Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador of Religious Freedom, has issued a statement condemning the abduction of Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese. Based in Aleppo, Syria, the prelates were returning to Syria from a humanitarian mission in Antioch, Turkey.
Their driver was reportedly killed during the abduction.
“On behalf of all Canadians who value freedom of religion, we call for the immediate release of these bishops,” Bennett said in an April 25 statement.
“…We will continue to express the need for the respect and promotion of human rights, democracy and religious freedom. This is essential so that all Syrians, regardless of religion and including Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians, can contribute to Syria’s development without fear of violence,” the statement continued.
Bennett said that Canada will continue to work with Syria and other countries to end the violence and support those risking their lives to achieve a tolerant and pluralist Syria that upholds freedom of religion.
In February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom dedicated to promoting and monitoring freedom of religion and belief as a key Canadian foreign policy priority.
The following day, in a rare joint statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Westminster, Justin Welby, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, condemned the continuing violence in Syria. http://www.aco.org/acns/news.cfm/2013/4/26/ACNS5388
“…We have grieved with all Syrians—with the families of each and every human life lost and with all communities whose neighbourhoods and livelihoods have suffered from escalating and pervasive violence,” the statement said.
“And today, our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. The kidnapping this week of two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim…and Paul Yazigi…and the killing of their driver while they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is another telling sign of the terrible circumstances that continue to engulf all Syrians,” the statement said.
“…We respond to the call from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, urging churches worldwide to remain steadfast in the face of challenging realities and to bear witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.”
The two archbishops said they are continuing to pray for a political solution to this tragic conflict that would stem the terrible violence and also empower all Syrians with their fundamental and inalienable freedoms. They called for urgent humanitarian aid for those suffering. “We pray that Syria can recapture its tradition of tolerance, rooted in faith and respect for faiths living side by side,” the statement concluded.
For more on the Anglican Communion’s response to the violence and abductions in Syria, click here..