The World Council of Churches (WCC) is mourning the death of the Very Reverend Archimandrite Dr Alexi Chehadeh, who led the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East in Damascus, Syria.
Known as a role model and peacemaker in Syria, he had a passion for finding ways to distribute aid to people of all faiths, despite the particularly vulnerable situation of Christians.
Chehadeh helped lead the efforts of 44 offices all over Syria, 38 community centers, 1600 full- and part-time staff and 22 international partners, all seeking to offer help to people in utmost need. His leadership touched the lives of 2.5 million beneficiaries each year.
The Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development offers care through a comprehensive set of programmes, including education; vocational training; water, sanitation, and hygiene services; shelter, psycho-social support; and healthcare.
During a Christmas interview in 2018, Chehadeh said: “I pray for a peaceful solution in Syria. The people of Syria need peace and need to be able to go back to their homes. For our work, I wish to get some funds to be able to buy Christmas presents for the kids. They have to feel like kids in the midst of the turmoil.”
Chehadeh believed in reconciliation. "In this age of globalization, we say always that the world is like a village through access to social media,” he said. “That means that we are all neighbours, too, and we have to take care of each other and be there for others. God asked us to take care of each other and be there for each other.”
WCC interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said that Chehadeh was both respected and beloved within the ecumenical movement and its development agencies. “We have known him in the WCC as a peacemaker and peacebuilder in times of war, in his community and beyond,” said Sauca. “May his memory be eternal in the mind of our Lord, in the fellowship of the churches worldwide, and in the hearts of all those who knew and loved him.”