Mideast Catholic, Orthodox leaders denounce groups that fund terrorism
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai denounced the “immorality of international politics,” which he said provides the opportunity for terrorist groups to reproduce the genocide committed in the last century against the Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire.
Speaking last week at a “Faith and Martyrdom” conference at Holy Spirit University in Kaslik, Lebanon, Cardinal Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, referred to the “fundamentalist-terrorist organisations” currently operating as “instruments in the hands of great powers who provide weapons and money for political, economic and strategic” gain.
The conference, spearheaded by the Syriac Catholic and Orthodox patriarchates, focused on the parallels of the 1915 genocide – which affected hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Syriacs, Chaldeans and Assyrians – and the ongoing conflict in the region today, particularly in Syria.
“What happened in 1915 is not a simple persecution, but genocide in the fullest sense,” stressed Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch.
“Here we are, a hundred years later, we remember, in the hope that this time memory contains a lesson,” Patriarch Aphrem said. “We believe that forgiveness is the way of peace. But forgiving does not mean forgetting. This is why we ask our brothers in Turkey to recognise this heinous crime to allow us to link ourselves to them by the bonds of love and cordiality.”
If such a recognition had occurred, then perhaps there would not be “the genocide being committed today,” he added.
Meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on 19th June, Patriarch Aphrem told him that about 500,000 Syriac Orthodox died in the 1915 genocide, for which the community continues to seek healing and reconciliation.
At the “Faith and Martyrdom” conference, the Vatican’s nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, urged Eastern churches to stand firm and continue to witness to their Christian faith to martyrdom.
“Otherwise,” he stressed, “the sacrifice of the first martyrs will be in vain.”