Subject: The current persecution of Christians in the near and Middle East and North Africa. The debt of the International Community, Political and Religious.
Unanimous Decision of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for National and Religious Reflection – Caripius Foundation of Thessaloniki (Session 124, June 4th 2015)
1. Today’s evidence
I. The International Community and, in particular, the Greek Public Opinion are observers of brutal changes in the “geopolitical map” of the East, for already three years. Violence implies de facto alterations to its “religious map”. Historical Institutions, Provinces, Communities, Institutions, Temples, Monasteries and Sacred Pilgrimages of Indigenous Christians of various doctrines, principal Greek Orthodox, Assyrian and Egyptian Coptic Christians, etc. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in Syria and Iraq, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (Libya), the Coptic Patriarchate in Egypt and elsewhere in Africa.
Ii. The Christian Communities here are under the conscientious persecution of Islamic extremism, the Sunni version and admission. The fact, analyzed, is a form of religious genocide, of major moral importance even bigger than that of racial genocide. The Jihadists, as preachers of the jihad (jihad = holy war, according to the Quran), invoke, in their justification of their violent actions, the orders of the Koran, to behead all the misbelievers “. Concomitantly, it is their sacred duty to disappear from the face of earth, every religious monument of worship, history, art and culture of the “infidels”, e.g. blasting the Virgin Mary Church in the Assyrian community and the Catholic Monastery of St. Julian in Homs of Syria, placing explosives or complete destruction of the Orthodox Monastery of Saint Thekla in the village of Maloula, a few kilometers outside Damascus. Here the inhabitants speak Arabic and Aramaic with its ancient sense.
Iii. These extreme interpretations and misinterpretations, these positions, are in fact, brought t o life by young people in uninterrupted geographical departments in Iraq and Syria (they call their Organization, Islamic State), in Egypt, where the Sinai Peninsula is, and also in Libya. Their representatives are trained spiritually and warily and appear sporadically in the whole world. They mainly act in Europe through migratory and refugee flows. Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Spain and France are their natural breakthroughs. Mainly, Greece and Italy.
They exploit the geographical proximity and superior culture of the European environment. They are particularly attracted to the Muslim elements organized in Europe – a part of them already has family ties here – and over all, the neutrality of the States of the European Union, as People’s States, against the principles of the Christian Europe of humanity and solidarity. Meanwhile, the formal European political system is indifferent. It is, obviously, busy with more serious issues: those of monetary ideology and the practice of the euro.
Iv. Naturally, the pure Sunnis are not excluded from the violent actions of the Jihad, nor other moderate classes of Islamic faith, or followers of ancient comparative religious beliefs. They are in fact, treated with a particular brutality, before being beheaded, e.g. Shiites, Aleves, Drouzs, Bektasides, Kurdish religious, Yazizi and others.
2. Historical sequence
I. Today’s events have an identical historical sequence to those under other geopolitical conditions of the late 19th and early and mid-20th century. Significant dates: 1860, 1882 (Greeks of Alexandria and Cairo), 1915-1918, 1922-1923, 1939, 1955, 1965, 1974 (Greeks, Assyrians, Jews, Armenians, Cypriots etc). Geographic epicenters then, bordering today: Asia, Pontus, Constantinople, Thrace, Cyprus and Syria (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and West Bank). Syria is mentioned here because of refugee news. Syria was then hosting flourishing Greek Orthodox Communities in Alexandretta, Beirut, Aleppo and Damascus. They were protected by the Syrians, especially when they received refugee waves from the abovementioned geographical departments, from 1915 onwards.
Ii. The Islamic state, the Sunni-type was to blame for that extremism in the newly established state of Turkey. Tragic victims were the indigenous – later refugees, survivors – Christian Communities of the Romans, Armenians, Assyrians and other early Christian groups, as well as Jewish communities.
Iii. This religious extremism, under the official state’s ideology of Neo-Turkism, re-emerges, unfortunately today, with other international and local characteristics. These are the Sunni Jihadists, under the broadest protection of, among other things, neo-Ottoman ideology and theory, ie the unity of people and states and local cultures at the base of Islam, with a leading central and regional cohesive force of a neo-Ottoman Turkey.
3. The causes of the current persecution of Christians
I. According to the international organization “OPEN DOORS”, in the latest “World Watch List – WWL 2015”, the main cause of persecution of Christians worldwide is Islamic extremism. This dominant religious ideology is the reason for 40 out of 50 most dangerous countries for Christians (Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sub-Saharan Africa).
Ii. This year, at WWL 2015, the list of the 50 most hostile Christian states was unfortunately upgraded as Turkey was also added. This country holds the 41st place. The dominant Islamic ideology here is that of Sunni. About 90% of the entire population of the Turkish, mainstream, race is Sunni. There are also 40 other Muslim races, few or numerous, obvious or hidden, against tentative Turkish inquiries, recorded in the official minutes of the National Assembly, in times of Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel.
