Meditation Prepared by His Holiness During the “Peace is the Future” Conference

Meditation Prepared by His Holiness
Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
and Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
during the “Peace is the Future” Conference
on September 7-9, 2014, in Antwerp – Belgium

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8: 20)
The Actual Situation of the Christians in Northern Iraq

Your Eminences,
Reverend Fathers,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the days when our Lord Jesus Christ was preaching, it was difficult for people who live a stable and productive life in their villages or cities, to leave their homes and follow Him to the unknown. This has led one of them who was enthusiastic about the teachings of the Lord Jesus to tell him that he is ready to follow Him wherever He goes (cf. Matthew 8: 19).

In His gentle way, the Lord’s responds by informing all who were present that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8: 20). As it continues to assure them that following Him is not going to be rewarding in the worldly sense. The apostles and disciples who decide to follow Him should keep in mind that there will be nights when they will not find a place to rest or sleep. They should be ready to expect anything and endure lots of difficulties and persecutions for the sake of His name.

Despite this ‘discouraging’ promise, many were charmed by His call and followed Him. Moreover, they gave their lives for the sake of believing in Him. They renounced the worldly desires and glory, seeking only to please God with their faith, love, good deeds and charity.

For the past few months, we have seen many Christians being expelled from their homes in Mosul and in the Nineveh plains. They were forced to sleep in open public places or in church halls. Their only ‘sin’ is that they believe in Jesus Christ. This is a fulfillment of the promise of the Lord. They were left with no shelter and no place to stay in. In short, they were left to die. To these people the words of the Lord became concrete and meaningful.

Facing such stories, we praise the Lord for His many gifts for us and pray for the elimination of all pain and suffering such that we can all enjoy the presence of God among us and His unconditional love towards all.

Let us pray:

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, You came into the world as the Son of Man in order to be with us and empathize with Man. You have offered salvation to humankind and relieved our pains and miseries. You walked in the streets, healed the sick and helped the needy.

Lord, right now, our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria are experiencing a tragic situation: they have lost everything, their houses, jobs, trades and possessions. Help us regain all the grace that You had bestowed on us. Bring the perpetrators to repentance and lead them to know the gravity of their acts. Make them aware of the love and compassion of God so that this phase of war, violence and persecution may be over. Grant patience to those who are suffering and are homeless so that they endure their misery and find refuge in Your compassion. To those who cause this misery, grant openness of heart that they may see Your image in the face of their fellow humans. Shine Your light in their hearts that they may spread Your gospel to those who are near them. May they be good disciples of Yours. Amen.