Meeting in Armenia, 11-12 June 2014

Church leaders and representatives from Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Holy See [1] gathered in Etchmiadzin from 11-12 June at the invitation of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians for a consultation in cooperation with the WCC to address the challenges for faith communities in the ongoing crisis in Syria.

We gathered on the eve of the Centenary of the Armenian and Syriac Genocide, and prayed for justice and peace. We visited the Armenian genocide memorial, and remembered all those who lost their lives for their faith or ethnicity.

This gathering also occurs at the time of the celebration of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended to give common voice to the believers in every tongue. The Holy Spirit guides us to believe that peace and justice for all people cannot be achieved by the initiatives of humanity alone.

Through diakonia and humanitarian assistance, the churches continue to witness to the unconditional love of Christ to all people in Syria. It is of high significance that churches continue to accompany those who have found refuge in neighbouring countries. Therefore, we encourage further cooperation among the different churches and church agencies within Syria and internationally. We call upon the churches who have embarked on the path of reconciliation to continue being bridge builders, deepening dialogue with their Muslim sisters and brothers.

We acknowledge with gratitude the hospitality of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Government of Armenia for hosting more than 12000 Syrian refugees in their country.

At the ecumenical and international consultation on Syria held by the WCC in January 2014, we expressed our concern for all people affected by the extreme violence and humanitarian calamity in Syria and clearly stated our deep conviction that there will be no military solution to the crisis in the country.

Almost four months have passed since the failure of the Geneva II peace process. With great sadness we continue to witness a dramatic deterioration of the situation. We abhor the massive and indiscriminate destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship. We are witnessing an alarming and dangerous development as the war has spilled over into neighbouring Iraq. Therefore we reiterate our urgent call upon all parties to the conflict to pursue an immediate cessation of armed confrontation and hostility within Syria and Iraq.

We call for the restrictions on money transfer to Syria for humanitarian purposes as well as the blocking to humanitarian assistance to be lifted, the flow of arms and funding to all parties to the conflict to stop, and all foreign armed fighters to be withdrawn.

We demand the immediate release of the two Archbishops from Aleppo, His Eminence Boulos (Yazigi) Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Alexandretta and His Eminence Mor Youhanna Gregorios (Ibrahim) Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, as well as Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, and all captives and those unjustly imprisoned.

These contexts shape our intentions and hopes in the journey of the fellowship of churches in the wide ecumenical family toward peace and justice among all people of faith.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).

[1] Participants came from the following countries: Armenia, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Norway, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the WCC Ecumenical partner, the Community of Sant’Egidio.