Iii. Officials of the Sunni Party in Turkey, for the past ten years, are the two heads of the once powerful ruling party and the Foreign Minister, now Prime Minister of the Office, Professor A. Davutoglu and the President of the country P.T Erdogan. They are both, reporters and executors of the ideology, the theory of neo-Ottomanism. The East (Asia, Africa, Near and Middle East) and Southeastern Europe, the “Ottoman Balkans”.
For the sake of a symbolic Ottoman presence and heritage of 400 years (a period of tyranny and inhumanity towards local Christian Orthodox), they have been involved in the founding of new and renovating old historical mosques and other institutions with similar actions, turning Orthodox historical temples in to mosques (Saint Sophia of Trebizond and Nicaea) to revive this Ottoman testimony. Islam at the service of foreign policy.
Iv. The ambitious policy of today’s Turkey, at the beginning of Sunni Neo-Ottoman ideology, has, according to official testimonies of special investigators and analysts, refined the Jihad movement in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya with the Muslim Brotherhood. Purpose; The weakening of the Syrian Aleveten Muslims to enhance the sphere of regional influence and, of course, the direct control of the three contiguous geographically solid self-contained Kurdish Cantonese of Syria (Afrin, Kobani, Jazira in the Rosawa region). They lie on the immediate border between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, the Kurdish political-religious movement within Turkey is well-known. Where about 30 million Kurds live, about half of the entire population of the country, with the capital of Diyarbakir, in Southeastern Turkey. That is, at the immediate border with Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan. About 5 million Kurds, for various causes, have settled, from time to time, in the Greater Constantinople.
V. The result of this pervasive mix is the new tragedy of people because of political and military instability in the triangle Turkey – Iraq – Syria. Extensions within these three official state entities and mainly in urban centers, where the Kurdish element predominates or have a strong presence, are staggered and uncontrolled. Consequences are immediate: new refugee waves and new persecutions. Victims are again Christian Communities, among many other moderate Muslim Communities. The “Christian map” here, is also being distorted at the expense of indigenous Christian residents. The remaining traces of Christian Heresies are almost extinct. This development is desirable for extreme-pure Islam, especially Sunni, because of prehistory and majority. Therefore, the situation is considered to be difficult to reverse, except of an extraordinary event, so that Christianity here is no longer the object of historical research but also of living testimony.
4. The Impact on the Life of the Presbyterian Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of the East with the Provinces, Communities, Institutions and Their Proposals
I. The Presbyterian Patriarchates of the East are 4: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Also mentioning the Autonomous Archbishopric of the Theobadistus Mount Sinai, centered on the historic Monastery of Saint Catherine of Sinai. These institutions are the oldest cradles of Christianity in the East. They are living witnesses of the Ecumenical Christian History and Heritage, a unique spirit and civilization.
Ii. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople within its jurisdiction, includes in the Provinces, Communities, Foundations and Proposals everything that has survived or recovered after the 1922, 1923, 1939, 1955, 1965, and 1960 trial years. They recall these black historical pages not only of racial but main and religious genocide. Victims, besides the Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, etc., were about two million indigenous Roman Orthodox Christians. In the Prefecture of Constantinople, for example, in the early 50s (1950-1955) lived about two hundred thousand.
Unfortunately, the circumstances today, of the above mentioned, cannot be regarded as the best even for the moderate Muslim agglomerations, let alone the non-Muslim minorities. Are the assurances appropriate, even the very strict measures of the official state capable of guaranteed security and free exercise of their spiritual mission here? We hope.
Iii. The frontier with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, is in direct danger, due to hostilities and the Muslim extremism of the Jihadists. Many provinces and communities have been dissolved. Patriarch of Antioch John resides in Beirut, Lebanon, abandoning Damascus. His first historic seat is in Turkey, Antioch. The Syrian Orthodox and few Greek Orthodox Christians, along with many Christians of other Dogmas, along with numerous moderate Muslims, Alevides, took the road to Lebanon, Greece, Europe, America, etc. Metropolitan of Halepi, Pavlos of the Patriarchate of Antioch and a Metropolitan of another Christian Doctrine, kidnapped by the Jihadists, are still missing, officially. Sacred historic Orthodox monasteries have been abandoned or destroyed and burned or have suffered great damage. The lonely Brotherhoods of men and women are in complete insecurity, decimated. Indescribable and unimaginable Christian tragedies, people and places of worship follow-up to that of 1922, unfortunately.
Iv. In the geographical continuity (Israel, Palestine, Jordan) lies the local jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Here there is a temporary feeling of security. The present problem of the Patriarchate itself is the inner Holy Sepulcher Brotherhood and its Arab-Orthodox division. A Patriarch is in operation and his predecessor is a magistrate within the central monastery. In addition, there is no spiritual link in the relations between the two Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem on the question of jurisdiction over Qatar, the latter’s fault.
V. The situation in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula is unsafe. This is where the Pan-Christian Pilgrimage – the historic Monastery of Saint Catherine is situated. No one knows where the petitioner is. From time to time, extraordinarily unpleasant incidents with leading Jihadists or companions give them unpredictable developments. The Greek monks and nuns who are still there and the surrounding Bedouin Community, are living a period of terror. Of course, the current Egyptian Government, a credible spokesman for the principles of moderate Islam, takes the appropriate measures. But are they capable of preventing a desperate event?
