons today reflects upon events, as we cry “enough!” in the face of those who feed our land with terrorism, takifirism and blind extremism. Our summons today is a cry “enough!” in the face of those who finance the terrorist, but feign blindness of his existence, and later rush to fight him or to make a claim to fight him.
In the Holy Paschal season, we supplicate the risen Lord to remove the stone from our hearts and to break with his spear the war of this world. In these holy days, we pray again for our abducted archbishops, repeating our call for their release. We have knocked on the doors of embassies, omitting no international and regional forum, in our effort to present the crisis in Syria and to explain its repercussions, including kidnapping and displacement of our people to the world at large. We have raised the issue of the kidnapped archbishops. On this occasion, we call on everyone, here and abroad, to work hard toward the liberation of the Archbishops of Aleppo and toward closing this case, which has been suspended by international amnesia. However, this issue is always present in our souls and in the souls of all our children Christian and Muslim, as well as all those of good will.
On the day of the resurrection of Christ, we ask that the peace of his resurrection be upon you, and upon our sons at home and abroad. During Pascha, which means passing over, we raise our earnest prayers to the Lord of the angels to bring peace to our country and to the whole world. Our earnest prayer is for all the kidnapped, all the abductees. Our prayers are for every displaced, homeless, miserable, afflicted and poor person. Our heartfelt prayer to the risen Lord is that He may send his true spirit of peace to silence all the voices of strife and unrest in the Middle East and in the world at large.
In the Resurrection of Christ, those who are called by his name, the Christians of the Church of Antioch, always pledge to remember that the path of the resurrection began with the Cross, and was crowned with the light of the empty Tomb. As we imitate Christ, we do not fear death or adversity, but we pray in our weakness, as our Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed, that the cup of suffering may pass.
We are in the days of remembering the resurrection of Christ, even though mingled with a heartache that has not been healed for four years. We pray today to the risen Lord to instill his hope in our hearts, granting to them His Holy Spirit, and bestowing upon us the gift of the release of all the kidnapped, so that we may always cry: Christ is risen and the angels are exulted. Jesus is risen and the bars of Hades are destroyed. Christ is risen and life is renewed; to whom is due all glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
Christ is risen, truly He is risen.
Damascus, April 14, 2017.