His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II gave a speech during a Plenary Session at the 3rd Global Gathering in the Global Christian Forum (GCF) – Bogota, Colombia. The session was entitled “Facing Common Challenges Together in Mutual Love”, and the title of His Holiness Speech was: “Following Christ together in discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: What does this mean for the global church today?”
In his speech, His Holiness considered that the two archbishops of Aleppo “presented no threat to anyone. As disciples of Christ, called by Him to tend His sheep, they were fully dedicated to their mission. Their care and compassion went beyond their immediate flock. It was extended to the community at large regardless of their religious affiliation, which earned them the love and respect of the entire society in Aleppo.” He added that despite the negative impact on the Christian community in Aleppo, “even after five years of their abduction, the Christian community in Aleppo – although greatly reduced by numbers, remains steadfast in its faith in Christ.” His Holiness then invited the audience to watch a 3-minute video about the two Archbishops.
His Holiness moved to speak about the persecuted Church; he said: “I come from a church, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, which faced many tribulations and genocides throughout the centuries. Some 100 years ago, a massive genocide took place in the Ottoman Empire aiming at eliminating Christianity from the land of its birthplace […]. Today, we continue to suffer persecution at the hands of terrorist groups.” He added “Because of our history of persecution and martyrdom, whenever I think of the marks of the church being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic I immediately add to it ‘Persecuted’. The true church that is faithful to her Lord and Savior has to be a persecuted one.”
His Holiness then spoke about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, and his continuous visits to comfort them since his installation in 2014. He then condemned the “low state of affairs which our world has reached”, referring to the recent attack on Syria by the U.S., U.K. and France.
He then brought to attention “a very sensitive matter which is affecting us. Some of our sister Churches are making use of this painful situation in Syria and Iraq by practicing proselytism.”
He also considered that what Christians and other minorities are subjected to in the Middle East and throughout the world is nothing less than “religious and ethnic cleansing.”
He concluded: “We continue to be the “light of the world”, spreading knowledge where there is ignorance, and love where there is hatred. This is our mission; this is what we are called for.”
During the session, two members gave tributes to Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, who was a founding and active member in the GCF, on the occasion of the 5-year anniversary of his abduction along with Archbishop Boulos Yaziji.