We join the voices in Syria, the Middle East, and around the world that deplore the abduction of Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo. As their brothers and sisters in Christ, we call for the immediate release of these two bishops.
We ask Presbyterians to join in prayer for the bishops and for the Christian community in Syria and the wider Middle East. We pray for a just peace where all Syrians are welcomed, respected, and protected.
We recognize the significant roles played by these bishops. Faithful shepherds, they have been working in humanitarian efforts, accompanying the beleaguered Syrian Christian community and encouraging their members to remain in their land. Additionally, these bishops are recognized as pillars in Muslim-Christian dialogue in the region, working for mutual respect, mutual understanding, and solidarity.
The abduction of the bishops is but one example of the threats the Christian community faces in Syria. Our partners report the abduction of a number of Christians including other members of the clergy. They note that opposition forces often seize Christian property as they move their troops through the country. Many churches have been destroyed by heavy bombing and mortar attacks. We grieve to see religion being used as a weapon.
Presbyterian ties to Syria date to the early 1800s. We remain deeply committed to the people of Syria and the Middle East. During the current crisis, we have supported our sisters and brothers in Christ through prayer, advocacy for a peaceful solution to the crisis, and financial gifts to help care for those who are displaced by the fighting.
Through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, we are at work with our church partner, the National Evangelical (Presbyterian) Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and our ecumenical partner, ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance, to help meet the needs of the millions of Syrians who have been displaced by violence.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we live, act, and pray in the hope that peace and justice will prevail. May it be so.
Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012)
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency
See statements on this issue by the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Orthodox Church in America, the Arab Group for Muslim – Christian Dialogue and the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue.