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Condemning attacks on Holy Martyrs Church of Deir Zor

Letter from WCC general secretary to Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia and Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, condemning attacks on the sacred sanctuary of the Holy Martyrs Church of Deir Zor, Syria.

14 October 2014

We in the World Council of Churches join His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, Armenian Apostolic Church Mother See of Holy Ethchmiadzin, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia) in condemning the terrorist attack on the sacred sanctuary of the Holy Martyrs Church of Deir ez-Zor, Syria, a memorial and place of worship belonging to the Catholicosate of Cilicia which includes relics of the Martyrs, a museum and a compound for pilgrims.

We understand that the destruction in late September of this church building, museum and compound took place not only in the year leading to commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide but also on the 23rd anniversary of Armenian independence. With you, we are convinced that the perpetrators of this premeditated crime will never succeed in erasing from the minds of Armenians and the world the memory and meaning of the desert of Deir Zor.

We also share our alarm at the efforts of religious extremists in the region of Syria and Iraq to eliminate people and communities of various religious minorities along with all physical vestiges of their presence and part in the culture of the Middle East.

Members of a delegation from the World Council of Churches to northern Iraq have reported on their return concerning their interaction with Christian, Yazidi and other minority communities who felt obliged to flee for their lives from the genocidal violence of the so-called Islamic State.

The World Council of Churches categorically condemns these actions and pledges to continue standing in solidarity with the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church as well as other Christians and members of minority communities, providing support for the promotion of religious liberty and pluralistic societies throughout the region.

As part of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide next year, the World Council of Churches will convene a symposium on the issue of impunity, focusing on tragic experiences of the past and relating them to current conflicts. The international community must acknowledge and learn from the past, taking concerted action to prevent its repetition.

The destruction of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Deir Zor and the relics enshrined there is bitter evidence that genocide is not only a subject of history, but a present threat for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

As general secretary of the World Council of Churches, I join with you, the Armenian people and all people of faith and good-will in praying for peace, for compassion to enter the hearts of aggressors and for protection of threatened people and communities.

Yours in our common pilgrimage to justice and peace,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary