Patriarch Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church has survived an assassination attempt that took place Sunday morning during Pentecost liturgy at the Church of St. Gabriel in Qamishli, Syria. While the patriarch escaped death, current reports indicate that several others were killed and wounded. The attack took place during commemorations of the genocide against Assyrians Christians and Armenians.
The Conference of European Churches is deeply saddened by this news from Syria. It is especially sorrowful that the patriarch was targeted by assassins while inaugurating a monument to the victims of genocide against his people a hundred years ago.
Along with Armenians, Greeks, and other ethnic groups in the region, Syriac Christians have survived genocide and oppression over the course of centuries. We are now witnessing yet another wave of persecution and murder against these Christians and other indigenous religious and ethnic communities in the Middle East.
As Europeans we must learn more about these events and work to protect people from persecution, murder, and genocide. We must contribute to the building of peace and justice for all religious and ethnic communities of Syria, Iraq, and the entire Middle East. Our hearts, our homes, our societies must be open to all those who flee violence and persecution.
Sunday’s murderous attack reminds all Europeans of the urgency in establishing robust policies for receiving refugees based on universal human rights and international law.
“Despite killing other people, the assassin could not achieve their goal.” Remarked CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen. “We thank God that the patriarch is able to continue in his apostolic and pastoral mission. May he be guided, strengthened, and consoled by the Spirit of Pentecost.”
CEC President Rt Rev Christopher Hill KCVO, DD joined with many leaders from across the Church in condemning this attack and expressing solidarity with the Syriac Orthodox Church, “I am shocked and horrified to learn of the assassination attempt. CEC grieves the loss of life and prays for the recovery of the wounded. We extend our prayers and support for the church and all Christians in threatened positions in the Middle East.”