Moscow, July 26, Interfax - The heads and representatives of the local Churches, who have gathered in Moscow to attend celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, have made a joint statement seeking protection for Christians who are subject to persecution for their faith in different regions of the world today.
"Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death. News about torture and murders are coming from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. In Kosovo, religious shrines are being defiled, many churches have been destroyed, and many people are deprived of the opportunity to visit the graves of their relatives and to pray to God in the land of their ancestors," they said in their statement, which was forwarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
The bishops said they were greatly troubled by the situation in the Middle East.
"Many countries of this region are swept by a wave of violence and terror, with Christians falling victim to it. Libya, where there are almost no Christians left, is breaking into warring tribes. Terrorist acts go on in Iraq, where one tenth of the former one and a half million Christians has left. The situation in Egypt is getting more and more alarming as the conflict there has entered another bloody phase and the Christian population flees the country in a mass exodus," according to the statement.
The current situation in Syria is particularly tragic, the authors of the statement said.
"In the heat of the fratricidal war, Christians, as well as representatives of other religious groups, are massacred, driven out of their native cities, towns and villages, out of the places where they used to live for centuries in peace with people of other religious traditions," they said.
The heads and representatives of the local Orthodox Churches noted that "paramilitary groups do not hesitate to use every possible means to achieve their goals."
"Their radical members carry it too far in their crimes," they said.
"Horrific scenes of violence, public executions, humiliation against human dignity and violation of human rights have become habitual. Abductions and murders often committed for mercenary ends have become a common occurrence. Extremists do not stop at insulting religious leaders who have always enjoyed respect in the East," they said.
However, the world media and many political figures have chosen to keep silent on the tragedy facing Christians in the Middle East, they said in the statement.
"We are grieving together with all of the suffering people of Syria. We demand that the outstanding Christian hierarchs of Syria - Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Iskenderun and Syrian Jacobite Metropolitan Mar Gregory John Ibrahim of Aleppo - be immediately freed," according to the statement.
The world's Orthodox spiritual leaders also said that they "make this appeal to all the warring sides and those who can make a political impact on the situation: Stop the wave of violence and extermination of civilians!"
"Impose a moratorium on the military hostilities so that a basis for peaceful settlement of civil conflicts could be worked out at the negotiating table!" they said.
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