Washington D.C., Sep 13, 2014 / 16:10 pm
On the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Christian patriarchs denounced terrorism and emphasized the need for peaceful unity between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.
"The symbolism and significance of our presence here in Washington, D.C. on September 11 is lost to no one. We are here on this day because we refuse to be intimidated and frightened by the acts of terrorism," said Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, at the inaugural In Defense of Christians Summit in Washington, D.C.
The summit was attended by religious leaders from various churches in the Middle East – Coptic, Orthodox, Chaldean, Maronite, and Melkite among them. It was the first gathering of Eastern Catholic patriarchs in the U.S., and the purpose was to bring attention to the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Noting the Sept. 11 anniversary, Syro-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of Antioch asked the audience at the start of his morning address, "to please just for a moment, to pray in silence for those who have fallen. Mostly they were civilian innocent, those who wanted to go to their work, daily work. And as we know, since then, the whole universe changed."
At the opening press conference of the summit on Sept. 9, Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai acknowledged the upcoming anniversary of the terror attacks, saying, "I wish here to remember with deep respect and sorrow the victims of terrorism in this country."
He brought up the anniversary again at a Sept. 10 appearance on Capitol Hill, stating that "we remember also with respect and sorrow that we are on the eve of September 11 here in the United States."
Patriarch Aphrem also emphasized the current harmony between many Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together in the Middle East.
"We will not change our faith or alter our way of living," he said, simply due to the "hatred" of some. "We will continue to live in peace with the millions of peace-loving Muslims, Jews, and others in the Middle East."
Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom also pleaded for unity, saying that Christians must defend all victims of persecution.
"We are not in defense of Christians alone. We are in defense of Christians, in defense of Jews, in defense of Muslims, in defense of those who have no faith," he said of victims of persecution.