Syrian Orthodox Bishop Calls for Diplomatic Initiatives in Syria

Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim Describes Increasing Violence

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo appealed for concrete diplomatic initiatives in response to the growing violence in Syria.

Speaking to Agenzia Fides, Mar Gregorios said that the situation is worsening in the region and echoed Pope Benedict's called for an international response to the crisis. "We leaders of local Christian Churches can do little. Even Muslim leaders appear divided," he said.

"At this point, given the inaction of the Western powers, the Holy See itself or other realities, such as the Community of St. Egidio, may try to put in place practical proposals to find a way out of the conflict, based on a defined agenda that makes Pope Benedict XVI’s appeals during his visit to Lebanon concrete. Those words of His Holiness were really important, and were appreciated by all, Christians and Muslims."

The Syrian Orthodox Bishop went on to describe the situation in the city of Aleppo, described the ever increasing dangers in his diocese, saying that explosions occur "all day." The Syrian prelate also said that because they live close to neighborhoods where the Free Syria Army has settled, it has been impossible to open schools or accommodate people in churches.

"Every day there are deaths, funerals are celebrated in all Christian churches. Yesterday, I celebrated the funeral of a Syrian Orthodox soldier killed in Sweida," he said. Mar Gregorios sharply denounced the cycle of violence among Syrians, saying that "killing their own brothers and sisters is something atrocious, a shame before the eyes of all humanity."

The Syrian bishop acknowledged that Christians are involved in the cycle of conflict in various ways. The majority, he says, have "become silent, waiting to see where what is happening takes us, and wonder anxiously what the future will be like." Mar Gregorios said that while he knows that among Christians there are both opponents and supporters of the current regime, he could not confirm that Christians have taken up arms. "Those who choose that path, he said, "one way or the other, does it individually. For everyone else, the prospect that comes up is that of escape. There are hundreds of families who have already done so, and others are considering it. The same scenario of Iraq seems to repeat itself here in Syria."

Mar Gregorios concluded his interview with Fides saying that while many have chosen to flee the country, he will not. "I will stay here, I cannot leave Aleppo, I have to be with my people."