Vi. Finally, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is the further geographical extension. This jurisdiction is local to Africa’s entire continent. Already, North Africa (Libya, with the Jihadists’ action here being visible) is being religiously tested. The Metropolis of Tripoli has been dissolved. The Metropolitan of Theofilaktos and the Greek Orthodox community are already refugees outside Libya. Temples and Shrines have been opened and destroyed. Besides, in other states of Epirus the situation of Christian residents is not better.
Vii. General conclusion: The Christian Institutions have experienced, directly or indirectly, near or far, the heat of Islamic extremism. The consequences of insecurity, persecution and refugees are unpredictable. Survival in their historic positions or even within the boundaries of their local jurisdictions are being tested in every possible way. In the face of all these, the international political, pan-Christian, and especially Pan-Orthodox question is debated and manifested, a question about when and how it should be born.
5. The responsibilities of the international political and Christian community
I. State and Church of Greece: The Greek Territory, in the turbulent and unpredictable described and analyzed situation, a border between Europe, Asia and Africa, constitutes an oasis of geopolitical stability within the European Union, despite the economic and monetary crisis in itself and in the Euro zone. Greece, politically and ecclesiastically, takes special responsibility for initiatives and actions to assist the affected Christian communities.
On a political level, relations between Greece and the affected states are more or less good and productive. They have historical ties. With its own initiative and in collaboration with the international officials, the State owes its close up practical assistance and support, based on a plan and a program. The migratory and refugee flows in the country from the northeastern Islands, is a result of the degraded situation in these States.
The Church of Greece, on the other hand, maintains permanent channels of communication and cooperation with the Patriarchs of the Presbyterian Churches. Today, however, more needs to be done. Urgent coordinated planning, with strategy, analysis and actions of both the Sacred Synod and the Sacred Metropolis of Greece for the reintegration of Muslims and Christians refugees, in order to relieve them. At the moment, volunteer citizens and NGOs T serve the human suffering there, according to television news. Refugees “to be beheaded” by the Jihadists are “images of God” for Christian Greece and Europe. The same thing was done from the north against the Serbian People, the Serbian Patriarchate and the Sacred Historic Pilgrimages before and after the NATO bombing in Serbia due to the Kosovo problem.
Ii. The Pan-Orthodox System of Leading and Living: The Eastern Orthodox Church (9 Patriarchates and 5 Autocephalous Churches, a total of 14 Local Churches) under the coordinating role of the Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is directly and dangerously affected by its geographic point, reasonable. Hence the debt to highlight the current problem internationally, with clear and convincing and not duly documented positions, even though there is an internal relation disharmony, due to problematic, old and new, tensions (eg Moscow – Constantinople, Constantinople – Athens, Jerusalem – Antioch etc.).
Never the less, the appropriate actions of speech, writing, cooperation and representation at the highest international level have to be made, to defend the Christian Institutions, Principles and Values in the affected areas. They need comprehensive assistance from the international community. Indeed, it is in the hands of the part of the international community directly involved in the region (USA, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, European Union, Turkey and other allies), to curb human evil. Some of the countries mentioned are not completely innocent in creating a state of chaos and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region.
Iii. European Union – European Parliament – UN: Immigrant and refugee flows in the border countries of the European Union, of innocent fellow human beings, bankrupt, Muslims and Christians from the affected areas are a problem of immediate priority. For the People’s and the Citizen’s Europe, of humanity and solidarity, the alert should have struck in time. Monetary Europe owes the concern for economic and monetary stability, to take measures primarily on the basis of the principles of the Christian Europe. Europe should not be indulged but humble for its Christian Pillar because it is an essential element of its spiritual heritage. It has to recruit, for the value of man. Above the currencies, is man.
Fortunately, the recent statements made by the President of the Commission J.C. Juncker on how to be a European Citizen on the basis of the principles of solidarity and humanity, constitute a good message on how the European Union values man.
In particular, the European Parliament is the paramount Democratic Parliamentary Assembly, which can contribute to the pan-European visibility of the problem in all aspects, in cooperation with the executive bodies of the European Union and other international organizations of prestige, such as the UN. In this regard, it should be remembered that, according to the UN General Assembly in 1948, with a ruling in force in 1951, genocide, of any kind, racial or religious, is a punishable hateful crime.
Finally, according to specific published research and writings, most of the 20th century deaths came from genocides, about 120,000,000 people were killed. That is, about 85,000,000 more people dead than of all wars of the same century. The crucial, final, anxious question that arises for a simple common sense person is: In the 21st century, will the tragic crimes against mankind in the 20th century, be allowed again? Here lies the debt of the International Community, Political and Religious.
Foundation for National and Religious Reflection
Karipion Melathron, Thessaloniki.
August 29th, Memoriam of the decapitation of John the Baptist’s.