Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Ten Years After the Kidnapping of the Archbishops of Aleppo
Beloved brothers, sisters, and spiritual children,
Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!
We greet you today in this festive and exalted Paschal period, having our eyes fixed on the cross of suffering, and knowing that the Lord of glory transformed this cross of suffering into a cross of glory. Today, we remember the cross carried by the Christians living in this Middle East, suffering from murder, displacement, and terror. Today, we remember the spear which has marked for us as Christians, in the last two thousand years, the Passion of our Lord at the Calvary, and the other spear which has wounded us for the last ten years ago, and this wound has not been healed. Today, we remember the kidnapping of our brothers, the Archbishops of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, which occurred on April 22, 2013.
Ten years have passed. As Christians, we continue to affirm that we rely only on our Lord for our presence here in this land of the East. Ten years have passed. As Christians, we continue to affirm that we are abiding here against all odds. We are here as living witnesses of Jesus of Nazareth Who loved us and Whom we love. Ten years have passed, and we affirm that we have been tirelessly following up on this case. We have knocked on the doors of local and foreign governments, embassies, and religious and civil authorities, in the hope of receiving just a glimmer of hope about this issue. We would like to share all this information with you, dear brothers and sisters, and all that we have done in this case and many other cases. We continue our efforts in this regard. Until this moment, we are determined with all our strength to discern what is factual among all the darkness enveloping this case, a case which describes the agonies of abduction and depicts the humiliation of human dignity. This case needs more than just saying sweet words about Human Rights. Human Rights are being politicized according to interests. However, the international community and governments ought to work seriously to implement these Rights, instead of taking the position of blindness, incapacitation, and being satisfied with uttering words of condemnation and denunciation.
In this bright week of glorious Pascha, we recall that, first and foremost, we are the children of the Resurrection, despite all hardships. We also recall that the tears shed by the myrrh-bearing women who mourned Christ turned, after the Resurrection, into tears of gladness and joy, beholding the Master Who has overcome death and destroyed the power of the evil one. As Christians, the kidnapping of both bishops invites us to reflect and realize that everyone is targeted in this East. The bishops’ kidnapers did not ask about a denomination, affiliation, or religion. The two bishops were kidnapped because they were a fragrant scent emanating from the fragranced witness of the Church of Antioch, the Church of this land. Here is where the Apostles first walked, and where the cradle of Christianity sparked to all the world. No earthquake or calamity shall overcome the Church. These circumstances invite us to conduct a profound existential review of the history of our existence here and to the need for strengthening our cohesion in this wounded East, and bearing witness to our Lord, not only by maintaining stone structures, but also by the authenticity of the faith of our children and their presence in the land of their ancestors, and by shunning any ethnic or factional extremism that weakens their witness for Christ Jesus, Who wished that all be one.
In the midst of this Bright Pascha, we are set to behold the countenance of Jesus, from Whom we draw power and mercy despite all that surround us. We cry out to Him from the bottom of the heart, bowing the knee of the soul and saying: You have brought us forth, making us from the clay of this land. You willed for us to be witnesses to your Holy Name. Strengthen us, O Lord, to live up to the testimony entrusted to us. Wipe away our burdens with the light of Your Resurrection. Calm the impulses of wars and instill in us the spirit of Your peace. O God, be with the abductees, and with all those who are in distress and affliction. O Savior, the world yearns for the sweetness of Your peace. We implore You in this glorious Paschal season, and we heartily bow before You, prostrating and chanting from the depth of our soul:
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life."
Damascus, 22 April 2023.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
IGNATIUS APHREM II Syriac Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of Universal Syriac Orthodox Church