Bartholomew I: Finally the time has come to clearify the fate of bishops kidnapped in Syria!
By Heinz Gstrein
Strong attention by Greek Orthodox and Oriental Christians has found the Conferenc of European Churches (CEC) with a meeting at Cyprus on Nov. 9th/10th regarding „Places of worship and religious monuments in Europe and the Middle East: Status and protection in accordance with national and international law".
As spiritual leader for the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos Dimitriou, underlined in a message of greetings, that this event is particularly urgent at a time when thousands of Christians were forced to leave their ancient "countries of origin".
Also the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, paid tribute to the CEC meeting. By opportuniy of a sermon in the Church of the Hagios Minas in Istanbuls old quarter Ypsomatheia (kumkapi). In this district there are particularly beautiful and large Greek and Armenian churches, but the area is now almost completely "cleared of Christians", as the Turkish authorities for decades with discrimination and harassment try to succeed.
Fervent prayer for the persecutedThe Patriarch of Constantinople called for insistant prayer for all those who are forced to leave their homes," yet but for those who are no longer in safety and on-the-spot are sacrificing theis lives. The two metropolitans of Aleppo, the Greek Orthodox Paul Yazigi and his Syrian-orthododoxer Official Brother Gregory Ibrahim, already kidnapped in 2013, should be included into these prayers.
Since then from each of the two missing there are no signs of life and every track. Now time has come after the collapse of the "Islamic state" (IS, Daesh) in Syien and Iraq, at least to clarify the fate of the two men of the church. Similar came the first indicatw on the likewise four years ago upducted by the IS-terrorist militia in Raqqa on the Euphrates Italian Jesuit Paolo Dall'Oglio: According to one IS commander fugitive to Morocco, the roman father was already murdered a short wile after his abduction on 29. July 2013.
Venue Turkish-occupied CyprusIn Cyprus too Archbishop Chrysostomos as the host of the CEC meeting appelaed to all ecclesial and political leaders vigorously to work for the salvation of the Christian East acutely threatened by extinction . The meeting was a proof that the Conference of European Churches recognized the seriousness of the situation and hour.
The relatitiv peaceful, often even constructive coexistence of Christians, Jews and Muslims under the rule of the latter from the 7th to the 20th century is from decaes disturbed. An impact of the weakening of chitian presence to complete extinction is already leading to an intensification of jewish-christian-islamic conflicts in Palestine and a proliferation of the susnnite-shiite power struggle within the Muslim community.Archbishop Chryostomos finally pointed out that such conditions are prevailing not only in the Middle East, but also on European soil in the Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus since 1974. Until then, the Republic of Cyprus with 80% Orthodox Christians, 18% Muslims and a total of 2% Armenians, Maronites and Roman Catholics had srrtved as a model for inter-religious - though not always - pluralism.
But now for 43 long years in the Turkish-occupied zone the religious freedom of non-Muslims is being violated. After a phase of wild looting of churches, monasteries and even cemeteries now follows the systematic annihilation of each track that Northern Cyprus since the days of the early church was genuinely Christian. Today there are over 500 churches to decay or be misused for other purposes.
Church became a goat stableParallel to these allegations at the CEC-gathering the Cyprus Turkish daily newspaper "Kibris" (Cyprus) is reporting under the title "A disgust for every believing person" that at Melounta in the east of the Northern Cypriot port Kyreneia (turk. Girne) the church of St. Parascevi was transformed into a goat stable. The turkish regional manager for religious sites in occupied Ammochostos (Famagusta), Timucin Gumecli, promised in the meanwhile in a statement to the Cyprus Times to support rapid shutdown of the unworthy state.
Also avoid further severe setbacksAs a serious setback for Archbishop Chrysostomos who worked out in recent years together with the North Cypriot Mufti Ila Atalay a "religious rapprochement“ between the remaining free and the Turkish-occupied Cyprus came already this year the recent ban on Easter services in the since 2014 opened church Hagios Georgios Exorinos (Famagusta) and the beginning of September there was prohibited th fest of Hagios Mamas at Morphou. It had been celebrated again every year since 2004.
In the meantime, the Cyprus Turkish administration allowed on November 5th a concelebration of Cypriot bishops with a metropolitan from Greece in the north-eastern Andreas Monastery. In Famagusta was opened an other Hagios Georgios (Neopolitis) for its its patronal. Both authorizations have been granted according to observers on the ground of the CEC-Initiative on Cyprus in advance and as their first successes.
What will happen in Morphou ?Now ar awaiting the last Christians of North Cyprus with tension, whether or not the commitment for a service again in Morphou on November 19th will really take place with its dislocated bishop Neofytos Masuras from Zodia south of the zone boundary.